Cleaning your grill will both extend its life as well as ensure your food keeps the flavor you love. To make the most out of your grill (and barbecue season), you’ll want to take the proper steps before and after grilling to make sure everything is clean and in shape.

We’ve assembled a variety of methods for cleaning your grill, depending on materials you have on-hand or what feels easiest for you. And with a couple of methods involving oil or an onion, you can even add a little zest to your barbeque while you clean–the happiest of side-effects.

Soaking and Scrubbing

Chances are, your grill has some food debris from past grilling sessions, a lot of which may be stuck to the grill’s interior and difficult to rub off. Before you do anything, warm up your grill with the lid closed to burn and gunk up any debris. Now, take some foil and ball it up. With your balled foil, scrape along the grate to rub all the junk off. You’ll find that it’s easier to get off after warming it up. Before turning on the heat, you can make a paste out of baking soda and water to spread on the grate to help with the cleaning.

You may get better results by allowing each piece of the grill to soak in some soapy water. Disassemble the grill to the best of your ability, and place it all in a tub of soapy water. Allow this to soak overnight, then go over it all with a brush. You can do all of this after warming up the debris as described in the previous paragraph. A couple of tips for this method: take a photo of where each piece of the grill is before disassembling so you know where to put everything, and be sure to use a large, quality wire brush. In addition to a brush, you can use a shop vac to suck our most of the undesirables left in your grill as well before scrubbing!

You can add one more step to your grill soaking by putting the grate in a trash bag with some ammonia. The ammonia soak will help get rid of the most persistent debris, but you will need to be extra-careful in rinsing afterward. This is a good thing to do before soaking in the tub, but isn’t a required step.

Simple Materials for Scrubbing the Grate

Because you’re cleaning a surface used for cooking, you may want to be wary of using chemicals that are dangerous if ingested. It may sound odd, but using an onion is a great cleaner for your grill’s grate, and a safe alternative to cleaning solutions. Cut an onion in half, and use it as a brush over the great–the acid in the onion will do all the work, and can add a little onion flavor to your meal. This is a great method for cleaning before cooking with its added flavor bonus.

If you don’t have an onion handy, try using a mix of olive and vegetable oil over your grate. This will add some lubrication to make flipping your meat easier, and will create those satisfying grill marks on your finished meat.

Easy Self-Cleaning

Similarly, for a simple cleanup you can throw the grate into your oven and set the heat up high. This will have a self-cleaning effect. If you wish it were this easy for the rest of the grill, rest assured that it is! Cover every piece of your grill’s interior with foil as if you’re wrapping a gift, then turn up the heat. Let it sit on heat for about 20 minutes. You’ve effectively added “self-cleaning” to your grill’s features!

Cleaning a grill need not be a huge chore, and hopefully you’ll try out a tip (or a combination of them) above and find a way that cuts down some of the time and frustration in preparing for–or picking up after–a great cookout!

This post is adapted from the June 15, 2013 and May 17, 2014 episodes of Home Wizards, which you can hear on the June 17, 2013 and May 18, 2014 podcasts. You can find these segments at the start of hour one of the episodes.