30 Grill Tips You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

Make your grilling cookout a cut above the rest with these awesome grill tips

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dfh17sep049-07 shredder claws for pulled pork

Make Shredding Pork Fun

Making pulled pork for the big game or tailgating event? Shredder Claws from Cave Tools will make quick work of meat shredding. And the bear paw shape also makes them handy for picking up and transferring hot foods without dropping them or burning your hands.

Photo: Cave Tools

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Zoom Team/Shutterstock


Charcoal, typically in the form of briquettes, is the classic grill fuel that everyone knows. The concept is simple: light the coals and cook your food. But the execution tends to be more complicated than that. As experts can attest, everything from the placement of the charcoal to how you light it and how long you let it heat up can have a notable impact on your cooking experience. Charcoal is the fuel that rewards you for experience, patience, knowledge and attention.

Keep in mind that, when choosing a charcoal grill, you aren’t limited to just one style. Charcoal grills can be open (in traditional BBQ style), closed off, built with deep heating chambers, constructed as smokers and more. It’s very easy to find a charcoal grill that matches your unique cooking style.

When it comes to cost, charcoal is in the middle of the road: You can buy many different bags of briquettes at varying prices. However, if you grill frequently or want especially fancy briquettes and wood chips, prices quickly go up. Also, keep in mind the maintenance on your end: Charcoal grills must be regularly and thoroughly cleaned and emptied, which makes them more work-intensive than other grills.

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Propane is the traditional gas grill option, a modern fuel with many advantages. Attach a small tank of propane to your grill, open it up and you have an instant source of heat that you can easily control. Propane grilling is based on burners that channel and light the gas with ignition systems. Some grills have one or two small burners, while larger versions can have much bigger arrays. This makes propane ideal for larger grill stations and parties where you have to cook multiple foods at different temperatures, setting one burner for patties and one for veggies, for example.

Because of the ease of use, propane is a great option when first learning how to grill or when choosing a low-maintenance, easy grill that you can take out on a whim. The grill won’t produce the same delicious smokey flavor that charcoal and wood chips can impart, but it gets results fast and grill models quickly scale up with plenty of extra room, advanced sensors and more.

Propane is also quite affordable, albeit slightly complicated to manage. You can buy a 20-pound tank for around $30. When the tank starts to empty, you can take it to a store and exchange it for a full version. Today’s tanks are quite safe as long as you practice proper maintenance and protection. However, they are more complex than charcoal grills, which means a greater chance of something going wrong.

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Natural Gas

Natural gas grills aren’t common, but some grills are designed to convert to natural gas if the fuel is available. This means you need a natural gas connection made specifically for your grill, typically built when your house or deck is constructed. Hook up your grill to this gas line, and then it acts just like propane.

It’s easy to see how this limits your grilling experience: You can only grill where you have a safe gas line connection, which means never taking your grill on road trips or camping excursions. You also can’t move your grill around your patio or deck to different locations. A natural gas setup is best suited to an outdoor kitchen, luxurious grilling space or other situations where a larger, permanent grill is called for.

On the plus side, natural gas is an extremely easy fuel to use. You never need to refill or replace anything, and it’s typically the cheapest fuel around.

Want to convert a propane grill to natural gas? Here’s how!

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Made popular by the Traeger brand, these grills use wood pellets for fuel and an electric ignition system to start them. Pellets burn slow and hot, with an even flame that provides excellent flavor without the uncertainty of charcoal—it’s no surprise that this has become an increasingly common fuel source. Like charcoal, wood pellets also have a lot of flexibility—most notably, they can be used to smoke meats thoroughly if you have enough time.

Pellets are more expensive than charcoal when buying per bag, but they do have their own advantages: They tend to last longer, and you can choose a variety of wood blends to impart the exact flavor that you want to your meats instead of trying to work in wood chips. If charcoal takes too much time and you prefer a simpler fuel, look into a pellet upgrade.

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You don’t see many electrical grills outdoors these days. Most are small versions that don’t take up much space, ideal for a kitchen counter. Some are hybrids that can convert to electricity for indoor use. These grills are typically used in small spaces like apartments, where there just isn’t room for anything else (always check apartment rules for grilling, as many locations are very strict about this).

These grills use a heating element that turns electricity into heat through current resistance. It’s a fast way to heat up a grill, but not a great fuel choice. Electricity tends to be inefficient, and you typically spend more money (via your energy bill) for it than for fuels like gas. It doesn’t impart any additional flavor and struggles to bring out flavors in many foods. However, technology is improving this type of fuel, and there are some options, like electric yakitori grills, which show promise.

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Family Handyman

Clean Up Your Gas Grill

Clear out each gas port on the burner unit with a toothpick. For tougher clogs, use a small drill bit. Check out some other clever cleaning tips.

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Family Handyman

Check Your Fuel

Fuel such as propane doesn’t burn so efficiently in cold temperatures, and food also takes longer to cook, so be prepared to use more fuel than you do when the temperature is higher. Use our handy guide to check your propane fuel levels, and keep a spare on stand-by (stored safely away from any heat source).

You’ll need more charcoal if you prefer solid fuel, so again, keep enough spare charcoal in a cool and dry place, ready for use when you need it.

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Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

Use an Online Calculator for Food

Food is always one of the first considerations and thorniest problems for a big grillout. Fortunately we live in an incredible digital age with online BBQ planners that allow you to see just how much food – and what kind of food – you need. The linked planner allows you to calculate meals based on adults, children, number of vegetarians, and favored meats. It’s a great way to get some basic numbers to start working with. What’s better is with the planning out of the way, you could be enjoying that food quicker in the backdrop of one of these tremendous backyard waterfalls.

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Organize Meat By Temperature

The easiest way to do this is to create three platters — rare, medium and well done. Label them and serve your cooked meats on the appropriate platters. Keep an eye on them, and adjust for the general tastes of the crowd. This is a great way to please guests and save a lot of time asking or answering questions about which steak is well-done.

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Get Started with a Chimney Starter

A chimney starter is basically a metal tube that you insert briquettes into (we’ll talk more about why this works in a bit). It has a grate toward the bottom that keeps the coals from falling through, and a couple of handles so you can pick the starter up when it’s hot. And that’s basically it. Learn more about chimney starters and why they’re great.

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Leave Your Grill Closed

As tempting as it is to keep the grill open and watch the food cook, it’s better to keep a lid on it so the meat won’t dry out. Pick up one of these revolutionary grill tools so you’re an expert grillmaster.

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Irina Rostokina/Shutterstock

Keep the Food From Sticking

It’s easy to forget to oil food but if you don’t you’re at risk of seeing the food stick. It’s especially important with chicken to oil. It’s better to oil the food than the grill to prevent flare ups. Cooking spray is great for the grill but you won’t believe what else it is good for. (Think out of season)

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Prevent Burger Warp

A classic grilling secret for perfectly round burgers, instead of the bulgy kind, is to depress the center slightly with a spoon. If you’re looking for a gift for someone who loves to grill, check out these incredible gift ideas on Amazon that will help you form perfect burgers, too.

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Soak the Skewers

Love the taste of kabobs but hate having to deal with the skewers burning? Soak the skewers in warm water to prevent them from burning on the grill. Make sure you’re not sizzling in the sun while you’re grilling, get some inspiration on bringing more shade to your deck.

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Dan Roberts

Apply Sauce Late

The sugar in barbecue sauce can tend to burn and char the meat. There’s nothing quite as embarrassing as a barbecue stain at a cookout. See the perfect way to get rid of stubborn stains.

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Lisovskaya Natalia/Shutterstock

Butter up a Steak

When you order steak in a good restaurant, don’t be dazzled by exotic spices or cooking techniques listed on the menu. There’s an astoundingly simple chef’s secret that provides the knock-’em-dead flavor that you can’t seem to achieve when you grill steaks at home: butter.  As soon as you remove your steak from the grill, shave 1/2 tablespoon butter onto it and let the butter melt before serving. Do you leave your butter out at home? Find out where the butter should go.

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Esben Oxholm/Shutterstock

Add an Ice Cube to Your Burger Patties

According to MasterChef judge Graham Elliot, you can make perfectly juicy burgers at home, and it’s a lot easier than you might think. He told Fox News the key is putting an ice cube in the middle of a patty, folding the meat around it, and then grilling it. That way, the ice keeps the patty moist so it doesn’t dry out. Ice cubes have incredible powers around the house, too, find out why.

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Pre-size Your Portions

Encourage guests to eat less meat by making smaller portions: try serving 1/4 pound burgers (made with extra-lean ground sirloin) instead of 1/3 or 1/2 pound patties; choose filet mignon-sized steaks instead of 16-ounce cuts; slice sausages in half lengthwise before grilling; make kebabs from smaller cubes of meat. Round out your meal with more fresh fruits and veggies like corn on the cob, leafy green salads, or berries in a bowl. Try these other tips for portion control.

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Let the Food Rest

When food is given time to rest, less of the juice it holds will be lost when it’s cut. So, let steaks rest for about five minutes before serving to minimize the loss of tasty juices. Make sure you’re sharpening your knives the right way so they can rip through that meat. If you sharpen a knife wrong you could end up needing a new one.

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Keep Meats Separated

Preventing contamination in the kitchen is vitally important, especially when working with poultry. Separate cutting boards should be used for beef, chicken and vegetables to prevent any cross contamination and any risk of salmonella poisoning.  See why you’re storing your cutting board wrong in the kitchen.

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Create Heat Zones

Grill zones are important to get food cooked on a grill in the best fashion. A two-zone approach gives you a hot side for searing and a cooler zone allows for lower-temperature cooking. The hot side is great for getting grill marks on steaks and caramelization and the coal-free side is good as a place to move food in case of flare-ups. Grease on a grill is one thing but if you’ve got a problem in the kitchen with it, act fast and get rid of it with these cleaning tips.

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Ruslan Mitin/Shutterstock

Take Meat off the Grill Early

It will have a tendency to cook for a little while after it’s removed from heat. So, to prevent your medium rare from turning into medium, get that steak off the grill a little quicker. Your in-laws might start to confuse you with a premier chef if you do that. Avoid 45 other kitchen mistakes you didn’t know you were making.

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Spiral-Cut Hot Dogs

It sounds like more work but it’ll pay off in a tastier hot dog. A spiral-cut dog will cook more thoroughly and caramelize across more of an area, which produces more flavor. Ever wonder why hot dog at Costco are only $1.50? Discover the real reason behind the low price of a Costco hot dog.

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Use a Muffin Tin for a Condiment Carrier

That way you don’t have to worry about putting out too much sauerkraut, jalapeños or mustard. We’re partial to muffin tins in the shop for their storage capability, too.

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HH Six Pack Organizer Fridge Door Sriracha

Save that Six-Pack!

Do all of your small bottles in the refrigerator door like to tip over after opening or closing the door? Fortunately, the answer to tidying those wayward bottles is just a recycling bin away.

To keep all of your condiments under control use an empty six-pack holder to hold and organize the condiments in your refrigerator door. This organization solution is also great for transporting your condiments for a backyard BBQ or picnic!

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Aleksei Potov/Shutterstock

Venting Vexation

If you’re working with a charcoal grill, learn the intricacies of how it cooks. A grill with its vent open will cook hotter because new oxygen can freely move in the grill and out. Place the vent over the food if you want it to cook faster.

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Room Temperature Meat

Get meat up to room temperature before placing it on the grill. The uniformity in temperature will allow for even cooking of the meat.

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Keep Steaks Dry

After marinading steaks, pat them dry so they will sear better. Keeping them dry will prevent it from steaming on the grill.

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FireBoard Thermometer
Photo: Courtesy of FireBoard

How Long to Cook Steak and Other Meat

Foods like steak and chicken need to cook differently. Chicken needs a lower, constant heat while steak needs searing at first before getting finished over medium heat. Also, learn the temperatures meat needs to reach. Chicken needs to reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. For steaks: rare is 135 degrees Fahrenheit, medium rare 145, medium 160, medium well 165 and well 170. You should ready to through the best backyard barbecue parties of the summer now, but if you want more tips, check out these.