I am a massive fan of grilling, and actually run my grill almost every night, year-round. Why, you ask? Well, 1) it’s the best way I’ve found to consistently eat healthy, 2) it’s super fast and easy, and 3) it requires very little clean-up.
Did you need more reasons than that??
Since I moved into my house a few years ago and finally got a real gas grill, I’ve been working to become a grillmaster of sorts, testing all kinds of different recipes.
So I wanted to share some of my favorite grilling tips and recipes here, particularly for grilling newbies…and I’m always looking to up my game so feel free to send me YOUR best ones too!
(I feel like I need to caveat here, that I’m not one of those amazing obsessed grilling nerds…but that’s why this guide is perfect for newbies)
What this post covers
- Grilling tools for success
- General grilling tips
- Tips for grilling various meats
Tools you need
It goes without saying that a good grill is a good starting point. I use a gas grill, so all the tips here will be geared toward that, I can’t speak to charcoal. I upgraded to a Weber recently but had a Charbroil for a few years, they’re only a few hundred bucks, and it did great.
A good meat thermometer; I use this one both for meat and baking
Tin foil (pretty self-explanatory…)
General tips on how to use a gas grill
Always make sure to get your grill good and hot before putting food on. Let it heat up for 10-15 minutes (regardless of what temp you’re getting it to).
Don’t assume that hotter is better—different things will need to cook at different temps, so use the dials and temp gauge thoughtfully! And avoid opening the lid too often, or keeping it open. You lose all that lovely heat that you just created.
Don’t overcrowd your grill…having space between items is important for even cooking.
Cleaning and maintenance are very important (and something honestly I’m never good enough about). You should clean your grill grates before each use. I’d give it a slight scrub before turning it on, but then heat it up for 15 minutes and then scrap the grates with your grill brush or scraper. Then give it another minute or so before putting your food on.
Lastly, always keep an eye on your propane tank to make sure you don’t get too low. I cannot tell you the number of times I ran out mid-grilling. Thankfully I always keep a spare tank on hand, but it is the WORST.
I like to mix it up, sometimes with a nice thick steak, sometimes a salmon filet, and often with boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
I consider it a point of pride that my family specifically requests my grilled chicken breasts for special occasions, since those often have a reputation for being sad, dry, and flavorless.
Tips for grilling chicken
I don’t brag a lot, but I will toot my own horn here…I have somehow become totally awesome at grilling delicious, moist chicken.
And there are two main things that go into that—the aforementioned meat thermometer (CLUTCH) and prepping it correctly (marinades, seasonings, brining).
You have two really good options, brining and marinating. Regardless, try and make sure your chicken pieces are similar size and thickness.
- Brine: My go-to option is to use either a wet or dry brine, which imparts flavor and keeps the chicken from drying out. Then you can season however you want and grill (Trader Joes has some great spice mixes). I’ve written a whole post on how to brine chicken breasts, detailing this technique.
- Marinade: I’m a big fan of marinating my meat when I get a chance, both to impart flavor and tenderize. A combo of salty, acidic, and sweet will do the trick. The acidity is important, as it helps break down and tenderize the meat, but you shouldn’t leave it on too long. It can be as simple as white wine vinegar and barbecue sauce, or the complex Dynamite Chicken below.
Your grill should heat to at least 350, and I’ve found somewhere around 450 F to be ideal (knowing you’ll lose heat each time you open the grill).
Pro tip: Beyond that, having a good digital thermometer is KEY. The old guidelines say you need to get the chicken to around 165 F at the thickest part of the meat before removing from heat, then let it rest for a few minutes off the heat. Newer guidelines suggest more like 140-145 F. Don’t cut into it to see if it’s done–trust the thermometer!
For whatever reason the organic chicken breasts at Kroger are monsters, so I always cut them into 2 to 3 individual pieces, and I usually cook them for about 6 minutes on one side, and then 4-6 on the other depending on thickness. If you’re doing tenders, then only 3-4 minutes on each side.
Grilled chicken recipes you’ll love:
- How to Wet or Dry Brine Chicken Breasts…the secret to amazing chicken!
- Dynamite Chicken
- Balsamic & Honey Grilled Chicken
- Fresh Herb Grilled Chicken
- Tomato Grilled Chicken with Barley Corn Salad
- Grilled Balsamic Chicken
Tips for grilling salmon
I haven’t grilled other fish yet, so speaking to salmon specifically. I really like grilling it, because then it doesn’t smell up your house like baking or pan frying do.
Marinades are helpful here as well to impart flavor and retain moisture. I often will actually turn over my filet of salmon but technically you should just cook it on the skin side. In that case, you can do a more “toppings” approach, like garlic and chopped rosemary.
Many people love using cedar planks for salmon as well, but I haven’t experimented with those yet.
Grilled salmon recipes to inspire:
Tips for grilling steak
Beyond that, I’ve finally learned how to make a great steak. Now, it’s important to know that you probably won’t be able to get that lovely dry char and crust on it the way you get at fancy restaurants (my understanding is those are pan-seared?).
In my experience it will be a little more moist than that, but there are some things you can do to help keep it dry and get the char as good as possible. I like a nice thick filet myself. Bring it out of the fridge 15-30 minutes ahead of time and let it sit on a plate to come to room temp (this relaxes the meat).
Pat it dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with a heavy amount of fresh-ground sea salt and some cracked black pepper (I use a tiny bit of garlic powder as well). I sometimes add a spray of olive oil but don’t like lots of oil or butter for cooking it (because I want to keep it dry).
Let the steak sit while you get your grill very hot (500 F+), then drop the steak on the grill and shut the lid immediately. Let it sear for 2-3 minutes, then turn it 90 degrees if you want to get those nice hatch char marks on it. Cook another 1-2 minutes then turn it over and cook about 3 minutes on the other side.
Use your digital thermometer to check for doneness (medium rare should be 130-135 F). This handy chart shows internal temperatures for different levels of doneness. Remove from the grill and let sit on a plate or cutting board for 10 minutes before cutting in (yes, this is important!!).
Tips for grilling vegetables
So we’ve spent quite a bit of time on different meats, but you know what I grill the most?? Vegetables! (Also, everything…seriously, I’m just looking for stuff I can throw on the grill.) You can’t go wrong with the kind of smoky char-y flavor that grilling provides.
I’ll grill basically anything veggie-wise. My go-to most nights is a combo of thinly-sliced zucchini, mini bell peppers, and sometimes a bit of chopped red onion (tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder) in my awesome grill basket.
I also frequently break up cauliflower into little pieces, wrap it in two layers of tin foil with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and grill those packets while my meat cooks. I’ve grilled corn, okra, potatoes, eggplant, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Just throwing stuff in a grill basket or foil packet (depending on the texture you’re going for) works for most veggies, but if you want to take it a step up, you can make these crazy easy and delicious grilled vegetable recipes.
- Grilled Gorgonzola Potatoes
- Cheesy Rosemary Sweet Potatoes on the Grill
- Grilled Zucchini with Lemon Salt
- Grilled Eggplant with Goat Cheese, Balsamic, & Pine Nuts
How to grill pizza
This is my new favorite thing in the world! Grilling pizza makes it amazingly delicious, and it’s SO easy!
I have a really in-depth post on my favorite pizza dough for grilling, that also goes into the technique a little. But I actually have two different pizza grilling techniques, and my new favorite is outlined in my grilled margherita pizza recipe.
Basically, you roll your dough out thin and put it on parchment paper, and go ahead and top it. You want thin layers of toppings and stuff that will cook quickly since this will not be on the grill long. Then the parchment goes straight on the grill for the first few minutes, before being pulled off.
Here are a few of my favorite grilled pizza recipes to get you started:
- How To Make Amazing Grilled Pizza…And My Go-To Pizza Dough Recipe
- Amazing, Easy Grilled BBQ Chicken Pizza
- Grilled Traditional Margherita Pizza
- Grilled Zucchini & Corn Pizza With Marinated Feta
So do you feel like a grillmaster yet?? Even if you’re new to gas grills, I promise you’ll fall in love quickly and grilling will become such an easy go-to option any time of year.
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