On the subject of grilling, we presume you know your grill and its quirks and features best. But, in case you haven’t ventured out much beyond burgers and hot dogs, here are some tips:
The Ten Commandments of Grilling
1. The only way to start charcoal is with a chimney starter - Lighter fluid is the devil. Just get a heavy-duty chimney (in the grilling aisle at the hardware store) and use a piece or two of newspaper soaked with a little vegetable oil to get things going.
2. Safety First - Keep a fire extinguisher handy whenever you’re working with fire. A long hose attached to a spigot also works well, just make sure it reaches the grill. A spray bottle filled with water is a good tool to handle flareups.
3. A digital thermometer is the most important barbecue and grilling tool - Understanding the temperature of your grill and the food is the single best thing you can do to create great food while you’re learning. Bi-metal analog thermometers (like the one that comes in your grills lid) can be off by 50° or more. They still respond to temperature change, but you need to know what your baseline is. An instant read digital thermometer is the way to go here.
4. Cast iron cookware is a grill’s best friend - We regularly extoll the virtues of cast iron on ManMade, but it deserves repeating here: cast iron makes your grill into a stove AND an oven. Use it to sear food for a great crust, or to hold smaller items that might slip through the grates. It’ll still taste grilled, and can help promote browning.
5. Use spring-loaded tongs for 95% of tasks - they’re like a heat-proof extension of your hand, and can be used from everything to flipping and moving food to redistributing hot coals and turning the grill grate. 12" models can be found under $15.00. Buy two.
6. You can create amazing barbecue at home without a dedicated smoker - With some wood chips or chunks and a low heat source, you can make awesome smoked foods. Your existing grill is, essentially, a box with a heat source - a place to smolder wood and keep the smoke surrounding the food. This is easier on a charcoal grill than a gas one, but both can work. If you have a Weber charcoal grill, the Smokenator insert is amazing device made by some buddies in California, and it will change the way you grill. Highly, highly recommended.
7. Enjoy the grill session - speaking of heat proof extensions of your hands, most grilling tasks only require your dominant hand. Make sure there’s a drink - like a glass of that Liar’s Dice red zin - in your other hand at all times. It’s your party, too.
8. Wood is good - charcoal tastes better than gas, and wood tastes better than charcoal. Wood smoke is the flavor of outdoor cooking. You can create the best of both worlds by using wood chunks (for charcoal) or chips (for gas) to infuse your food with smoke. Just keep things smoldering and smokey, not ablaze. Flare ups create an unpleasant char on food.
9. Clean and oil your grates frequently - before and after every grilling session. This not only prevents build up, but also creates a non-stick surface over time.
10. The two-zone fire gives you the most control - whether using charcoal or gas, setting up your grill to super hot on one side and medium on the other allows you to create the perfect crust or grill marks without burning the food. Simply bank the hot coals on one side of the grill, or turn one gas burner to high while others to medium, low, or even off. And always keep the lid closed on a gas grill.