Top 10 Secrets for Grilling Success

by Robyn Medlin Lindars
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Every Grillmaster has a few tricks up their sleeves for ultimate grilling success, giving moist, juicy, flavorful results every time they light up the grill. Here are the Top 10 Secrets for Grilling Success that will make even a novice griller look like a pro.

1) Invest in a Meat Thermometer: Using a meat thermometer takes the guesswork out of grilling. By knowing exact internal temps, you can remove meat at just the right time for moist, juicy results. I recommend the Thermapen — it’s an instant-read digital thermometer that shows temps in less than five seconds, so you’re not spilling valuable heat from the grill.

2) Know Minimum Internal Temperatures for Meat: These are the minimal internal temperatures for meat, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keep in mind that when you take your meat off the grill, it continues to cook, so it is OK to pull it off when it’s a few degrees under the listed temperature.


3) Tent the Meat: After you pull meat off the grill because it has reached the minimum internal temperature, tent the meat under foil for 10 minutes. Allowing the meat to rest allows it time to reabsorb its juices, giving juicy, moist results.

4) Oil the grates: A well-oiled grill grate makes your food less likely to stick and makes for easy cleanup. Fill a small bowl with canola oil, dip a folded paper towel in it and rub oil on the grates before starting your fire.

5) Create Direct/Indirect Heat Zones: By creating different “zones” on your grill, you can effectively use your entire grilling surface while making different dishes at the same time. Knowing how to create different heat zones on your grill also means you can use it for different purposes. The easy way to think about this is that cooking on direct heat (i.e., over the flame) is like using the broiler in your oven. Cooking on indirect is like baking in an oven. When food is cooking too quickly on direct heat, you can easily put it on indirect heat so it will continue to cook without getting burned.


By creating zones, you can “Grill” on direct heat or cook on indirect heat and effectively roast your meat much like one would in an oven. On indirect heat, you can even smoke meats and cook them over low heat for a long period of time, effectively turning your standard grill into a smoker.

Direct: Direct heat is when you grill directly over the heat source (burner or charcoal fire).

Indirect: This is when you cook on the side of the grill with unlit burners OR on the empty/cool side of a charcoal grill.

How to create direct/indirect zones: On a gas grill, create direct and indirect cooking zones by setting half the grill burners on medium to medium-high heat, and the other burners on the other half to off, or on low.

On a charcoal grill, place your charcoal in a pile and move it to one side, with the charcoal taking up half of the grilling area. This creates a FIRE and NO FIRE zone on your grill.

6) Use High Quality Ingredients: Using the highest-quality ingredients makes a huge difference when cooking. Good-quality olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper should be staples in your pantry. If using store bought rubs, look for ones without preservatives like MSG. Or better yet, make your own!

7) Safety First: Always keep your household fire extinguisher nearby in case your fire gets out of hand. Better safe than sorry. Also keep in mind that foods that are high in fat, like bacon, will drip into the fire and cause flareups. It is a good idea to move foods that cause flare-ups onto the indirect heat zone.

8) Say No To Lighter Fluid: Grilling pros who cook on a charcoal grill know that using lighter fluid to start a fires is a major no-no. Even though the lighter fluid “burns off”; their fumes can add a chemical taste to your food. Real Grillmasters start their fires with a chimney starter - essentially a small chimney you stuff with newspaper on the bottom and charcoal briquettes on the top. Light the newspaper and it will eventually ignite the charcoal. After the charcoal begins to turn grey on top and has begun to ash over, it is ready to dump in the grill after about 15-20 minutes (use heat proof gloves/oven mitts when handling a chimney starter).

Another easy way to start a charcoal grill is by using paraffin lighter cubes. Build your charcoal into a mound and place 1-2 paraffin cubes in the mound. Light the cubes and they will eventually light your charcoal after about 10-15 minutes.

9) Use a Good pair of Tongs: Find a pair of tongs that are comfortable to use and the right length for your grill and hand length. Ideally they will have rubber on the main frame so they do not get too hot when grilling. Opt for restaurant quality tongs that have scalloped edges that make picking up food on the grill a piece of cake.

10) Get Creative: The savviest grillers know that you can make almost anything on your grill. A grill is like an outdoor oven and is a great way to add great flavor to veggies for salsa and sides, fruit for dessert, even brunch items like French toast. Invest in a cast-iron skillet and use your grill to bake items like cobbler or bread pudding to truly wow your friends and family with a gourmet meal cooked outside.


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