To maximize your investment in a Santa Maria or Argentine style grills, it is paramount to start caring for it from the first time you set it up. All grates, V-channel, round, paella, laser cut and griddles need to seasoned and cleaned regularly, and by regularly, it is really best to clean as needed to some degree after every use. Every pit master develops tips and techniques they apply over the years, but a good start would be follow some basics to assure seasoning success.
Seasoning grates are akin to seasoning a cast iron pan. The entire inside of the pan surface needs to be seasoned by coating with oil. In comparison, the entire surface of the V-channel grates, (or other types) need to be oiled first on the bottom side, and then flipped over and placed back on the support brackets. Begin to apply the oil into the grooves or surfaces. You can use practically any kind of cooking oil, peanut oil or even bacon grease.
I personally use Grape seed oil, which has high smoke point properties and excellent for high-heat style cooking. Grape seed oil goes on thick, and not only protects and maintains the grate integrity, but assures grilling success and results. Once a good coating of oil has been applied, our goal will be to begin a long burn that will heat the grates to a temperature that will allow the oils to seep into the metal surfaces. Doing so will create the patina barrier desired.
During my cooking experiences:
I am spreading on oil as needed keeping the grates moist. After cooking, I spend no more than 10 to 15 minutes cleaning and preparing the surfaces for my next cooking event! After plating the cooked food, quickly spread a coating of oil and roll the grates into the firebox to bake off any residue. I will then begin our family feast, and come back an hour or so later. The grates will be hot for several hours. I begin scraping off any residue, and apply oil to aid in the process, continuing until satisfied. If it seems that you are scaping off the patina, apply your oil while the grates are still hot and the patina will return.
Wiping the oil on your frame cleans and is very much like waxing… it keeps your investment looking great.
There really isn't a reason that your new Santa Maria or Argentine Grill cannot last for many years. Remember that your grill is your key to great food. Take good care of it, use it regularly and you will not only master great barbecue but your barbecue will just continue to get better and better. One of the biggest secrets of great barbecue is knowing your equipment so your investment in a grill is more than just financial, it's the time you've spent using it and the knowledge you have gained and achieved with your particular grill and cooking success!
“Add some sizzle to your food and make your taste buds dance.”