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Grilling Basics (Tips for Beginners)


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Fire up your grill because these grilling basics will give you all the confidence you need! Discover how easy it is to cook and make incredible food on an outdoor grill.

Grilling isn’t just for burgers and steaks! There are so many delicious ways to use a grill. Try these shrimp skewers, the most incredible grilled pineapple, or simply grill up some zucchini!

Close view of a grilled steak on the grill.

Reasons to Start Grilling

  • You’ll Love This Beginner’s Guide: I’m here to help you feel confident on the grill! I walk you through all the grilling basics you need to know.
  • It’s Tasty: Grilling is one of my favorite ways to cook! It makes meat taste succulent and vegetables super tender. There are SO many recipes that can only be made on a grill.
  • Outdoor Entertaining: Summertime to me means hosting BBQ parties and grilling! I love cooking in the outdoors and enjoying the weather with friends and family.

What to Know Before You Grill

Grilling involves cooking food over an open flame, and with so many types of grills available, it’s helpful to know the basics for any grill you use. Here are some essential tips, especially for beginners. We’ll focus on the most common household grills: propane and gas grills.

  1. Prepare the Recipe: Get everything ready before you even think about lighting the grill. If your recipe includes marinating meat, make sure to allow enough time for the flavors to infuse. Form your burger patties, season your chicken, or thread your skewers in advance. Having everything prepped ensures you won’t be scrambling while the grill is hot and ready.
  2. Check the Propane Tank: Before you begin grilling, ensure your propane tank is full and properly connected. If your grill won’t start and the tank is empty, you can exchange it for a full one at most hardware stores or gas stations for a small fee. They typically have filled propane tanks ready for exchange.
  3. Clean the Grill: For optimal performance, start with a clean grill. Use a grill brush to scrub the grates thoroughly. This not only keeps your food safe but also helps the grill function properly. For detailed cleaning instructions, refer to the manufacturer’s manual.
  4. Oil the Grates: To prevent food from sticking, oil the grill grates before you start cooking. Use tongs to hold a paper towel dipped in olive or canola oil and rub it over the grates.
  5. Preheat the Grill: Make sure to preheat your grill with the lid closed before you begin cooking. This ensures the grill reaches the right temperature, allowing your food to cook evenly and efficiently.

How to Check the Temperature of Your Outdoor Grill

The hand check for an outdoor grill is a simple method to estimate the grill’s temperature without a thermometer. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Heat the Grill: Preheat your grill to the desired temperature.
  2. Hold Your Hand Above the Grill: Place your hand about 4-5 inches above the grill grate.
  3. Count the Seconds: Count how many seconds you can comfortably hold your hand in place before needing to pull it away.

Here are the approximate temperatures based on the time you can hold your hand over the grill:

  • 2-3 seconds: High heat (450°F to 550°F or 230°C to 290°C)
  • 4-5 seconds: Medium heat (350°F to 450°F or 175°C to 230°C)
  • 6-7 seconds: Medium-low heat (325°F to 350°F or 165°C to 175°C)
  • 8-10 seconds: Low heat (250°F to 325°F or 120°C to 165°C)

This method gives you a rough estimate to help ensure your grill is at the right temperature for cooking.

Before firing up your grill, make sure you have the right tools ready. The type of tool you need depends on what you’re grilling. Here’s a list of the most common tools and when to use them:

  • Skewers: Use wood or metal skewers for grilling. Both work well, but if you use wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before threading meat, veggies, or fruit. This prevents them from burning or becoming brittle.
  • Meat Thermometer: Invest in a reliable meat thermometer to ensure your meat is cooked to the right temperature. Wireless thermometers are especially convenient and easy to use.
  • Tongs: Strong metal tongs are essential for grilling and flipping meats like steak and chicken. They’re also great for handling brats, ribs, and hot dogs.
  • Metal Spatula: A large metal spatula is perfect for flipping burgers.
  • Basting Brush: A basting brush is useful for applying sauces or marinades while cooking. It’s particularly handy for recipes like grilled huli huli chicken.

Labeled tools for using on the grill.

Grilling Tips For Beginners

I want you to be successful at grilling so you can enjoy summer dinners outside! Here are my helpful tips for beginners.

  • Don’t Flip Too Often: Be careful not to flip steak too often. You want the grill marks to give the steak the perfect outer crust. I’m also careful when flipping burgers. I find it causes them to shrink more and not cook as evenly. Flipping burgers too much can also cause the beef to crumble.
  • Allow the Meat to Rest: Giving your meat time to rest after it comes off the grill is important. The muscle fibers need time to relax and for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Your meat will be so TENDER!
  • Meat Thermometer: Know the temperatures to cook your meat to. Invest in a good meat thermometer that can measure the correct temperature of your meat.
  • Heat Zones on the Grill: Heat a portion of the grill to a higher heat and another zone on medium or low. This creates a hot and cooler zone for cooking. It also creates a place to quickly move the meat to a cooler zone if it’s starting to burn or cook too fast. This is also known as direct heat and indirect heat.

Marinade vs. Rub (Seasoning)

Grilling meat is a popular way to enjoy your outdoor grill, and how you prepare the meat is entirely up to you! Most people choose between marinating their meat or applying a dry rub. Marinating adds flavor and makes the meat incredibly tender, while a dry rub creates a flavorful crust. Both methods are delicious, and if you want to try both, you have to try my famous steak marinade or this chicken seasoning!

Meat Temperature and Grilling Time

Understanding how long to cook your meat is essential for perfect grilling. To help, I’ve created a handy temperature guide for steak that includes cooking times and visual cues for doneness. This makes it easier to achieve your preferred level of doneness. Here are additional recommended temperatures for other meats:

  • Chicken: Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).
  • Fish: Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C).
  • Pork: Cook to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and allow it to rest for at least 3 minutes.
Chart for steak cooking guide.
Close view of cut steak sliced
Top view of grilled chicken on a platter.

Recipe Ideas to Grill Up!

Grilling isn’t just for meat! There are so many ways to use your grill and you’re going to love these ideas. I always look forward to these summertime grill recipes!

  • Skewers: Skewers hold meat, veggies, and fruit pieces perfectly! If you use wood skewers, soak them for 30 minutes before using them. This prevents the skewers from burning. Try these steak skewers or our favorite Hawaiian teriyaki skewers!
  • Fruit: Grilling fruit makes it tender and enhances the sweetness. Try grilling this pineapple or these peaches and serving them with ice cream!
  • Vegetables: Tender-grilled veggies are my favorite, especially in the summer when my garden is bursting. These vegetables are the perfect side dish and my kids love these fun vegetable kabobs!
  • Foil Packets: We love to make foil packets in the summer! Everyone can make their packet just the way they like it. It’s a perfect dinner for when you don’t want to heat the kitchen with the oven. These shrimp packets or these easy potato foil packets are delicious!

Summer BBQ Grill Recipes





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