Top 5 Grills

Grill Like a Pro This Summer with Our Ultimate Beginners Guide to Grilling

Weber Genesis II S-335

Grill Like a Pro

With the weather getting warmer many of us are already dreaming of days spent getting our grill on in the patio. 

But if we’re relatively new to cooking over fire, it’s crucial to know that it actually takes some skill to grill like a pro. 

Anyone can flip a burger and brown some buns. But don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all it takes to serve up a super feast of smoky meat and veggies. 

You need the proper fuel and tools, a good grasp of how to use them, and the tricks and techniques to help you cook the perfect hunk of meat. 

Lucky for you, we’ve got it all covered in our ultimate beginners guide to grilling. Read on and you’ll be getting great results each time you fire up the coals this summer.  

RELATED: Grilling made easy, check out our Top 5 Pellet Grills

Weber Summit Grill Center Propane Gas Grill
Weber Summit Grill Center Propane Gas Grill
best 5 gas grills

Grilling vs. Barbequing

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of grilling like a pro, it’s helpful to understand the difference between grilling and barbequing. Both are very similar but while grilling is carried out over direct heat and is therefore hot and fast, barbequing tends to take much longer, with typically tougher cuts of meat sizzling over a low heat. 

When barbequing thicker meat, it’s also best to bring the lid of the burner down while the food cooks. This keeps temperatures constant and helps to lock in flavors over hours.

Right. Now back to grilling.

Gas BBQ vs Charcoal BBQ

Grilling Fuel

The first thing to get right is your fuel. There are lots of different ways to grill food from using split logs and wood chips to charcoal and gas.

RELATED: Check out the Top 5 Gas Grills

Most experts don’t recommend gas or electric grills as you miss out on that smoky flavor that’s part and parcel of a deliciously seared steak or sausage. But that said, there are benefits to grilling with gas and electricity including ease of use, precise temperature settings, and – with no ash to chuck – simple upkeep. 

RELATED: Check out the Top 5 Charcoal Grills

If taking the traditional route and opting for charcoal, there are basically two different types to choose from – briquettes and hardwood lump.

Jealous Devil All Natural Premium Hardwood XL Lump Charcoal
Jealous Devil All Natural Premium Hardwood XL Lump Charcoal

Briquettes

Briquettes are made from sawdust and leftover woods combined with a binder and other additives. They’re typically cheaper than lump charcoal and burn longer and more consistently. So while they’re not totally “natural” they work well for your pocket and your patience if you’re grilling all the livelong day. 

Kamado Joe Big Block Hardwood Lump Charcoal
Kamado Joe Big Block XL Natural Lump Charcoal

Hardwood Lump

Pit-master purists, however, tend to opt for hardwood lump. This type of charcoal is made from high-quality hardwoods such as hickory, oak, apple, and cherry.

And because it exudes these flavors on the food while it burns, it acts as an additional smoke-alicious ingredient. 

For example, apple, maple, pecan, and cherry are a top choice for sweetening most red and white meats, while hickory, alder, and oak go great with pork and salmon. You can continue adding woodchips onto lit coals too to increase these smoky scents and flavors. 

And finally, if you’re going to use hardwood lump don’t pinch pennies when purchasing the coals. Some cheaper options have a more gasoline scent and this is not the tang you want to taste off your hot dogs! 

Weber 7416 RapidFire Aluminized Steel Charcoal Chimney
Weber 7416 RapidFire Aluminized Steel Charcoal Chimney

Tools

Once you’ve got your fuel organized, you’ll need to get some top tools to make flipping your food easier. Many a slick sausage or veggie strip has been accidentally tossed over the side of the grill due to the lack of proper tools.  

The most basic tool kit you should have includes:

  • Lightweight oven mitt
  • Chef’s apron
  • A set of tongs
  • Spatula
  • 2-prong fork
  • Grill brush and scraper (these are essential cleaning tools to keep your grill spick and span and remove stubborn grease before and after every use.) 

If you want to grill vegetable bites, and fish or meat kebabs, you should invest in some good stainless steel skewers too. 

Additionally, a chimney starter is a great device (as you’ll read below) for igniting your grill. It consists of a metal tube with a grate to hold charcoal and allow airflow and is a better bet for firing up your flames than using lighter fluid.  

Looftlighter Charcoal Electric Lighter & Firestarter
Looftlighter Charcoal Electric Lighter & Firestarter

Lighting Your Grill

Just like a conventional oven, you need to pre-heat your grill to get to the optimal temperature for the chow you’re cooking and to prevent said food from sticking to the grates. 

There are several ways to ignite your grill. You can go old school and use lighter fuel. But besides the potential danger of doing this, lighter fuel can also adversely alter the flavor of your food. The same goes for self-lighting charcoal. 

Instead, one of the best ways of lighting your grill is to use the above-mentioned chimney starter. Directions are as follows:

  • Pile up your coal inside the tube along with a couple of wadded-up sheets of paper or lighter cubes to use as combustibles. 
  • Ignite these and place the chimney starter in the center of the grill. 
  • Wait until the charcoal has caught fire and after about 15 minutes, open the grate on your grill and, using the handle of your chimney starter, tip it over slowly so that the coals spill into the grill. 
  • Pull the lid down on and wait for at least another 10 minutes for the heat inside to build up nicely. 
  • After that, open up your grill and get to cooking!
Weber 7203 iGrill 2 Wireless Bluetooth Grill Thermometer
Weber 7203 iGrill 2 Wireless Bluetooth Grill Thermometer

Temperature

The correct temperature for cooking depends on the kind of grub you’re grilling. A good rule of thumb is the thicker the meat, the lower the heat, and vice versa. 

That means burgers, hot dogs, and kebabs are best grilled hot and fast on temperatures between 400-500° F, while thick steak or chicken breasts may need lower temperatures to ensure the flesh is cooked evenly throughout. 

Vegetables and fruit are often best left to sizzle on a slow heat too.

Temperature: High

Thermometer reading: 450° F to 500° F

 

Temperature: Medium-high

Thermometer reading: 400° F to 450° F

 

 Temperature: Medium

 Thermometer reading: 350° F to 400° F

 

Temperature: Medium-low

 Thermometer reading: 300° F to 350° F

 

 Temperature: Low

 Thermometer reading: 200° F to 300° F

Weber Genesis II S-335
Weber Genesis II S-335

Ready, Set, Grill!

It sounds obvious but prep your food before it goes on the grill. That means not adding marinades to meat once they’re on the grate as the sugar in these liquid seasonings will likely ignite the flames and burn the food.

If you do want to marinade or spice up your bites, do so at least an hour before you start grilling to let the flavors really sink in.

Also, trim excess fat off any meat cuts to prevent them from dripping into the flames and causing a fire. And oil the meat, fish, and other edibles rather than the grill itself; Oil burns at high heat so it’ll serve no purpose to pour it over the grill except to make your cooking a little more perilous than it needs to be!

Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050 Grill Size
Masterbuilt Gravity Series 1050

Move your food around the grill too. This prevents it from sticking to the grate and helps to ensure even cooking. 

Certain foods that need a longer time to cook, such as whole chickens or racks of ribs, benefit from being cooked away from the heat source. You use indirect heat instead by maintaining the fire on one side of the grill only and placing the meat for roasting on the other side. 

When cooking meat on a grill there are two important rules to stand by – don’t over-cook and don’t undercook. 

Undercooked meat is highly dangerous and could see you and your grill guests finishing up your feast-day fun in the ER. 

Over-cooked or burnt food can also be harmful as it contains carcinogenic substances and it’s also pretty tasteless and hard to chew. 

Broil King Keg 5000 Steel Charcoal Kamado Grill
Broil King Keg 5000 Steel Charcoal Kamado Grill

So, keep a steady eye on the sizzling food and simply stick a fork into any meat before sliding it off the grill. The juices of all white meat such as chicken and pork run clear when they’re fully cooked. If the drizzle from your fork puncture looks slightly pinkish then it means they need more time cooking. 

A medium-rare steak should feel soft and fleshy while a medium to well-done steak should still feel tender but with an added resistance.

As for fish, if it flakes, it’s done. And always be sure that the outside of the fish is fully cooked as this is where any harmful bacteria will reside.

Broil King Imperial 4-Piece Stainless Steel BBQ Tool Set
Broil King Imperial 4-Piece Stainless Steel BBQ Tool Set

Cleaning Up

Grilling with friends and family is fabulous fun. Cleaning up afterward? Not so much. But it must be done to keep your grill in great nick and make sure it’s ready to roll out for when the next sunshiny day beckons. 

Most grills come with lids and closing these along with vents will shut off the oxygen needed to keep the charcoal fire burning. But that doesn’t mean the charcoal is cool enough to handle. 

Typically, these coals can stay hot for up to 24 hours so don’t throw them into the garbage as they can continue smoldering and easily start a fire. 

Cuisinart 14-Piece Deluxe Stainless Steel Grill Tool Set
Cuisinart 14-Piece Deluxe Stainless Steel Grill Tool Set
best 5 gas grills

Of course, you can and should reuse your charcoal and save some cash by doing so. Once you’ve shut off the vents and extinguished the burning coals, place them in a metal tub or bucket, preferably with a lid, and store them somewhere dry until you need to break them out again. 

As for your grill itself, you need to remove the grill grates and any ashes from the bottom of the grill and ash catcher. 

Use the grill brush to remove excess dirt from the interior and then spray it with oven cleaner. Leave the cleaner to work its magic and, in the meantime, wipe down the exterior with soapy water and a dishrag. Following that, use clean water to rinse off the inside of the grill. Wipe both exterior and interior dry and – voilà – your grill is once again, a clean, dream cooking machine!

Best Charcoal Grills 2021

Conclusion

If you’re new to grilling, it’s important to get to grips with the basics. Doing so will ensure you stay safe and cook well.

Truth is, grilling is something of a science and you may sacrifice a hot dog or two as you learn the ropes. 

But if you follow the steps laid out in this ultimate beginners’ guide, then have no fear – you’ll be grilling like a pro in no time at all!