8 Easy Grilling Tips Our Community Swears By

Crank up your cookouts with grilled fruit, veg, and make-ahead marinades.

June 12, 2023
Photo by Julia Gartland

There are a million reasons why I prefer summer to all other seasons, but being able to grill multiple times a week ranks high on my list. Perfectly charred steaks, roasted corn in the husk, smoky, cedar-plank grilled fish—everything seems to taste better when cooked outside over a flame. (It doesn’t hurt that my kitchen stays cooler and cleaner, too.)

To make the most of BBQ weather, I asked the Hotline and polled our Instagram community for their favorite grilling tips and recipes. (Be sure to weigh in on our latest Hotline query on your top cleaning tricks here.) We got some brilliant ideas for throwing everything from stone fruit to steak tips on the barbie—a testament to our knowledgeable community. “As accomplished as I am in the kitchen, I still learn from others on Food52,” one community member, Happygoin, told me.

None of these cookout tricks require more than a few ingredients, so you can easily weave these ideas into your weeknight routine or backyard BBQ planning. Here are our favorites:

Easy Eggplant Dip

Shana Liebman (aka ShanaL) is a recent Institute of Culinary Education grad who is working on a cookbook of BBQ recipes around the world, so of course she had her own grilling recipe at the ready. She likes to throw a whole eggplant on the grill—no oil needed—for about 20 to 30 minutes until it’s charred all over and soft inside. She then places it on a plate and cuts it down the middle to expose the creamy inside. “I like to drizzle tahini sauce over it, throw on some roasted tomatoes and chopped parsley—then serve it as a dip.” It wins points in my book for sheer convenience and presentation alone, and her Tiktok shows how simple it is to make this deconstructed, baba ganoush-like spread.

Don’t Grill Without It

When grilling meat, there are two definite camps: those who prefer to test for doneness using their hands, and those who agree with longtime Food52er Gammy, who wrote, “We never grill meat without an instant-read thermometer. Nothing worse than an overcooked steak!” If you like to rely on touch alone, the palm method is the most common, but we have a handy chart (pun intended) that riffs on this classic test. Based upon the feedback in the comments, it clearly struck a nerve.

Marinades for Days

Helen Leah Conroy, who we know and love as AntoniaJames on Food52, has a quick prep trick she uses for a grilling workhorse: chicken thighs. “You know how boneless chicken thighs have a large part and an attached smaller side? I cut the smaller pieces off to grill separately, which avoids drying them out before the large side is fully cooked,” she said. Using her kitchen shears, she trims off both the fat and the side pieces, which she then snips in two and skewers right before grilling to make it easy to get them on and off the grill. Her favorite recipe for grilled thighs is this herby, Dijon marinade. Conroy makes three to four times the amount needed, and then freezes dinner-sized portions in the marinade, as the recipe spells out, “for lots of easy grilling in the weeks ahead.”

The make-ahead marinade method is a popular one. Happygoin is a Food52 community member and former professional baker who once had the unique privilege of meeting and making Julia Child laugh. (This has nothing to do with her marinade recipe, but it was just too juicy an anecdote to omit.) “I’ve always found that freezing meat in the marinade tenderizes it,” she says. She likes to marinade a double or triple batch of steak tips and freeze each in individual servings using her own recipe here.

A Rub for All Meats

For a foolproof rub, Halfpint has high praise for Mimi’s Halfsies Chicken recipe: “[It’s] probably my favorite grill recipe because it’s easy from start to finish: Marinate chicken ahead of time (I’ve had this chicken marinating about three days without ill-effects on the texture; there's no acid to worry about), and pop onto the grill.”

She loved this rub so much, she even adapted it for pork spare ribs, upping only the amount of salt to taste, and marinating it longer for tender ribs.

Grill it Forward

This tip falls under the category of grill now, thank yourself later. Nancy, a longtime community member and fountain of cooking knowledge who weighs in often on the Hotline, likes to char or roast her favorite fresh produce (think: corn or sweet peppers) on the grill for dinner, but always grills more than needed for future meals. She uses just oil and a grill basket, and saves the seasoning for later depending on how it will be served.

“When served chilled or room temp for the next few days, their smoky taste enhances salad, soup, sandwiches," she said. “And later in the season, when almost everything is ripe, you can make ratatouille with the charred tomatoes as the starting point.” She also grills extra onions or garlic for aromatics or burger toppings.

Setting up Squash for Success

We also polled our Instagram community for a second batch of grilling tricks. recommends brining planks of zucchini in a saltwater bath for 45 to 60 minutes before grilling so it stays firm on the grill and amps up the flavor. “It was brilliant!” she said. Marinating them in a garlicky lemon and rosemary dressing also got high marks from our community.

Peachy Sweet

To make the most of in-season stone fruit, @hkstinnett likes to toss peach halves on the grill while you eat dinner. “They’re amazing for dessert!” she said. For those who like their fruit à la mode, we recommend topping them with vanilla ice cream, Greek yogurt, or a big scoop of cream.

Beer & Brats

One community member likes to boost the flavor of brats in a way that’s reminiscent of a method in our hot dog edition of Absolute Best Tests. @poisonpoet simmers brats in beer, onions, and green peppers for a whopping two hours before throwing them on the grill for marks. Since simmering hot dogs in beer yielded “the juiciest, most flavorful dog” in our experiments, I can only imagine that upping the ante with aromatics will produce the best possible brats, too.

What's your top grilling tip or recipe? Tell us in the comments below!
Order Now

Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

Order Now

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Nicole Davis

Written by: Nicole Davis

Contributing Editor, Food52

1 Comment

Nancy August 17, 2023
Here's an article which does extra grilling with lots of other things in your fridge - like meat, seafood and fruits (not just the vegetables I mentioned). Great ideas!