It could be argued that grilling is one of, if not the most fun and delicious way to cook. You’re outside having a good time, serving up the grilled, charbroiled flavor everyone craves as soon as the weather shows even a sign of being trade-sweaters-for-swimsuits time. So whether it’s charcoal or propane, we have tips and tricks to help you go all out for your next cookout.
How to Cook on a Charcoal Grill
The popular kettle grill is great for both direct and indirect heat thanks to the spacious cooking area and adjustable vents. Though the following suggestions are specific to the kettle grill, they’re helpful for other types of charcoal grills as well.
How to Clean a Charcoal Grill
Make sure your grill grates are clean by using a wire brush or pumice tool to get rid of cooked-on bits. And always empty the ashes.
How to Light a Charcoal Grill
Add charcoal chunks or chips (chips burn faster). Then, choose of the following to ways to get your charcoal going:
- Chimney starter: Fill the metal cylinder with charcoal. Use paper to light it from the bottom and wait until the coals are ready for cooking, about 10-15 minutes. Pour coals into the grill.
- Lighter fluid: Place charcoal in grill, douse with fluid and light right away. (Note: This is a petroleum product and alters the flavor of the food.)
- Pre-treated charcoal: Comes ready to light.
- Burner bag: This contains charcoal. Light the bag and when the bag burns away, the charcoal is ready to go.
Get Your Grill On
- The coals are ready when they turn gray. Spread them evenly for direct heat or push them to one side of the grill for indirect heat. Use the vents on the top and bottom to control the heat. To get hotter temperatures, open the bottom vent, and for lower temperatures, open the top vent.
- Direct Heat: This is good for cooking thinner cuts of meat at high heat. Be sure to leave an area with no coals for a cool zone (and in case there’s a flare-up).
- Two-zone Cooking: This is the most popular grilling method. Spread the coals over half your grill and leave the other half empty. This way, you have a source of direct heat for searing and indirect heat for slow-cooking. It’s perfect for steaks, chops, bone-in and boneless chicken, and seafood. It’s also ideal for vegetables…simply coat them lightly in olive oil and grill directly over the coals with medium heat.
Keep Food from Sticking to the Grill Grates
Just dampen a paper towel with cooking oil. Using tongs, spread the oil on the hot grates.
Be sure to extinguish the hot coals when you’re done cooking, and close the lid and all vents.
Allow up to 48 hours for the coals to die out completely. To speed things up, douse with water before closing the lid and vents. When everything is completely cool, wrap the charcoal and ash in foil and place in the trash.
How to Cook on a Gas Grill
For convenient grilling, most newer gas grills are equipped with push-button ignition and heat up quickly (in about 10 minutes). They can be adjusted to cook with direct heat, indirect heat or both at the same time.
How to Prep a Gas Grill
- First, make sure you have enough propane in your tank. A standard 20 lb. tank provides about 75 hours of grilling.
- Always open the lid before lighting. Open the valve on the propane tank completely, then wait a moment to let the gas make its way through the hose.
- Press the starter button, then turn all burners on their highest setting to preheat. If your grill doesn’t have a starter button, use a long match or lighter to light the flame. (Always check your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on your particular model.) Adjust temperature controls as needed, depending on what you’re grilling and the recipe you’re following.
Get Your Grill On
- Use direct heat for hamburgers, steaks, chops, fish fillets, boneless chicken and vegetables.
- Use indirect heat for roasts, ribs, whole fish and bone-in chicken.
- When cooking is complete, turn the knobs to the “off” position and close the propane valve completely. When the grill has cooled down, close the lid.
- Check the connections on your grill regularly for any signs of a gas leak. Spray or dab soapy water at the connection points, and if bubbles appear, you may have a leak. If this is the case, have a professional take a look if necessary.
Extra Tips for Charcoal & Gas Grills
- Use tongs or a spatula, rather than a fork, to turn meat over in order to prevent losing juices.
- Have everything you need on hand to avoid back and forth trips to the kitchen.
- Leave food alone until it’s ready to turn. In general, you should only have to flip your food once.
- Use a grill pan to keep smaller pieces of food from falling through the grates.
We hope any doubts you had about your grill skills have been extinguished. You’ve got the tips and the recipes, meaning…you’ve got this. For more inspiration, be sure to check out our Summer Shop, and if you’re looking to dabble with smoking meat too, our Quick Guide to Smokers & Smoker Grills has you covered.