Summer Is Here and These 5 Tips Will Help You Be a Grill Master in No Time

Summertime is here, and that means it’s grilling season. Whether you’re using a gas grill, a traditional charcoal grill, a heat-loving kamado grill or a portable grill, it’s a good idea to brush up on your grilling skills before you host that summer kickoff barbecue. 

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Here’s what you need to know to impress your guests. You can also check out the best meat delivery services and the best coolers

Pro tip: The tips below will get you started, but there are a lot of grill designs out there. Consult your grill’s manual for specifics about heating, cleaning and maintenance for your model. 

Read more: Best Grill for 2024

Here’s what you need to become a grill expert

Every grill master needs a few tools of the trade. Of course, they depend on the type of meat you’re using, but in general it’s a good idea to have at least one of the following:

Read more: Best BBQ Tools and Grilling Gadgets for 2024

1. Season your grill

It’s important to prepare your grill by seasoning it before cooking. No, we aren’t talking about adding delicious flavors to your food just yet. In this instance, we’re talking about the prepping of your grill’s grates. This is really only applicable if you’ve gotten a brand-new grill and you haven’t used it yet. If your grill isn’t brand-new, preheat it and give it a good brush to remove any old debris. 

Some grills have specific processes the manufacturer recommends for properly seasoning your grill for the first time, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual. If your grill doesn’t specify a seasoning process, a good way to get started is to spray the grates evenly with a high-heat cooking spray like canola oil while the grates are cold. Then, turn the grill on to medium heat for about 15 minutes until the oil burns off or starts to smoke. That’s it.

Some grates have a porcelain enamel on them that doesn’t require seasoning, so check your grill’s manual and avoid any unnecessary effort. Seasoning will keep grill rust at bay, and you should do this before every grilling session if you can.

Traeger Grills Ironwood XL lid open sitting on a concrete patio. Traeger Grills Ironwood XL lid open sitting on a concrete patio.

Choosing the right size grill for your needs is important so you not only save yourself money but you need the space to cook with it.

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2. Keep fire safety in mind

According to the National Fire Protection Association, between 2011 and 2016 US fire departments responded to an average of 9,600 home fires started by grills per year. Don’t let your cookout turn into one of those fires.

Whether you’re cooking indoors or out, keeping a fire extinguisher nearby is always important. If you don’t have a good place to store one outdoors, keep it inside the nearest entrance to your home. 

Fire safety when grilling also means making sure the area around the grill is clear of any flammable objects, as well as checking the grill’s grease collection tray. A full tray should be emptied to avoid a grease fire. 

Fire extinguisher next to a black grill Fire extinguisher next to a black grill

Always keep a fire extinguisher close by while grilling.

Josh Miller/CNET

3. Prep food before grilling

With your grill prepped and fire safety covered, it’s food time! It’s helpful to have all of your meats and veggies prepped before you get to the grill, rather than doing it as you cook. Slice vegetables, make burger patties, and marinate chicken inside, then bring them outside. Casserole dishes are great for transport, since their high sides stop food from sliding off.

If you’re bringing food out from your kitchen, remember a clean plate to put the finished product on and clean tongs. It’s important not to use a utensil to remove or serve cooked meat if you’ve used it with raw meat. 

Don’t forget any other grill accessories you might want nearby, like corn cob holders or a meat thermometer. Be sure to keep paper towels within reach (but away from the flame) for any unexpected messes. If your grill has a side burner, a trivet for holding hot saucepans will come in handy.  Oh, and while you’re cooking food and when it’s done, it’s a good idea to have some dish towels or other covers for food to keep pesky flies away.

cuts of meat and a knife on a chopping board cuts of meat and a knife on a chopping board


4. Start your grill the right way

Refer to your grill’s manual for specific preheat instructions and times. In general, a charcoal grill will need more time to preheat than a gas model. 

Charcoal grills

Charcoal grills need about 20 minutes to preheat, so keep that in mind when you’re prepping your meal. If you’ve cooked with your charcoal before, be sure to discard any ashes from previous uses.

Next, open all the vents on the bottom of your grill to allow maximum airflow to fan the flame. Start your charcoal grill with a small amount of lighter fluid and some old newspaper or with a chimney starter. Check your grill’s manual to find the right charcoal size and shape for your model.

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Start the grill by placing a fire starter at the bottom of the charcoal hopper and lighting it.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Gas grill

Gas grills heat pretty quickly, so you’ll only need to build in about 10 minutes of preheat time when planning your meal. Always keep the grill’s lid raised while lighting. Turn the valve of your propane tank to open. Next, turn one burner on and press the ignition button on your grill. Once the first burner is lit, continue turning on as many other burners as you’d like to use. 

5. Don’t forget grill maintenance 

Remember to check your grease trap often and give your grill a good brushing when debris starts to pile up. Be sure to keep your grilling area clean to avoid unnecessary bugs and other unwanted guests exploring your cooking space. Throughout grill season, check your propane tank for leaks and invest in a good grill cover to keep your grill protected when not in use!

Now you’re ready to get grilling! Plus, check out our tips for how to tech out your patio

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