Whether you’ve just bought a shiny new grill or pulled your old one out of winter hibernation, step No. 1 before embracing grilling season is to clean and season it.

Grills are like cast-iron skillets; the more you use them, the better they cook. That’s because food cooks on the grill, the fats and juices are instantly vaporized by the heating elements or charcoal briquettes. The vapor creates the smoke that flavors the food with that legendary grilled taste. The smoke that isn’t absorbed by the food accumulates on the inside of the grill, and seasons it.

So let’s start with the cleaning. If you’ve had your grill for a while and use it a lot, you may notice that the lid of the grill looks like peeling paint. It isn’t. This is simply the accumulation of layers of smoke. Warm soapy water, a scrub brush and a little elbow grease will take the excess bits of black smoke off the inside of the grill lid with little trouble.

Next, burn and scrape off any food bits stuck to the grates. Turn all the burners on high for a gas grill with the lid down. For a charcoal grill, burn a chimney starter of charcoal with the lid closed. Let the flames burn until any residue has turned into a white colored ash. Brush gently with either a brass bristle brush or my makeshift foil cleaning brush.

A brass bristle brush is soft enough to bend and not break off like steel brushes. If you don’t have a grill brush or don’t want to use one, try this. Crumble heavy-duty foil into a ball about the size of a tennis ball. Hold the ball in a pair of sturdy 12-inch tongs and brush away!

After you clean your grill, it’s time to season it. Fill the grate with uncooked sausages such as bratwurst or Italian.

Grill the sausages slowly on a low-medium heat until bubbling hot and very brown. Remove from the grill, then re-set the burners to high, burning off the residue until it turns white, about 20 to 30 minutes. Clean the cooking grates by rubbing them with foil or a brush again.

Grill safety

Always read the owner’s manual before using a new gas or charcoal grill.

Do not lean over a barbecue grill when igniting.

When lighting a gas grill, the lid should always be open.

Gas or charcoals grills should NEVER be used indoors; they are outdoor cooking appliances.

Every time a refilled propane tank is reconnected to the barbecue, the hose connection should be checked for leaks.