A good grill is an investment that will last years, if you treat it right. High heat, hot grease, caked-on food and exposure to the elements all can cut the life of even the most well-made grills in half. A dirty grill also negatively affects how food tastes, imparting a burnt or greasy flavor that will ruin a family dinner. Luckily, taking care of your grill is easy, requiring just a few minutes each time you use it. Here are five quick and simple to steps to a cleaner grill.

Let It Heat – Before cooking on your gas grill, preheat the grates by running the burners on high for 10-15 minutes. You want to get them super-heated. This burns off any grease or oil from the last time you used the grill, and turns remaining pieces of food to ash.

Scrub It Down – If burnt-on food persists, scrub the hot grill using a scraper or stainless steel wire brush. Use the c-shaped slots on your grill scraper to get between and underneath the grates. This does take some time, but it’s the best way to get your grill in like-new condition.

Oil It Up – If your burners are turned off and there is no open flame or hot coals present, you can use cooking spray to oil the grill grates. Better still is dipping a paper towel in a small bowl of peanut or vegetable oil and, using tongs, run the oil-soaked towel over the grates to create a virtually nonstick surface. As the oil bakes on, it seasons the grates to create a semi-permanent protective coating.

Dump It Out – Ash left in the bottom of a charcoal grill can collect moisture, prematurely causing your grill to rust. The ash-water combination also creates a solid mass that’s not only hard to remove, but also creates a layer of insulation that affects cooking time. After cooking, when the coals are thoroughly out, dump ash and unlit coals in a fire-safe place, such as an ash bucket.

Wipe It Off – The exterior of your grill requires some TLC as well. Grease, marinades and other cooking liquids collect dirt and dust that gets baked on, turning a prized piece of cookware into a dirty mess. Every few weeks during grilling season, mix a drop or two of dish-washing liquid in a bucket of water and wipe down the exterior of your grill (when it’s cool). A soft scrub pad will make quick work of troublesome caked on food or dirt, though small rust spots may require steel wool. Cover these with specially formulated grill paint. For the ultimate in protection, buy a weatherproof grill cover that’s cut to fit your grill.