to burn off any food. Then turn off the heat and immediately scrub the grates again.

* Check drip pans. Empty and clean the large one that catches food monthly if you grill often (wear rubber gloves and wash with a scrubbing sponge and dishwashing liquid). The smaller, disposable one below it catches grease. Replace it with a new aluminum pan when it is half full.

ONCE A YEAR:

* Just before grilling season, do a more thorough cleaning. Turn the burners on high, close the lid and let the grill run for 20 to 40 minutes, depending on how dirty it is. Turn the burners off when the residue has burned down to a white-gray ash that can be brushed away easily. Brush the grates thoroughly.

* Let the grill cool, and then disconnect the propane tank. Wash the lid, grates and exterior using dishwashing liquid, warm water and a scrubbing sponge. Rinse well. Remove and wash the large drip pan, and replace the small pan.

Note: If your igniters or burners don't work or the grates are caked with grime that you can't remove, consider replacing those parts (the grill's manufacturer can provide sources). Depending on the cost of parts, it may make more sense to buy a new grill rather than repair an old one.

For charcoal grills

WITH EACH USE:

* Preheat the grill with the lid on but the vents open, about 30 minutes. Scrub the grates with a brass-bristle brush, as described for gas grills. After cooking, scrub the grates again.

* Replace the grill's lid, and let the coals burn out, incinerating any leftover food. When the grill is cool, use a metal scoop to remove ashes, transferring them to a small metal pail to avoid a fire hazard.

ONCE A YEAR:

* Wash and rinse the grill inside and out using a scrubbing sponge and a sudsy mix of dishwashing liquid and warm water. It's easy to take the grill apart and give the pieces a good rinse with a garden hose; some people use power washers. Let the pieces dry in the sun before reassembling.

Note: If there is a lot of residue on the grate, you may want to buy a new one.

Do you know?

Buildup from smoke can accumulate inside the lid of a gas or charcoal grill. This layer may flake off, resembling peeling paint. Some can be removed with washing, but don't worry if you can't get rid of it entirely.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 601 West 26th Street, 9th floor, New York, N.Y. 10001. Questions may also be sent by e-mail to: mslletters@marthastewart.com. Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number.