You might have already packed away your sweaters and scarves, but before this summer can really heat up, you need to give your grill its annual checkup. It might not be the most exciting item on your upcoming schedule, but nothing can kill an outdoor dinner party faster than a broken grill. So for the sake of future fun, follow this advice to make sure your grill is ready for its Memorial Day debut and beyond.

Also read, How to kick off grilling season with proper food safety.

7 steps to prep your grill for grilling season

1. Deep clean the grates.

Little charred bits don’t add flavor — by now, it’s just dirt that can make you sick. Cleaning your grates regularly will prevent dangerous bacteria buildup, improve the taste of your food, and also reduce the risk of fire. Grill grates can be cleaned a variety of different ways, but to really start the season off right, consider the soaking method to make sure all grime and grease is removed.

The Soak Method: Fill a large bucket or container with hot water and one quarter cup of dish soap. Add a quarter cup of baking soda and agitate to create a nice lather. Drop grates in container and let soak for at least an hour, while baking soda works to break up tough stuck-on goo. Then, scrub the grates with a stiff, grill brush to remove any remaining debris. Rise your grates with a garden hose and let dry.

When you are ready to cook, dip a towel into oil and rub it over the hot grates until they are smooth and shiny. Well-oiled, hot grates help food from sticking.

2. Inspect the hose.

Considering your grill has probably sat idle for several months, it’s a good idea to check it over before trying to ignite it. If you have a gas grill, check the hose that runs from the propane tank to the burners. It should be clean and intact. If there is any buildup or if the hose looks past its prime, clean it or replace it before starting your grill. A new hose will only set you back a few bucks.

Pro tip: Use the soapy water trick to look for any leaks and cracks in the hose connecting to the propane tank. Mix a bucket of soapy water then apply liberally to the hose. If there is a leak, you’ll see bubbles start to form on the problem spot.

3. Check the essentials.

Does the igniter work? Is there any rust visible? Is the paint on the inside of the lid peeling? Do the controls all turn and function properly? Is the exterior clean? Repair or clean any of these issues ahead of time.

4. Tighten the wheels.

This step often gets overlooked, but securing the wheels can mean a steady grill that’s much less likely to tip and cause fire or injury.

5. Clean the grease trap.

You know all the grease that falls off of your grilled food? It doesn’t just disappear. Remember to clean your grease trap (located underneath your grill). Dump anything stuck in there from last season, and consider lining it with heavy-duty aluminum foil to make clean-up next year a whole lot easier.

6. Fire it up!

Once you think your grill is safe and ready to roar, do a test run — or “a toast run.” Preheat the grill for about 15 minutes with all burners on medium heat. When the grill is hot, quickly cover the surface is slices of bread, and allow them to toast for 1-3 minutes. (Don’t walk away — this test goes fast!) Use tongs to flip the slices over on the exact spot they were grilled. Take a photo of the results so you can document where the hot spots are on your grill. You can use this information to help perfect your cooking techniques — keep more delicate foods away from direct heat, or use the hot spots to your advantage to cook foods more quickly.

Try these 14 surprising foods you can grill.

7. Keep it covered.

Don’t forget to cover your grill when not in use to protect it from the elements, but also from curious critters that will be lured by the smell of delicious summer barbecue. 

Also try, Char-broil’s Great Book of Grilling, book review.

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Meghan is a full-time writer exploring the fun facts behind food. She lives a healthy lifestyle but lives for breakfast, dessert and anything with marinara. She’s thrown away just as many meals as she’s proud of.