13 Handy BBQ Tips And Tricks For Grilling Season

Here are two tips for grilling: keep the grill grate clean by using grill mats, and use an instant read thermometer so you're not guessing if the meat is done.

The Best Barbecue Tips For Summer Grilling

We eat dinner in the backyard a lot during the summertime, because we want to take full advantage of long days and warm nights while we can! And if you’re eating outside, you might as well do the cooking out there while you’re at it, right? ;-)

Backyard barbecues are my favorite form of summer entertaining. There’s nothing more enjoyable than enjoying a delicious grilled meal with family or friends, especially if you have a few tips up your sleeve that help make the cooking and entertaining even easier!

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In this post, you’ll find a list of useful grilling and BBQ tips you can use whether you have a charcoal grill, a gas grill, or even a smoker like my husband Dave. Check out these tips and tricks that will help you make the most of the outdoor grilling season below!

13 Handy BBQ Tips And Tricks For Grilling Season

One of my best tips for grilling is to allow the meat to warm up for half an hour or so before putting it on the grill.

1. Take Steaks Out Of The Fridge Early

The next time you plan to grill steaks, take them out of your fridge and let them sit out at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before putting them on the grill. One of the keys to perfect steak is cooking them at high temperatures for a short time, and fresh-from-the-fridge steaks will take longer to cook.

By letting your steaks warm up a bit before grilling them, you’ll ensure the interior of the meat is cool, but not cold, and you’ll have no trouble achieving medium or medium-rare perfection!

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For the best barbecue, season meat liberally.

2. Season Meat Liberally

Thick steaks need a lot of seasoning, so be sure to cover them liberally with salt, pepper, and whatever other seasonings you like before grilling them. A good rule of thumb for home cooks is to salt the meat twice as much as you think is needed.

Related: How To Tenderize Steak So That Even Cheap Cuts Taste Incredible

Clean your grill grates before and after cooking - this grilling tip will ensure that your grilled food doesn't stick.

3. Clean And Prep Your Grill Grate

A clean grill grate is much easier to use than a dirty one, and food sticks a lot less! Invest in a good grill brush, and at the beginning of each cooking session, after you’ve preheated your grill, give your preheated grill a good scrub with it to remove any char or food residue that may be present.

After scrubbing the grate, dip a paper towel into some cooking oil, then use a pair of tongs to wipe the oil over the grate.

Here's a grilling tip for skewering: use two skewers and run them through the food parallel to each other -- the good won't curl up on the grill!

4. Don’t Rush Preheating

It’s tempting to start cooking right after you’d fired up the grill, but you’ll get better results if you allow time for the whole grill to get nice and hot! To gauge the heat of a fire, hold your hand about four inches above the grill grate and start counting: “One Mississippi, two Mississippi….”

Over a hot fire, you’ll get to two or three before you’re forced to move your hand; over a medium fire, four to five; and over a medium-low heat fire, eight to ten.

Create heat zones on your grill so everything gets perfectly cooked.

5. Create Heat Zones

On a kettle grill, bank coals in the center. Sear food in the middle, where heat is highest, then move it to the outer edges of the grill to perfectly cook without burning. On a gas grill, leave one burner on high, another on medium.

Using grill mats will keep your grill grates much cleaner and prevent food from sticking.

6. Know How To Handle Flare-Ups

Flare-ups are a common part of grilling. When they occur:

  • Move the food from the hot zone to the medium zone until the flames subside.
  • Close the lid to extinguish the flames. (If you’re working on a charcoal grill, close the top and bottom vents.)
  • Spray water from a spray bottle to dampen the flame. (Be careful with this technique, as the water may stir up loose ashes or even cause the fire to spread.)
  • If all else fails, dump a good amount of baking soda over the fire to smother it.
Grilling tip for cooking veggies: leave room between the veggies on the skewer so they cook evenly.

7. Leave Your Food Alone

It can be so tempting to flip, move, poke, and prod at the food you’re grilling, but the more you leave it alone, the better off you’ll be! Let your steak develop a seared crust on the grill before moving or flipping it. If you try to lift the meat before it’s ready, it’ll stick to the grates.

When checking for doneness, resist the urge to repeatedly poke, stab, or pierce your meat with a fork or prongs. The juices will escape, making the meat drier and less flavorful. Use a spatula or tongs to move and flip your food.

Best grilling tip when you're in a hurry -- cut the food up and use skewers. Smaller pieces cook faster!

8. Grill Faster With Skewers

If you’re running short on time, cut large cuts of meat into smaller pieces and thread them onto skewers! Here are some other skewer tips:

  • Use two skewers and thread the food onto both so that it lies flat. (This is especially useful when cooking shrimp, chicken and other meats that tend to curl.)
  • Avoid crowding skewers — leave space between each one to allow hot air to circulate for more even cooking.
  • Cook meat and vegetables on separate skewers. (Combining them often results in overcooked veggies or undercooked meat.)
  • Try “edible skewers”! Swap your skewers for sprigs of fresh rosemary (great for lamb), cinnamon sticks (great for pork and peaches), or lemongrass stalks (great for chicken, shrimp, and swordfish).

Related: 6 Extremely Useful Questions To Ask At The Meat Counter

One of the best barbecue tips: don't sauce the meat too soon, especially with a sauce that contains sugar. It will burn or stick to the grill!

9. Don’t Sauce Too Early

Be careful not to sauce food too early, especially if you are using a sweet sauce, as the sugars will burn. Wait until the last few minutes of grilling if using a sauce that contains sugar.

Use an instant read thermometer so you know for sure if the food on the grill is cooked to a safe temperature.

10. Know When It’s Done

Don’t forget that food will continue to cook for a minute or two after you’ve taken it off the grill. For that reason, it’s best to remove it just before it has reached the desired doneness.

Here are two ways to test for doneness:

How To Test For Doneness

Use Your Hand:

Press down on the surface of your steak with a clean finger, then compare it to the feeling of your hand in that fleshy area between your thumb and palm. If the steak feels like:

  • The fleshy area when your hand is relaxed, the steak is about rare.
  • The fleshy area when your thumb and middle finger are touching, it’s about medium rare.
  • The fleshy area when your thumb and pinky finger are touching, it’s well done.

Use A Thermometer:

Once I started using an instant read digital food thermometer, I never looked back! It’s really the only way to get consistently great results from your grilling efforts, and they’re surprisingly affordable these days! (And be sure to download my free meat temperatures printable at the link below!)

Related: The Best & Easiest Way To Cook Meat & A Free “Is It Done?” Printable

After removing meat from the grill, let it rest for five minutes so the juices can be reabsorbed and your meat will be tender and juicy.

11. Let It Rest

After taking meat off the grill, wait at least 5 minutes before cutting into it to give the moisture inside a chance to settle back into the meat. To preserve the crispy grill marks you worked so hard to achieve, place the meat on a cooling rack to cut the necessary resting time!

Grill cleaning tip: use half an onion on a big fork to wipe down your grill grate when you're done brushing it. It will leave a non-stick and tasty coating.

12. Clean Your Grill Grate (Again)

Clean your grill grate while it’s still hot to easily remove bits of food that may have gotten stuck to it. I like to cut an onion in half and scrub the grill with it. It leaves a nice residue that adds flavor and prevents food from sticking.

Also, be sure to check the drip pan of your gas grill periodically and clean it as needed to avoid flare-ups. (I’ve also heard that sprinkling crushed red pepper in the bottom of your grill will help keep pests away when you’re not using it!)

Putting the grill mats back on the cool grill after cleaning will help keep it clean.

13. Consider Using A Grill Mat

You can keep mess to a minimum using a grill and oven mat. You can use them right on top of your grill grates on any type of grill, and they’re easy to clean too — just toss the mat in your dishwasher!

Related:  7 Smart Ways To Use Grill Mats On The Grill

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

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  • Grill mats sound so great, HOWEVER, nobody ever mentions how you handle all the grease/liquid that collects on it from the food. We tried one a few times, and it was covered in a MESS. Certainly don’t want it spill off on the patio or in the grass as you pick it up for cleaning. How do you handle/dispose of it?

  • Thank you, I’ve been doing everything wrong and almost always burn the food. I keep my patio lights dim hoping that no one notices With all this new knowledge I’m now ready for Fourth of July. WISH me luck

  • DO NOT USE THE WIRE BRUSHES SHOWN IN THE PICTURE. SMALL PIECES OF WIRE CAN BE LEFT ON THE GRILL UNDETECTED AND GO IN YOUR NEXT grill meal!! That is one of the leading summer time ER visits,. People with the wire pieces in their throat!! OUCH!!!!

    • I’m not a grill master by any stretch of the imagination, but I will not buy cheap accessories. The difference between a grill bush from the dollar store and a grill brush from Kingsford (or other premium brands) is important. I’ve had my Kingsford brush for five years now and grill about 3-4 times a year and have never had any issues with loose wire.

  • What a great article! I love to grill and have for years, but learned so many awesome tips here. Love the idea of a grill mat! Just put one in my amazon cart. I was thinking how great they would be camping. I have saved so many of your tips and articles that I think I may need to create a pinterest board just for you :-)

  • Nice job putting this together! I was really glad to see the use of the onion. I use1/2 an onion (or lemon with seafood) after the first cleaning, just before putting the food on the grill to add a little something something.
    Maybe you can expand this a little by including some tips for cooking in foil packs on the grill.

  • Lots of helpful information here. I’m a good cook, but I don’t have as much confidence with the grill, so this was helpful to me. I was surprised when I clicked on the thermometer link and saw that it was $96. I’m wondering if I could use one of my oven thermometers held in place for a minute with tongs instead. Thanks for the tips!

    • You definitely could Leslie! I linked to the pricey thermometer because my husband swears by it and he’s a bit of a grill snob ;-) If you have the budget it’s a fantastic thermometer that almost instantly shows you the temperature but a cheaper one is definitely sufficient.

  • Hate to criticize because I’m a fan of the blog … but under “Use the right fat” … seriously, ORGANIC butter? There would be no difference between organic and regular butter in smoke point or other cooking properties. I can see where it would be an advantage to use CLARIFIED butter, where the milk solids are removed. It makes an excellent cooking oil with a higher smoke point. But as far as the difference between cooking with organic and regular butter, NONE.

    • Hi Cyndi! I didn’t actually mean that organic butter has a higher smoke point than regular butter. Just that it has a higher smoke point than some oils. I wrote “organic butter” because I know that many of my readers like to choose organic dairy products over conventional.

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