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Take the Grrr Out of Grill Cleanup

1. Burn it off. Why do today what can wait until tomorrow? Don't tackle burned-on bits right after cooking. Sizzle them off when you preheat for the next cookout.

2. Foil that gunk. Cook food on aluminum foil — punch holes to let flavor-boosting smoke through. Afterward, toss the used sheets. If you like char marks, you won't want to use the foil trick. Instead, oil the food (not the grates) with a spritz of nonstick spray.

3. Play firewoman. Keep water handy in a spray bottle to douse flare-ups before they blacken the inside of the hood.

4. Prevent stains. Protect wooden side tables from dribbles with small plastic cutting boards. They're also good for carrying utensils inside...straight to the dishwasher.

5. Cover ground. Place a barbecue pad under the grill to keep greasy stains off your patio. We like: a mat made of lightweight concrete and fiber (like DiversiTech's, $25 to $35), which, unlike the rubber or plastic type, breathes so mildew isn't an issue either. Clean it with the lawn hose.

6. Invest in some plastic. Buy a grill cover and you'll never need to clean pollen, dirt, or bird droppings off your unit again. Prices range from $6 to $60.

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