Your very best tips for someone new to grilling

Grilling season is officially here (did you catch these recipes for Genius cookouts? —and we know there are home cooks out there who would love to hear from you. What are your very best grilling tips for beginners?

Emily Kochman


Wendy May 26, 2021
Do not over crowd the grill!
Emily K. May 27, 2021
Super important—thanks, Wendy!
Gammy May 26, 2021
I second 702551's advise on getting yourself an instant-read thermometer. I DO have the more expensive Thermoworks one and love it for indoor cooking as well as grilling, but there are plenty on the market in a wide range of prices. I would also suggest watching a couple of videos on the proper way to use. And if the thermometer does not have a handy temp chart on it, make yourself one so you alway have that reference handy as some meats can go from medium to overdone in a flash!
Also heat your grill first, and THEN clean it, every time you grill.
Emily K. May 27, 2021
Thanks for sharing the helpful tips, Gammy!
702551 May 25, 2021
I have two main suggestions.

A.) Get an instant read digital meat thermometer. You do not need to pay a hundred bucks for one. There are competent models in the $20-30 range. I own a Lavatools Javelin unit that was about $25 and works as well as Brand E's equivalent unit that costs three times the price. The meat thermometer may end up saving you hundreds of dollars of overcooked meat. I use this when I'm roasting meat in the oven too. It is not a grill-only tool.

B.) Learn the fundamentals of two-zone grilling. There are smarter ways to grill than tossing everything over a screaming hot flame.

And one supplemental suggestion.

C.) Pick up a wireless barbecue thermometer to complement the instant read unit. Again you do not need to fork out a ton of cash. I use a Maverick ET-732 Redi-Check, cost $60. There are less expensive models that will do the same job. I purchased this specific model based on an endorsement from Serious Eats or (I forget). This provides me the luxury of not having to get up every 10-15 minutes to check on a roast. Like the instant read thermometer, this is not a grill-only tool and I also use it on items in my oven.
702551 May 26, 2021
A few other miscellaneous thoughts.

D.) Do not buy an expensive "BBQ grill brush." Buy a wire paint stripper which will be more durable and cost less. You should not need to pay more than $6-7 for something like this:

E.) When you want to clean your grill grates really well throw them in your oven the next time you run a self-cleaning cycle. All of the crusted residue will turn into powdery grey ash, easy to wipe away with a damp cloth or old sponge.

F.) Be thoughtful about any wood that you use, don't just stick with oak, hickory, or mesquite. Think about what you are cooking and try to pair other woods (apple, cherry, walnut, alder, cedar, etc.) based on what you are grilling and what flavor profile you are trying to achieve. You might not want strong hickory smoke on a more delicate fish filet.

I happen to use wood chips and chunks from Lazzari Fuel since they are local (Brisbane, CA) but I'm sure there are other vendors out there.

One final point: consider reading a grilling book. There are mainstream guides like Steve Raichlen's various books as well as newer entries like Meathead Goldwyn's book.

While cooking over an open flame may seem mysterious to today's inexperienced cooks, it is BY FAR the oldest cooking method, going all the way to the prehistoric era. It is the application of heat to an ingredient to enact chemical changes when the ingredient reaches a certain heat, just like all other cooking methods.

Grilling is done poorly by people who are inattentive or have poor observational skills so PAY CLOSE ATTENTION to your five senses. If you are more focused on being the party host rather than the grill cook, you will inevitably end up with irregular and mediocre results. Grill first, host after.
Emily K. May 27, 2021
Thanks so much for sharing such thoughtful advice!
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