Hey there, grill masters-in-training! Are you ready to embark on a smoky, sizzling adventure in the world of barbecue? Whether you're a complete newbie or someone looking to up their grilling game, this blog post is here to offer some tips and tricks that will have you flipping burgers, searing steaks, and charbroiling veggies like a seasoned pitmaster. So, grab your apron, tongs, and a cold drink, because it's time to fire up that grill and dive into the delicious world of BBQ!

man grilling meat and veggies, from Shelf Cooking

Do you ever catch that smell of a grilled burger wafting over from your neighbor's yard, instantly watering your mouth? BBQ meals are so tasty, a true flavor of summer! If you've ever been too intimidated to try out the grill yourself, we are going to give you the confidence to finally try it out!

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Prepping the Grill:

Before you start grilling, give your grates a good scrub to remove any residue from previous cooking sessions. For a natural non-stick surface, lightly oil the grates using a high-smoke point oil like vegetable or canola oil. This will prevent your food from sticking and make cleaning up easier. Don't forget to preheat your grill for about 10-15 minutes before placing your food on it.

Choose the Right Fuel & Igniting:

Determine whether you'll be using gas, charcoal, or another fuel source. For gas grills, check that the propane tank is filled, or if you have a natural gas grill, ensure the gas line is properly connected. If using a charcoal grill, use quality charcoal briquettes or lump charcoal. We'd recommend you avoid using lighter fluid unless you're experienced with its proper use….trust us, it's not worth the risk to your eyebrows!

For gas grills, open the lid and turn on the gas supply. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for igniting the burners, which may involve using an electric igniter or a match. If using a charcoal grill, arrange the charcoal in a mound or pyramid shape, and use a chimney starter or starter cubes to light the coals. Allow the flames to spread and the coals to ash over before spreading them out for cooking.

For gas grills, adjust the burner knobs to reach the desired temperature. For charcoal grills, control the temperature by adjusting the vents on the top and bottom of the grill. Opening the vents allows more oxygen in, increasing the heat, while closing them reduces the airflow and lowers the temperature. Remember to give the grill time to stabilize at the desired temperature before cooking.

Get Creative with Marinades and Rubs:

squeezing lemon juice over steak, from Shelf Cooking

Marinades and rubs are the secret weapons of every grill master. They infuse your meats with incredible flavors and tenderize them at the same time. Experiment with different combinations of herbs, spices, oils, and acids like lemon juice or vinegar. Allow your meats to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight in the refrigerator for maximum flavor.

We have a great blog post with lots of yummy homemade marinade recipes here!

Cooking on the Grill:

Time for the main event!

Place your food on the preheated grill grates. For direct grilling, where food is cooked directly over the heat source, arrange the ingredients directly above the flames or coals. For indirect grilling, where food is cooked away from the direct heat, move the food to the cooler area of the grill or create heat zones if your grill allows it. Close the lid during cooking to retain heat and bask in that delicious smoky scent. Ahhhhh.

Keep a close eye on your food to prevent burning. Opt for long-handled tongs or a spatula to flip the items as needed, as opposed to forks which can puncture the meat and cause flavorful juices to escape. A BBQ tragedy!

Master the Art of Temperature:

Grilling is all about controlling the heat, so it's essential to understand the different temperature zones on your grill. Create a hot zone for searing and getting those beautiful grill marks, a medium zone for cooking most meats thoroughly, and a cooler zone for indirect cooking and keeping things warm.

You WILL want to invest in a reliable meat thermometer to ensure your food is cooked to perfection. I've linked my favorite one in my Amazon Kitchen Favorites page here!

Next you'll want to brush up on your meat temperatures, or have a reminder card handy.

General Temperature Guidelines For Meat

It is essential to reach the proper internal temperature to ensure they are safe to eat and cooked to the desired level of doneness. Here are some general guidelines for cooking temperatures:

  1. Beef:
  • Medium-Rare: 130-135°F (54-57°C)
  • Medium: 135-145°F (57-63°C)
  • Medium-Well: 145-155°F (63-68°C)
  • Well-Done: 160°F (71°C) and above
  1. Pork:
  • Pork Chops and Roasts: 145°F (63°C) with a 3-minute rest time
  • Ground Pork: 160°F (71°C)
  • Pork Ribs: Cook until the meat is tender and reaches an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C)
  1. Poultry:
  • Chicken and Turkey (whole or pieces): 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat, avoiding contact with bones
  1. Fish:
  • Fish should be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and flakes easily with a fork.
  1. Lamb:
  • Medium-Rare: 130-135°F (54-57°C)
  • Medium: 135-145°F (57-63°C)
  • Medium-Well: 145-155°F (63-68°C)
  • Well-Done: 160°F (71°C) and above

Let it Rest:

After your mouthwatering steaks, juicy burgers, or tender chicken are perfectly grilled, resist the temptation to dig in right away. Allow your cooked meats to “rest” for a few minutes before serving. Be patient!

Resting allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and moist final product. Trust us, it's science!

Congratulations, you've now graduated from BBQ 101! With these tips in your arsenal, you're well on your way to becoming a grill master extraordinaire. Remember, practice makes perfect, so fire up that grill as often as you can, and don't be discouraged by a few mishaps along the way. Enjoy the process, savor the flavors, and get ready to host the most unforgettable backyard BBQs in town.

We've rounded up our 20 favorite grilling recipes in a blog post here! And when you've gotten comfortable at the grill, check out more of our favorite BBQ Hacks here!

You'll love these other great blog posts!

Happy grilling!