Become the master of your backyard grill! Explore our expert tips below to make your next grilling experience a success.

Preparing to Grill

Clean grates speak for themselves! Preheat for a good long while (5 to 10 minutes) and then clean the grill by using a wire brush... More

  • Clean grates speak for themselves! Preheat for a good long while (5 to 10 minutes) and then clean the grill by using a wire brush to remove any char from prior grilling. Once brushed, pour a small amount of vegetable oil over a clean towel and wipe the grill to remove any remaining charred particles. Hold the towel with a set of tongs to avoid burns.
  • If your grill is already clean, you still need to preheat your grill—it should be very hot when you add the meat.
  • For direct cooking on a charcoal grill, make sure there is enough charcoal to extend in a single layer 1 to 2 inches beyond the area of the food on the grill. Pour briquettes into the grill to determine the quantity, then stack into a pyramid for lighting.
  • Generally, use 30 briquets (just over 1lb.) to grill 1lb. of meat or poultry. REMEMBER - the size and type of your grill, type of food and the weather all affect the amount of charcoal you need.
  • Bad weather? Use a few more briquets than normal to make sure the fire stays hot.
  • When using charcoal, douse the coals with the least amount of starter fluid as possible to light the fire. If starter fluid is unavailable, try using regular salad oil. Wad a sheet of newspaper and pile the coals over it, then douse the coals with the salad oil. Light the paper as you would using normal starter fluid.
  • If a grilling recipe refers to the amount of charcoal needed in a volumetric measure (i.e. a gallon, a quart), a general rule of thumb is that there are 16 briquets to a quart or 64 to a gallon.

Storing coals

  • Store briquets in a cool, dry area of the basement or garage. When charcoal absorbs moisture, it can be hard to light.
  • For instant-lighting charcoal, keep bag tightly closed to prevent lighter fluid from evaporating.

Meat Selection & Prep

A secret to tender, moist, tasty meat and fish is the cut you choose. The best cut for grilling steaks is a full one-inch thick... More

  • A secret to tender, moist, tasty meat and fish is the cut you choose. The best cut for grilling steaks is a full one-inch thick.
  • For “juicy” hamburgers, go with ground beef that is about 15 to 20 percent fat.
  • Trim beef steaks to 1/8 inch fat—this reduces grease drippings to help minimize open flames.
  • Fish fillets should be cut from 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick—anything thinner will dry out too quickly.
  • Pork chops should also be at least 1 to 1-1/2 inches thick—this cut is ready when the meat is no longer pink along the bone and when the juices run clear.
  • Lamb shoulder chops are usually a good bargain and offer great flavor but require marinating with an acid based marinade to make them tender. Choose chops that are 1/2” to 3/4” thick to allow for good penetration and even cooking.

Times & Techniques

Cook foods that take less than 30 minutes directly over the coals. Examples: Boneless chicken, steaks, fish fillets... More

  • Cook foods that take less than 30 minutes directly over the coals. Examples: Boneless chicken, steaks, fish fillets, hamburgers and hot dogs.
  • For indirect cooking, foods that take longer than 30 minutes and are higher in fat are best cooked over indirect heat, in a way similar to oven roasting. Examples: Whole turkeys, bone-in chicken, ribs and briskets.
  • Here’s how:
    • Bank charcoal briquets on one or both sides of a drip pan on the lower grid.
    • Place food on the grill, centered over a drip pan.
    • Close the grill lid to contain heat and seal in smoky flavor.
    • Add water, apple juice or other flavored liquids to the drip pan to provide extra moistness and flavor to food, if desired.
    • Use approximately 25 briquets on each side of the drip pan for the first hour of cooking time. After each additional hour, add 8 new briquets to the outside edges on either side. Move them to the center when they're ashed over.
  • When roasting or grilling with a BBQ pit closed, open a can of beer and place the beer over the hottest part of the fire. The beer will boil and super-saturate the air inside the pit with water vapor, beer flavors and alcohol. This will help in keeping the roasting meats moist, while adding flavor to the meat.
  • Whenever barbecuing, use tongs to turn the meat. A fork should never be used as it will punch holes in the meat and allow the natural juices to escape, causing the meat to lose flavor and become chewy.
  • When grilling meats, it is usually best to turn the meat only once. When grilling meat to a medium or greater doneness, use the lid to assist in cooking. This will decrease the cooking time by applying heat to all sides of the meat at once.
  • Tomato and/or sugar based BBQ sauces should be added only at the end of the grilling process, since these products will burn easily and are seldom considered an internal meat flavoring.
  • When applying a sauce towards the end of the grilling process, warm the sauce in the microwave before applying. This keeps everything at the same temperature and thins the sauce slightly so it will penetrate the meat better.
  • Proteins will tell you when they are ready to flip. If they are still hanging onto the grill, they are not ready to go. Once a good sear is established, they will release on their own. If you try to flip or move and it is trying to hang on, leave it alone for another 30 seconds and then try again. The exception to the rule is when you can tell that it is burning, either from a glaze or if the protein has somehow wrapped itself on the grate.
  • You may want to consider using a timer. Not really chef-like but key to even cooking. For steaks and pork, approx. 12 minutes total on high. 4 minutes at a 45 degree angle, move 90 degrees (45 opposite for diamond hatch) and cook another 4 minutes. Flip and cook for the final 4 minutes and see how it looks. Same with burgers – about 10 minutes for a hefty size.
  • In the summer grill with the lid open, in winter keep it closed.
  • Use a meat thermometer to determine if meat is done. The USDA recommends the following minimum internal temperatures: steak, roasts and fish, 145°F; pork, ground beef and egg dishes, 160°F; chicken breasts and whole poultry, 165°F.
  • To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Cook food in the center of the grill and if using coals, move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.
  • If using wooden skewers, soak in water for 30 minutes prior to use to keep ends from burning while grilling. To add more internal flavor, soak your skewers in a juice, herb tea or other liquid flavoring instead of water.

Grill Safety

Place your grill on a flat, level surface so it won’t tip over. Keep it away from overhangs, fences, deck railings and shrubbery... More

Pick a safe grilling area

  • Place your grill on a flat, level surface so it won’t tip over. Keep it away from overhangs, fences, deck railings and shrubbery that could be ignited by a sudden flare-up or flying spark.
  • Position the grill in a well-ventilated location. Never barbecue inside homes, tents or vehicles. Burning charcoal inside can kill you. It gives off carbon monoxide, which has no odor.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill when it's in use.

Handle charcoal carefully

  • Never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals to get a sluggish fire going again. The flame could travel up the stream of fluid and burn you.
  • If coals are slow to start, place several new briquets in a small metal can and apply lighter fluid following lighter fluid instructions. Add these briquets, using a pair of long-handled tongs, to warm coals and light with a match.
  • Never use gasoline or kerosene to light a charcoal fire. Use of either can cause an explosion.
  • Do not close the lid until you are ready to cook. Doing so might put out the fire or cause a rush of flames when the lid is removed. Closing the lid prematurely also can prevent charcoal lighter fluid from completely burning away, giving foods a strange taste.
  • Coals are HOT — they can reach up to 1000°F. Use insulated, flame-retardant mitts when cooking or handling any part of the grill. Also, use long-handled barbecue tongs and utensils for safe handling of food and coals.
  • Smoke the Competition. When smoking meat, pay special attention to controlling internal grill temperature. For an accurate reading, place a candy thermometer's probe through the top grill vent and maintain a temperature of about 225°F to 250°F. If the temperature rises above this range, slide the vent directly under the charcoal nearly closed while wearing heat-protective gloves. Continue to monitor the heat and open the vent again as the temperature drops.

Putting out the fire

  • Place the cover on the grill, close the vents and allow the coals to burn out completely. Let the ashes cool for at least 48 hours and then dispose of them in a non-combustible container.
  • If you must dispose of coals before they’ve completely cooled, remove them individually with long-handled tongs and carefully bury them in a can of sand or in a bucket of water. Never pour the hot coals into a pail of water, or vice versa. Steam from the briquets may burn you.