If you’re new to grilling, here are a few tips and hacks to get you started on the right path and enjoy your grill more.
There are numerous things you can do and accessories you can purchase to make your life easier around the grill, but there are a few fundamentals you should learn and master early on to keep your foundation strong and to improve and enjoy your time around the grill.
In other words, these are your ABCs.
1. Keep your grill clean to prevent flare-ups
This might sound obvious, but lots of people, especially beginners, either don’t know how to clean their grills properly or just don’t do it. The fact is that grills, like any other kitchen cooking appliance, need to be kept clean.
This is not only for sanitary reasons but also to avoid flare-ups, dirty smoke, and grease fires. As old food gunk and grease accumulate around the bottom of the grill and on the grill grates, it becomes easier for these to catch fire. If you let old grease and grime accumulate, it’s just a matter of time before you have a little fireball, and I don’t mean the whiskey.
I’ve seen countless incidents where people neglected their grills and, poof, fireball! ( Great, now I got that PitBull song stuck in my head)
The best thing to do is to clean the grill grate after each use, while it’s hot and easier to clean, and do a deep cleaning of your grill at least monthly.
Flare ups might not be an issue when cooking at low temperature but throw some pork belly on those hot grates or try to sears stick on a grease, dirty steak and I assure you, fireball!
2. Use good tools to clean your grill
Following the topic of cleaning your grill, it is important to choose and use the right tools to clean your grill. People often go to a local hardware store and grab the first wire brush or the cheapest brush, and this is often a mistake.
Not all grill brushes are made of or constructed using the same materials. The bristles of some brushes are made of stainless steel, others of brass, and even of plastic.
There are also different types of brushes too. Our article on brushes gets into more detail on the different kinds and what to look for, but here is the skinny.
You don’t want to use hard brushes with steel bristles on porcelain coated grates. The brush will ruin the coating, and the grates will rust. Also, you want to be careful with those bristle brushes. The bristles are like tiny little needles that can come loose and end up on your food.
I like to use cleaning stones and rags to clean my grill grates. Yeap, I’m ol’ school and also like my food without metal. Sure, it is more work, but I know it is safer and more natural.
You can make aluminum foil balls and use a pair of tongs to clean your grill grates. Unless you let the grates get extremely dirty, there isn’t much need to use a hard brush.
3. Preheat your grill to the desired temperature before adding food.
This is one tip that, if followed, can make a world of difference. A properly heated grill will cook food evenly. But also, when you preheat your grill, you burn off anything you don’t want on your food. like old food residue.
4. Use a meat thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to the proper temperature
Yeah, we all want to be the next Bobby Flay and cook awesome food, but here’s the scoop: you are not Bobby Flay. So until then, use years of science and technology to your advantage and use a grill thermometer. I’m telling you, it will become your best friend.
5. If you don’t have charcoal igniters, use paper towels soaked in oil instead
It happens a lot that you are about to light your charcoal grill and, boom, you run out of those little igniters. Using igniters is a fast and easy way to start charcoal, but there is another way. If you run out of eggs, go to your pantry and grab some paper towels, a small bowl, and some vegetable oil.
Make some small paper towel balls with a small tail, just like the shape of a Hershey chocolate, but slightly smaller. Soak the bottoms of the little balls in oil, light the little tail, and let it rip.
6. Use a two-zone cooking method for thicker cuts of meat to ensure they cook evenly
This is a very easy thing to do and a simple technique, but many do not use it. Creating a two-zone cooking environment in a grill’s cooking chamber consists of setting the heat source on one side of the cooking chamber and creating a hotter heat zone on one side than the other.
Light a charcoal grill, for example, and place the coals on one side of the grill. This will result in both a hot and a warm zone.To achieve the same effect on a gas grill, use only one burner on one side of the grill.
The purpose of this technique is to create two cooking zones: a very hot zone and a cooler zone.
If you want to cook food slowly and evenly, this is very helpful. Use the cooler zone to cook, and food will cook slower, allowing it to reach temperatures more evenly.
The two-zone cooking system is also very helpful when grilling steaks. You can use the high temperature zone to sear a steak and then move to the cooler zone to finish cooking.
Having two cooking zones also helps with flare-ups. If you are grilling fatty meats like pork belly, the fat can easily spark up flare ups. You can move the meat away from the fire and to the cooler cooking zone until the fire settles.
7. Pick your fuel wisely
Ok, so this is important. If you own or are thinking about purchasing a charcoal grill, make sure you buy premium charcoal. It will last longer, burn cleaner, and your food will taste better. Our article on charcoal goes into detail about the different brands putting out good stuff.
If you own a pellet grill, do yourself a favor and buy good pellets. With both charcoal and pellets, it is worth paying a bit more for the good stuff.
8. Let the meat rest for a few minutes before slicing or serving
I see a lot of people take a piece of meat from their grills, throw it on a plate, and slice it right in half. This is actually a rookie mistake. You want to let the meat rest. As meat cooks and heats up, its juices will rise, and some of them will evaporate, but if you let the meat rest, portions of those juices will settle back into the meat for juiced meats.
9. Season Your Meat
If you are new to BBQ and Grilling, you will make one rookie mistake right away, not seasoning meats enough. When you grill or smoke meats, you will be cooking at higher temperatures, and there isn’t a pot holding all the juices and seasonings.
Don’t be shy; season the food well and grab good rubs to season your meat.
These are basic tips, but they are fundamentally important to learn and master. Take some time to go over these tips, apply them, and learn them, and your life around the grill will be a bit easier.