Grilling Tips

Grilling, once only a summer-time favorite, is now a year-round cooking option for more and more people. In fact, it is turning into an art form in its own right. Want to take your grilling cuisine up a notch? Follow these simple grilling tips and wow your guests while pleasing your own pallet..

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grilling food
Grilling can be quick and easy with a little planning. See more pictures of extreme grilling.

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Learn some great grilling tips in the following sections of this article:

Smoking on a Grill
If you thought you would need to invest in a smoker, you really don't. In fact, adding that great smoked flavor to your food is easier than you think. Learn how to smoke your food right on the grill!

Using Wooden Skewers
A favorite of shishkebob lovers, the simple wooden skewer is an indispensable grilling tool you should become familiar with. Learn tips and tricks for using wooden skewers on the grill.

Using Foil for Grilling
Aluminum foil is versatile, durable and reliable and it offers cooking alternatives that the grill itself just can't match. Find out why foil is your friend when grilling.

Barbeque Basics
Some basic barbecue tips to help make your grilled food come out perfect.

Charcoal Grill Tips
Charcoal cooking is not the same as gas. You can learn right here how to get the best results with charcoal.

Indoor Grill vs. Outdoor Grill
George Foreman isn't the only one to discover the advantages of indoor grilling. See for yourself how this growing practice is different and why it might be for you.

Grilling Vegetables
Grills are not just for meats. Learn the best ways to grill all kinds of vegetables.

Tailgaiting and Grilling
A tailgate party can be fun, but only if you are prepared. No one would forget the food or drinks, but what about the rest of the items you would need?

Grilling Tips and Tricks
How hot is the grill? How long should the food cook on each side? These are some of the specific grilling questions answered here to help bring the best out of your food.

BBQ and Grilling Tips
Health and safety tips to make your barbeque grilling experience a great one!

Cooking Outdoors to Beat the Heat
Find out how and why grilling your food outdoors is a great way to beat the heat.

Grilling Safety Tips
When working the kitchen, safety is paramount. Your grill is no different! Learn specific safety tips to keep in mind when grilling.

Grilling Tricks
Do you know when the charcoal is ready or when the best time to clean the grill is? Explore these and other common grill questions.

Smoking is a great way to add delicious flavor to your meat but you don't need a dedicated smoker to do it! Discover how to smoke on the grill in the next section of this article.

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Where there's smoke, you don't always find fire. Using flavored smoke, a combination of heady aromas from hardwoods and fresh or dried herbs, can add delicate flavor to any grilled foods.

Many kinds of wood are available for use on the grill. Only hardwoods and fruitwoods, such as hickory, oak, mesquite, pear or apple, should be used to produce aromatic smoke. Never use softwoods, such as cedar, pine or spruce; these emit resins that give food an unpleasant taste.

smoking on grill
Smoking food envelopes the food's true flavors in a distinctly smoky flavor.

­Always soak flavorings, such as wood chips or small bunches of fresh or dried herbs, in water at least 20 minutes before adding to the coals so that they smolder and smoke, not burn.

If you're using a gas grill, after soaking the flavorings, place them in a metal or disposable foil drip pan. Poke several holes in the bottom of the pan and place it on the lava rocks directly under the food.

An important tool for the grill, wooden skewers are certainly something you need to be familiar with. Learn more about them on the next page of this article.

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Wooden skewers are a great way to cook a colorful combination of meats, fish and vegetables over a gas or charcoal grill.

skewers on grill
Svetoslav Nikolov
Using wooden skewers on a grill makes cleanup easy and ensures that smaller pieces don't fall in.

When using wooden skewers for kabobs, always soak them in water for 20 to 30 minutes before placing food on them. This will prevent the skewers from charring or burning while they're on the grill.

Also, be sure to separate foods that cook quickly from foods that take longer to cook, in order to prevent foods from being overcooked or undercooked.

Wooden skewers are not the only thing that will help keep food together and easy to manage over the coals. Aluminum foil has its place on the grill as well! Find out how to use it on the next page of this article.

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To grill small items, such as sliced vegetables, wrap them together in foil
to make a neat package that won't slip through the grid.

foil on the grill
Jenny Horne
Foil allows the flavors of the food to blend, without worring about anything dripping into the grill.

To grill with foil, just follow these easy instructions:

  • Fold the short ends up and over again.

  • Press folds firmly to seal the foil packet.

  • Place the food in the center of an oblong piece of heavy-duty foil, leaving at least a two-inch border around the food.

  • Bring the two long sides together above the food; fold down in a series of locked folds, allowing for heat circulation and expansion.

There are a few things to keep in mind as you load the charcoal and get the fire going. Learn about these barbeque basics on the next page in this article.

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Grilling, like any other kind of cooking, is a combination of technique, art, and practice.

barbeque grill
Michal Zacharzewski
Learning barbeque basics will allow you to cook more flavorful dishes on the grill.

Here are some beginner's "barbecue rules" to help you safely master everything from burgers and hot dogs to salmon and dessert:

Rule 1:
Always keep your grill clean. This is essential for good-tasting food and general safety.

Rule 2:
Always keep a close eye on what you're grilling. Food can burn quickly, so be on guard and check food frequently.

Rule 3:
Cook vegetables and fruits at the outer, cooler edges of the grill since they tend to burn more quickly than meat.

Rule 4:
When grilling low-fat meats and other foods that can stick, apply oil or nonstick cooking spray to the grill grate before placing it on the grill and before the grill is heated.

Rule 5:
Turning food is essential to even cooking. However, turning too often slows cooking and can result in tough, dry food. Ideally, most fish and meats should be turned only once during cooking time.

Rule 6:
Soak bamboo skewers in water for at least 20 minutes before building kabobs to prevent skewers from burning.

Rule 7:
Spice up your food a good hour or two before it hits the grill. This marinating time allows the food to absorb the flavors.

Rule 8:
Don't apply sauces prior to grilling. Not only do they tend to drip onto the coals and cause flare-ups, but most also contain sugar, which will burn quickly and give the food a burnt taste. Consult the recipe to see when to begin basting; usually it's about 5 minutes before the end of grilling time.

Gas and charcoal each offer a different grilling experience. While some find it easier to grill with gas, charcoal has advantages of its own that you should consider. Learn about grilling with charcoal in the next segment.

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To light a charcoal fire, place the coals in a pyramid shape 20 to 30 minutes prior to cooking. The pyramid provides ventilation for the coals to catch fire.
To start with lighter fluid, soak the coals with about 1/2 cup fluid. Wait 1 minute to let the fluid soak in, then light with a match. NEVER use gasoline or kerosene because either one can cause an explosion.

charcoal grilling
Ali Taylor
Grilling with charcoal is fast , easy and allows the food to cook evenly.

To use an electric starter, place the starter in the center of the pyramid and
plug in. Once ash begins forming, after about 8 to 10 minutes, unplug the starter and remove it. The starter will be very hot and should cool in a safe, heatproof place.

To light a fire with a chimney starter, remove the cooking grid and place the starter in the grill. Place a few sheets of crumpled newspaper in the bottom of the starter. Fill the top with coals and then light the newspaper. After about 20 to 30 minutes, when the coals are ready, carefully remove the hot starter.

Indoor grilling is becoming more and more popular these days. The equipment is different, but the concept is the same. Learn about indoor grilling on the next page of this article.

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If you're not sure about the popularity of indoor grilling versus outdoor grilling, just check the appliance aisle at your local department store. Indoor grills of all shapes and sizes are crowding the racks as indoor grilling continues to become one of the most popular methods of cooking.

Designed for ease in both cooking and cleanup, your indoor grill can produce the same delicious results as your outdoor barbecue. When grilling inside, always consult your grill manufacturer's owner's manual before operating your indoor grill.

indoor grill
Publications International, Ltd.
Learn to grill with an indoor grill and enjoy grilled foods all year long.

Some other basic rules to follow:

  • Do not touch the surfaces of the grill. They get very hot. Use the handles or knobs. Using a pot holder is always recommended.

  • Most indoor grills require preheating. Consult the owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendation.

  • Never immerse the grill, cord or plug in water.

  • Most indoor grills are designed to be used only indoors.

  • Most indoor grills have nonstick surfaces. Avoid using metal utensils, such as spatulas and tongs, that can scratch cooking surfaces. If damaged, the surface will no longer be "nonstick."

  • Always disconnect the unit from the wall outlet when not in use. Allow the unit to cool completely before cleaning it.

That vision of lean steaks sizzling on the grill needs to be changed a little bit to include a great variety of vegetables. Learn how to grill them on the next page of this article.

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"Vegetarian barbecue" is not a contradiction in terms, even though most of us think of meat when we think about grilling food. Vegetables are excellent choices for grilling because the fire brings out an appealingly sweet, smoky flavor that most people can't believe exists in a vegetable.

grilling vegetables
Arif Budiman
The flavor of vegetables is enhanced by grilling, barbequeing or smoking on the grill.

Though those unfamiliar with vegetable grilling may consider it very limited, it's actually quite the opposite. With so many possible choices of excellent dishes, the biggest challenge is narrowing them down to just a few special recipes that take advantage of the outdoor grill.

All kinds of veggie foods can be grilled, with great results. Beets become sweet. Potatoes get crisp on the outside and stay sweet and moist on the inside. Carrots and onions caramelize. And those vegetarian standbys -- veggie burgers; tofu and its fermented cousin, tempeh; and gluten-based seitan -- take on a smokiness that enhances their flavors.

Select vegetables or vegetarian versions of meaty foods that are firm and that can hold up to slicing and grilling. Slice them in large, thick (at least 1/4-inch) sections, since small pieces can easily fall through the grid and into the fire. Cut zucchini lengthwise or on a long diagonal, for example. If you plan to prepare a recipe that calls for smaller pieces, try grilling them on skewers or wrapping them in foil packets. Vegetables such as peppers can simply be grilled whole, then peeled and sliced.

Because vegetables lack fat, they need oil, liquid, or some sort of marinade to prevent them from burning and sticking and to keep them moist. Brush vegetables with oil (preferably vegetable oil because it has a high smoke point) or a flavored oil mixture, such as a salad dressing or your own mixture of oil and herbs or other seasonings. Or marinate vegetables in a dressing or marinade of your choice for at least 30 minutes before grilling.

White wine, oil, garlic, onion, and celery salt make a good marinade, as do beer, oil, garlic, and cloves. Yogurt, garlic, pepper, curry, and cardamom can give an Indian flavor to grilled foods, and add nice color. Vinegar, soy sauce, oil, sugars, and ginger can give an Asian flair to your grilled foods. Lemon juice also makes a good base for grilling marinades. And to sweeten the deal, try pineapple juice, soy sauce, lemon juice, and garlic with seitan or firm vegetables. Orange juice, turmeric, ginger, garlic, and lemon zest make a light marinade for summer squash or tofu.

Consider the texture of the ingredient to determine marinating time. Mushrooms, summer squash, and extra-firm tofu may need only 30 to 40 minutes to marinate. Tougher ingredients, such as seitan, tempeh, sliced carrots, potatoes, or squash can marinate for a couple of hours.

To further prevent food from sticking to the grill and to aid in cleanup, spray the grid with nonstick cooking spray before heating (never spray into the fire) or wipe the grill rack with oil before you start cooking.

Special equipment is minimal. A special grill top is useful to keep veggie foods from tumbling into the fire. Metal or wood skewers are useful for making kebabs that are easily rotated on a grill. (Wood skewers should be soaked in water for at least 30 minutes prior to loading on the veggies so they won't burn on the grill.) Heavy-duty foil is the best type to use for lining grills or for wrapping food in packets for grilling.

Find tips about tailgating and grilling in the next section.

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Tailgating is a fabulous way to cheer on your favorite team, visit with good friends, eat great food and perhaps relive your favorite school memories.

tailgating grilled foods
Dewayne Flowers
Tailgating and grilling go hand-in-hand, but be sure to plan ahead.

However, when tailgaiting, forgetting the necessities can turn anyone's party into a flop! Everyone always remembers the food and drinks, but don't forget some other key players:

  • serving utensils
  • silverware
  • napkins
  • paper plates
  • plastic or paper cups
  • bottle opener
  • condiments
  • cooler with ice
  • sunscreen
  • bug repellant
  • tickets to the game

Learn specific grilling tips and tricks in the next section.

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Grilling is an art, no doubt of that, and getting the food right is a matter of practice and technique. So, if you are having trouble getting your grilled foods to turn out just right, follow these grilling tips and tricks to ensure the best flavor for your grilled foods:

grilled food
Hilde Vanstraelen
If you follow a few simple tips and tricks, you can transform your grilled food into works of art.

1. Charcoal readily absorbs and holds moisture, so store it in a dry place.

2. To make cooking go faster, partially cook food in the microwave or on the range, and then immediately finish cooking the food on the grill. You'll get that barbecue flavor in less time.

3. Soak wooden skewers and toothpicks in water for at least 20 minutes before using them on a hot grill. The absorbed water will prevent the wood from burning.

4. The easiest way to clean a soiled grill is to scrub it with a stiff, wire brush while it's still warm.

5. While cooking, keep the fop and bottom grill vents open. Close them when cooking is finished to extinguish the coals.

6. Use tongs or a spatula to turn meat. Piercing it with a fork causes precious juices to escape.

How Hot Is It?
Your recipe says to heat the charcoal grill to 375°F. Like most cooks, you probably guess and then hope for the best. But there is a pretty reliable way to gauge the temperature of the coals without resorting to ripping the thermometer off the deck railing.

A quick and easy way to estimate the temperature of the coals is to hold the palm of your hand about four inches above the coals. Count the seconds you can hold your hand there before the heat forces you to pull it away. Then use the handy chart below to determine the temperature.­

­ ­
SecondsCoal Temperature
2 375°F or more
3 350° to 375°
4 300° to 350°
5 200° to 300°

Use the following as a guide to approximate cooking times. You can also determine how well cooked your meat is with a good meat thermometer. Medium-rare beef will register 150°F on a meat thermometer; poultry, 180°; pork, 160°; lamb, 160°.

MeatThickness/WeightApprox Cooking Time (over med heat)
Chicken Boneless skinless breasts5 minutes per side
Cut-up broiler/fryer
45 to 60 minutes
Fish fillets6 ounces3 to 5 minutes per side
Fish steaks1 inch5 minutes per side
Hamburgers 1/2 inch14 to 16 minutes
Pork baby back ribs 31/2 to 4 pounds30 to 45 minutes
Pork loin chops 3/4 inch10 to 12 minutes
Porterhouse/T-bone steak 3/4 inch14 to 17 minutes
Ribeye steak
3/4 inch6 to 8 minutes
10 minutes
Shrimp Medium
2 to 3 minutes per side
Sirloin steak3/4 inch13 to 16 minutes

Brush vegetables lightly with vegetable oil and/or an oil-based salad dressing or marinade of your choice; season with sprinklings of chopped fresh or dried herbs, salt or pepper. Place large cuts directly on grill; grill smaller cuts in a grid basket.

VegetablePreparation for Grilling Grilling Time
Bell or chili peppersWhole or halved, stemmed and seeded 10 to 20 minutes
Corn on the cobUnhusked; remove silk; Soak in cold water 30 minutes
20 to 30 minutes
Eggplant Cut into 1-inch thick rounds 20 minutes
Mushrooms Stems removed 10 minutes
Onions Peel; cut into halves, wedges, or rounds; insert wooden picks to prevent separating. 20 to 30 minutes
Potatoes Cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
10 to 12 minutes
Summer squashCut into halves or thick slices 5 to 10 minutes
Tomatoes Cut into halves or thick slices 5 to 10 minutes


Find out more about barbeque and grilling tips in the next section.

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Whether you want to barbeque or grill, these little golden rules for healthy eating and grill safety apply either way: 

  • Before using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 20 minutes before grilling. This prevents them from burning.

  • Keep a shaker of seasoning next to your grill. Don't forget to season your grilled food well to create flavorful meals.

  • Choose long-handled cooking tools to avoid burns and splatters. A basic grill kit should include long tongs for turning the foods, a stiff-wire brush for cleaning the grill, a mop brush for saucing foods, a large offset spatula for moving delicate items, and a pair of elbow-length grill gloves for protection. Apron, optional.

barbeque food
Michal Zacharzewski
Be careful when you barbeque on the grill. Food can get dried out quickly if you don

In addition, you should follow these tips for keeping your grilled food healthy:

  • Trim the fat.

  • Choose lean meats to grill. Less fat means less dripping down into the flames, which cuts down on flare-ups. Remove the skin from poultry.

  • Grill veggies. Try marinated vegetables on a skewer, on the grilling tray or wrapped in foil. Grilled fruit also makes a sweet, healthful dessert.

  • Wrap it up. Cooking in foil seals in juices so you can cook leaner cuts until they are both tender and done. Wrap fish with vegetables and a little low-fat marinade for an easy meal, all in one packet.

Like the man said: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!" That is not a bad idea! Learn about cooking outdoors to beat the heat in the next section.

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During warm summer months, markets in many parts of the coun­try overflow with fresh fruits and vegetables and other easy-to-prepare foods -- but who wants to heat up the kitchen to cook them?

grilling food
Sometimes you just need to get out of the kitchen and cook outdoors to beat the heat.

Fortunately, there are alternatives to hot-weather oven meals. Indoor and outdoor grills provide ways to get dinner on the table without taxing our air conditioners even more.

A charcoal or gas grill can be used for just about everything, including fruits and vegetables. For example, try corn on the cob on the grill: Soak the unhusked ears in water for at least 1 hour; drain and place on a hot grill for about 30 minutes. Turn frequently and sprinkle with water to keep it moist and steamy inside the husk.

Don't rule out the indoor grill, either. If steaks and chops are a bit heavy for your taste in hot weather, consider grilled sandwiches (panini). Or grill meat and vegetables for quesadillas in the indoor grill or pizza in the toaster oven.

Indoor and outdoor grills provide ways to get dinner on the table without turning on the oven and taxing our air conditioners even more. However, you always have to keep safety in mind so on the next page you will find safety tips on the next page of this article.

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There are a few basic guidelines that you should follow to keep grilled foods safe.

First, always marinate meat, poultry or seafood in the refrigerator. If a marinade is to be brushed on food while it cooks, for safety's sake, do not brush it on during the last five minutes of grilling. If it will be served as a dipping sauce, be sure to boil it for 1 or 2 minutes before serving.

grilled food
Be sure to follow basic grilling safety tips and cook foods thoroughly.

When grilling poultry, meat or seafood, transfer the grilled food to a clean plate, not to the plate used for the raw food.

Hamburger patties should be grilled until they are no longer pink in the center or reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold when transporting or serving. Do not add fresh food to a serving bowl; replace the bowl instead. Throw away food that has been at room temperature for two hours or more. When in doubt, always throw it out.

To learn more about the best ways to grill, see the next section of this article.

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Here are a few final tricks that you should keep in mind when you're grilling to bring out the best in your food:

  • Charcoal briquets are ready for cooking when they're glowing red and their surface is covered with gray ash. Coals will take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to reach this stage. When coals are ready, use tongs to spread them out for even heat.

  • Cleanup is easier if the grill rack is coated with vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray before grilling. However, do not spray the grill over the fire, as this could cause a flare-up.

grilled food
Philip MacKenzie
Grilled foods have a delicious flavor that you can't get when cooking on a stove or in an oven.

The nature of grilling can make it a dangerous endeavor. Guard against barbecue mishaps by following these safety suggestions:

  • Position the grill on a heatproof surface, away from the trees and bushes that could catch a spark and out of the path of traffic. Also, before you start the fire, make sure the grill's vents are not clogged with ashes.

  • A spray bottle filled with water is useful to control wild sparks and very small flare-ups on a charcoal grill. However, don't overuse the water spray and inadvertently extinguish the coals.

  • Do not use water to quench flare-ups on a gas grill -- simply close the hood and turn down the heat until the flames subside.

Follow these simple tips and you'll be able to grill quickly and easily -- without a lot of fuss, but with great results.

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