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Closeup of tongs flipping vegetables and meat on a charcoal grill

Tips to Up Your Grilling Game

Don’t waste your time in the kitchen this summer. Get out and grill! Grilling makes food taste great, and it saves you all kinds of clean-up time. Achieve ‘Grill Master’ status with these simple tips.

10 Steps to Mastering the Grill

1. Fuel the Fire: Gas vs. Charcoal

Gas grills are faster to use, but they cost significantly more than charcoal grills. Charcoal grills give food a smokier flavor, but they take longer to use and have a more negative impact on the environment. Both produce great-tasting meals. You just need to decide which is a better fit for you.

2. You’ve Got the Right Stuff, Baby

As with most things, having the right tools makes a big difference. Before you start, make sure you have tongs, a good meat thermometer and a grilling basket for your veggies.

3. Bring on the Flavor

It’s all about the flavor, right? Here are three simple ways to boost taste (and food safety):

  • Use room-temperature meat – Take your meat out of the fridge about 20 minutes before cooking to prevent it from burning on the outside while being undercooked inside.
  • Marinade – Never skip the marinade. Not only does it boost flavor, studies suggest marinating meat before grilling can decrease the formation of cancer-causing HCAs during grilling.
  • Season – Don’t be shy with the seasoning! Some of it will fall off while you’re grilling, so you’ll probably want to add more as you go.

4. Get Creative

Grills aren’t just for meats. You can also grill fruits, veggies and even pizza. Find creative grilling ideas to keep your meals interesting all summer long.

5. Turn Up the Heat

Both gas and charcoal grills need to be preheated for about 15 minutes before you start grilling. 

  • Gas grill – Light the grill with the lid open. Turn up the heat to the highest setting and close the lid. Adjust the heat to the appropriate setting after the grill is preheated.
  • Charcoal grill – Light the charcoal. Once the briquettes turn white, put the lid on with the dampers open.

6. Don’t Just Cook It, Smoke It

You’ve heard of pairing wine with a meal, but have you heard of pairing wood chips with it? Great a delicious smoky flavor into your foods, and try different types of chips for different flavors. Learn more about cooking with wood chips.

7. Some Like It Hot … And Some Don’t

Different foods require different temperatures. So how do you cook veggies and meat at the same time? Welcome to ‘The Grilling Zone’! Create warm and cool zones on your grill.

  • Gas grill – Just turn on the burners for half of your grill, and leave the other half off. And voila! You’ve got zones.
  • Charcoal grill – Push hot charcoal (and wood chips) to one side of the grill.

8. Get Rid of the Ick and the Stick

Once your grill is hot, clean the grate with a cleaning brush. (If you use a wire brush, be sure to guard against accidentally ingesting stray bristles.) Then use tongs to hold a wad of paper towels covered with oil and rub them across the grate. Or, skip the oil and use an onion. Cut an onion in half and rub it across the grate — using tongs of course. The onion prevents sticking and adds flavor.

9. Don’t Flip Out

Listen carefully. As tempting as it may be to show off your mad flipping skills, your goal is to only flip the meat once — midway through cooking. Be sure you use tongs to flip gently because meat will lose some of its delicious juices if you poke holes in it.

10. Time to Rest

It’s tempting to dig right in when you pull dinner off the grill, but wait. If you put meat on a platter and cover it with tented foil for 10 minutes, it will soak up all the juices, leaving you with a mouthwatering, tasty dish. Bon appétit!