Every Sunday at my house would be family day. We'd eat breakfast, wash the cars for fun (because we had no pool), and sit around the table for family dinner. It was perfect, but the best days were when we had barbecue for dinner. My dad would cook everything on the barbecue: burgers, chicken, sausages, steak, veggies, you name it.

Over the years, he's departed some of his wisdom on me and I'm here to share it with you because I know how daunting it can be to use a grill and actually cook something right. I asked around and came up with 15 grilling tips and tricks you should know if you've never used a grill. 

1. Know Your Grill

sausage, corn
Bernard Wen

You need to know your grill like that person you're crushing on and hoping to get a date with. Just like every crush is different, every grill is different. Read the grill manual. It will tell you how to turn on the grill, which is dangerous if you do it wrong. You don't want to be that person who burnt off their eyebrows before they even got to making the food.

2. Use Metal Utensils, Not Plastic

pork, meat, tongs, white platter, sausage, BBQ, Grilling
Shelby Cohron

Make sure you have metal utensils to use because plastic will melt. While you're checking off the right preparations, always be sure you have enough gas or charcoal for the grill, and a cool drink might be nice too because it'll get really hot by the grill.

3. Oil it up

Katherine Carroll

Grills are like cooking pans (only a little). They cook things and need oil to keep food from sticking. Before you turn on the grill, lather up a paper towel with cooking oil and rub it all over the grate. If you already turned it on, then use tongs to hold the paper towel.

4. Wait 5 minutes before you use the grill

Grill Fire photo by Danny Gallegos (@dannysgallegos) on Unsplash

dannysgallegos on unsplash

You want to wait for the grill to heat up after you've turned it on or lit the charcoal. If you're using a charcoal grill and start the fire with lighter fluid, then you want to wait longer (about 10 minutes) so that the lighter fluid has burned off and doesn't get into your food.

5. Keep the raw foods away from the cooked


wka on Flickr

As much as it may seem like a good idea to take the raw burgers off one plate or tray and then use the same one once they're done, don't. That's how people get salmonella. 

6. Create heat zones

Photo by James Sutton | Unsplash

jamessutton_photography on unsplash

Ideally, you want to have one section at high heat to sear the outside of foods and one at medium to low heat to cook them thoroughly. Try not to confuse which area is which. 

7. Don't put water on the grill


Gert Silling on Flickr

So your grill is a little too hot and fire-y, and it looks like the gates of hell are opening up in front of you. Don't panic. Cover the grill with whatever lid it has. Do not add water! Water will make the fire grow, whereas covering it will cut off the oxygen and kill the fire. 

8. The perfect burger

bun, bread, sandwich, lettuce, meat, beef, tomato, hamburger, cheese
Elyse Belarge

I lied. There is no right way to make a perfect burger, but there is a wrong way. Something you might notice if you try to make burgers from scratch is that they can get really thick in the center and not as wide as you want. To avoid that, pinch the center of the burger with your fingers or a spoon to create a little indent. When it cooks and squeezes up, it won't be too thick. Also try not to flip the burgers too much. 

9. Use 2 kebab skewers 

Photo by Jessie Beck | Unsplash

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Have you ever tried turning a kebab? It's hard because they keep slipping and won't turn. To remedy that, put two skewers in the kebab. They won't slip and they'll be easier to grab with tongs if they're too hot for hands.

10. Use low heat to cook chicken

Dinner is served photo by NeONBRAND (@neonbrand) on Unsplash

neonbrand on unsplash

Chicken isn't hard to cook, but many people do it wrong. For delicious chicken that is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, use low heat and turn often. 

11. Cook pork and beef over high heat

steak, meat, beef, pork, barbecue, filling steak on grill, grill, BBQ, Grilling, tongs
Shelby Cohron

For best results, cook pork and beef on high heat and ideally only flip 2-4 times. Not feeling meats? Here are some vegetarian options

12. Wrap veggies in foil

Corn, food, yellow, kernel and vegetable HD photo by Dragne Marius (@marius_dragne) on Unsplash

marius_dragne on unsplash

Vegetables can be tough to grill because they're small and can fall through the rack. Use a vegetable rack or wrap them together in tinfoil. Because everyone needs more veggies. 

13. Add some flavor!

sauce, chili
Claire Waggoner

Grills do a lot of legwork when adding flavor to your meal, but you can do better. You can marinate the food beforehand by soaking it in liquids you like (lemon juice, wine, bbq sauce, etc.) for a few hours before cooking. You can also brush on glazes during the last few minutes of grilling your food. These glazes tend to be sweeter like bbq sauce, and they're easier to use because they don't require preparation beforehand. If you don't like glazes then dry rubs are your next move. Just go to a grocery store and there will be a "Grill Seasoning" for you.

14. Take it off the grill a little early

Barbeque, picnic, dinner, meal and tong HD photo by Amanda Kerr (@amandakerr) on Unsplash

amandakerr on unsplash

Much like baking, your food keeps cooking after you take it off the heat. Avoid overcooking your pride and joy of the day, by taking the food off the grill a minute or two before it's perfect to you. 

15. Clean your grill

meat, vegetable, barbecue, sausage
Mira Nguyen

Grills are expensive... like, the same price as a weekend trip. Keep it clean. The best way is to get a wire brush and scrub the rack until all the leftover food pieces are gone.

Need more help on the basics? Here's a guide to grilling that can help. The first time I tried to grill on my own, I read the instructions wrong and turned the gas on for a few seconds without lighting it and was almost the person who singed off their eyebrows before the food was even made. Then I proceeded to burn half of my meal (it wasn't my finest moment). I've learned since then, and with these grilling tips and tricks you'll be better off than me. 

My last piece of advice: remember to have fun. Yes, you do need to eat this food, and yes you could get burnt, but if you follow these grilling tips and tricks you'll be fine.