Use this easy checklist to be ready to fire things up.

Unless you are one of those folks who grills no matter the weather, the early signs of spring mark the beginning of the official grilling season. The moment things start to warm up, our hearts begin to crave things cooked over fire, and that means it is time to get your grill ready! So, how do you ensure your grill is ready to go?

For starters, check your particular grill to see if there are manufacturer's recommendations for maintenance and cleaning. If you no longer can find your user's manual, most of them will be available easily online. Especially if you have specialty-style grills like Big Green Egg, or those that are also smokers, you may need to be careful about cleaning products or replacement parts.

Now, here's your 5-step checklist to being ready for that first grill of the season.

1. Clean the outside.

Starting the season with a freshly cleaned grill is essential to having the optimal grilling experience. Use a soap solution with degreasing capabilities and a scrub brush or scrubbie sponge on the exterior, wiping down with damp cloths or fresh sponges to rinse. (The interior will be easier to clean if you use heat to help break down any buildup, so save this until you are able to fire it up.)

2. Check all the parts and replace anything that is damaged.

Make sure you give all the parts of your grill—igniter switches, protective covers, lid hinges, and grease traps—a good once-over to ensure that everything is working the way it is supposed to. If it isn't, now's the time to replace it. If you discover a lot of damaged parts on a relatively inexpensive grill, you might want to consider replacing the whole unit.

3. Check your propane tank or gas line if you have a gas grill.

If your grill uses either gas for its primary fuel, or has a gas starter, check carefully to ensure that all connections and hoses are still intact and safe for use. If you use a propane tank, check to see how full it is and if it needs replacing or refilling. If you are having trouble knowing how full your tank is and it does not have a gauge on it, try this simple trick: Boil a kettle of water and pour a stream of hot water down the side of the tank. Carefully tap the outside of the tank where you poured the water; it will be hot where the tank is empty and cool where there is still propane, so wherever the line is where you feel that temperature shift is the level of the propane in your tank.

4. Clean the inside.

To best clean the inside of your grill, begin by removing any ash still in the unit. Then either light to high it if it is gas, or load in a chimney of hot coals, close the lid, and let it cook for 30 minutes. This will burn off a lot of leftover grunge. Let it cool and then give a good brushing with a wire brush. If there are stubborn spots, you can use a good oven or grill cleaning product to address those spots. Grates should be brushed clean and then oiled while still hot to help keep clean and prevent sticking.

5. Load in your key supplies.

As the scouts say, be prepared. Stock up on charcoal or wood chips if you use them, grill spray, and heavy-duty foil now, so that the minute you're up for grilling, you've got everything close at hand.