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Grilling Basics: Setup, Safety, Recipes, and More

Raise your grilling game with our tips, techniques, and best grilling recipes.
By Published May 11, 2018

Memorial Day is around the corner, so that can only mean one thing: grilling season has officially begun! With years of outdoor cooking experience, we know that grilling isn’t simply about turning up the heat and cooking meat. In our bestselling book, Master of the Grill, we give pointers on everything you need to know about grilling—such as clever grill hacks and food science advice to help you grill successfully. Here are some of our best tips to help you perfect your grill technique this summer, whether you’re a novice or die-hard grillmaster.


Master of the Grill

If you are new to grilling, Master of the Grill is perfect for you. If you consider yourself a genuine pit master, Master of the Grill is perfect for you, too. With over 400 recipes, we've divided this book into three sections (The Basics, The Easy Upgrades, and Serious Projects) to help you find recipes that suit your level of grilling. 
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Ultimate Grilling Kit

Our ultimate grilling kit includes the test kitchen’s best grilling recipes and four of our top rated equipment tools to help you master your grilling game in no time. Fun Fact: 99% of our staff has a pair of OXO tongs (and none of us got them for free). 
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4 Best Practices for Grilling

Whether you're new to grilling or just need a refresher, review these tips before you start playing with fire.

1. Location is Everything: Which is why we recommend setting up your grill at least 10 feet from your home on a flame-safe surface. This means yes to driveways or patios and a hard no to grass or a wooden deck. (Make sure to put the grill away from where children and pets might wander.)

2. Cleanliness Counts: Whether you’re using a gas grill or charcoal grill, the interior basin of your grill needs to be cleaned a few times each season to wash away built-up food matter. If not, you risk the chance of having food matter ignite or lending off-flavors to whatever you’re cooking. (Don’t forget to empty drip pans and ash-catchers frequently to reduce mess.)

3. Food Safety Matters: In our book, Master of the Grill, we share dozens of tips on how to prevent cross-contamination. Here are three things you should always do: Use separate platters for raw and cooked foods, dispose of extra marinade, and apply sauces to meat after it’s done cooking to keep your basting brush from becoming contaminated by uncooked meat.

4. Avoid Sloppy Food Prep: Fat or excess use of oily marinade dripping off the meat can catch fire and cause flare-ups. Trim meat carefully and pat dry foods marinated with oil with paper towels before grilling.

How to Set Up a Gas Grill in 4 Steps

Here’s how to get a fire going on a gas grill. (Note: We recommend you read all instructions in your owner’s manual thoroughly, and follow the directions regarding the order in which the burners must be lit.)

Check Propane Level

1. Check Propane Level: If your grill is equipped with a gas gauge or tank scale, check to make sure you have enough fuel. If your grill doesn’t have a gauge, bring 1 cup water to boil in a tea kettle or saucepan, then pour boiling water over the side of the tank. Then, place your hand on the tank. If the water warms the tank, that means the tank is empty. If the tank remains cool to touch after you’ve poured hot water on it, then there is enough fuel inside.

2. Light with Lid Up: Turn the burners to high and ignite. Lighting the grill with the lid down can trap gas and cause a dangerous explosion of fire. This is why you should always light the grill with the cover open.

3. Cover Grill and Get Grate Hot: Once your grill is lit, cover it and let it heat for about 15 minutes. Most grills reach their maximum heat level within 15 minutes but you may need to give your grill a few extra minutes on a cold or windy day.

4. Scrape Grate Clean, Then Slick It Down: Once your grill is hot, scrape the cooking grate clean with a grill brush to remove any burnt-on residue. Next, using tongs, dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe the grate several times.

How to Set Up a Charcoal Grill in 4 Steps

A charcoal grill offers some advantages over gas grill, such as more options for creating custom fires and a better ability to impart smoke flavor. Here’s how to get a fire going on a charcoal grill.

1. Get Coals Hot: Remove cooking grate from grill and open bottom grill vent halfway or completely, according to the recipe. Fill the bottom section of chimney starter with crumpled newspaper, set starter on charcoal rack, and fill top of starter with charcoal briquettes according to the recipe. Ignite newspaper and allow charcoal to burn until briquettes on top are partly covered with thin layer of gray ash.

2. Get Grate Hot: Empty briquettes onto grill and distribute as indicated in recipe. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and heat grate for about 5 minutes, but no longer, or the fire will start to die.

3. Scrub Grate Clean: Use grill brush to scrape cooking grate clean. You wouldn’t cook in a dirty pan, would you?

Oil Grate

4. Slick Down Grate: Using tongs, dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and wipe the grate several times. (For really delicate foods such as fish, we recommend slicking down the grate as many as five or 10 times, almost like seasoning a cast-iron skillet.)

Recipes for the Grill

Now that you’re aware of the best practices for grilling and know how to set up your grill, it’s time for you to test your skills. Here are few of our best grilling recipes to get you started.


Grilled Broccoli with Lemon and Parmesan

Steaming, sautéing, or microwaving broccoli is fine, but if you want vivid green florets with flavorful charred accents, you can’t beat the grill.
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Grilled Flank Steak with Charred Sweet Onion Relish

Flank steak is wide and thin so it doesn’t always fit easily in a pan—but it works great on the grill. This recipe only requires two steps so you’ll have a meal ready in 30 minutes or less.
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Grilled Butterflied Lemon Chicken

We use kitchen shears to remove the backbone from the chicken and open it up like a book. Using this butterflying method means all the skin is on the same side so it can crisp up on the grill.
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Smoky Beef Skewers with Corn and Black Bean Salad

This is the perfect weeknight meal to cook on the grill. Many of the ingredients in this dish, such as canned black beans and chipotle chile powder, are items likely have onhand. With a short grocery list and two easy steps, you’ll have dinner ready in no time.
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Grilled Eggplant with Yogurt Sauce

There are few vegetables that love smoke and char as much as eggplant does. Eggplant gets tender and smoky on the grill, soaking up plenty of flavor and seasonings
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