It isn’t summer until I get a dozen littleneck clams on the grill. 

But the first time I went to fire up my trusty Weber this season, I found a surprise: Someone left what appeared to be stuck-on salmon skin sitting on the grill all winter. (Gross, I know.) Luckily, the problem was remedied with a wire brush and some elbow grease, but it made me wonder if there was a better way to get and keep my grill sparkling clean all summer

I turned to Chef Sabel Braganza, the executive chef at E.P., a popular Los Angeles restaurant with a history of perfectly cross-marked feasts. Braganza manages a hot grill daily, and her favorite dish, kalbi short ribs, is notorious for leaving sticky bits behind. Here’s what she had to say about kissing any mess goodbye.

Turn Up the Heat

When it comes to keeping your grill clean, the biggest trick is in your cooking technique. Food won’t stick to the grill nearly as much if you have the right approach, leaving much less mess to clean up. 

“When you cook, make sure your grill is piping hot before you put the food on it,” she says. Once it’s on, exercise patience—seriously, try your best. “If you move the food, it might stick at first,” she adds. “You have to be patient enough to let that nice, crispy crust form.”

Invest in a Quality Brush

Of course, you may end up with some remnants of food or marinade stuck to the grill, which brings Braganza to her second point: the right brush.

“A wire grill brush is the best brush out there,” Braganza says. They’re tough on grime and hold up to high temperatures better than plastic alternatives. To clear these crumbs, keep your grill running. In fact, you’ll want to turn it up as high as it goes for about 10 minutes. All of the bits will burn and turn to ash, making it much easier to brush off any remnants.

Don’t Underestimate Soap

If you notice your grill isn’t getting as hot as it once did, then chances are it needs a deep clean. “That usually means there’s some grease blockage,” she says. 

To really get in there, turn off the propane and let the grill cool. Then, take the rack out and wipe the inside down with warm soapy water. Wipe it clean, and let it dry in place. By the time you’re ready to fire up your next masterpiece, it’ll be ready.

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