How to Up Your Grilling Game This Summer
May 22, 2019
We firmly believe that summer doesn’t officially start until you’ve fired up the grill for the first time. While you might think you’re already a grilling guru, there’s always room to hone your skills before backyard barbecue season gets underway. From fundamentals to finishing touches, here are five ways you can raise your game on the grill this summer.
1. Find the Right Grill
Let’s start with the basics: if you don’t already have one, you’re going to need a grill before summer begins. Choosing a grill can feel a little bit overwhelming because there are so many options on the market, plus lots of pros and cons to weigh for each one. Are you a traditionalist who likes an old-fashioned charcoal flame? Would you prefer the ease and consistency of a gas or propane grill? Do you live in a building that only allows electric grills? Have you considered a pellet grill or a smoker?
If you only grill occasionally and have a limited budget, classic charcoal might be a great fit—but you have to be patient enough to tend a charcoal fire and deal with inconsistent temperatures. By contrast, a gas or propane grill is a user-friendly option that you can fire up quickly for reliable weeknight dinners. And for those who love to camp or tailgate, a portable grill might be a strong contender. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by choice, product reviews can help. Check out the top picks from Good Housekeeping and Outside to get started. In addition, here’s a great comparison of basic grill types to help you narrow down your options.
2. Stock Your Tool Kit
Once you’ve selected your grill, you’ll need a few other tools to get cooking. Pick up these five essentials before your barbecue begins:
Grill Brush: First and foremost, you’ll need a brush to keep your grill grate clean. Look for options with stiff steel bristles and a long handle so you stay at a safe distance from the heat.
Tongs: There’s nothing worse than fumbling to flip your burgers and dogs with a slippery spatula, and grill forks can puncture your meat, releasing its juices and causing it to dry out. A pair of sturdy, spring-loaded tongs is your best friend when it comes to moving food around the grill. Look for a pair made from reinforced steel with an extra-long reach.
Meat Thermometer: Cooking over an open flame makes it tough to judge when meat is cooked through, which is especially crucial if you’re preparing chicken or don’t want a well-done steak. An instant-read meat thermometer can help you make sure you’ve reached the perfect temperature without any guesswork.
Grill Basket: If you plan to grill delicate items like fish or veggies, a grill basket is an essential addition to your cooking arsenal. The basket lets you safely flip and move food that would otherwise stick and crumble if placed directly on the grate.
Grill Light: Sometimes dinner gets off to a late start, and there’s nothing worse than fumbling around in the dark, trying light the grill and figure out if your burgers are actually done. That’s where a grill light comes into play! To keep your hands free for cooking, look for a light that mounts to your grill with a magnet or clip—keep in mind that magnets won’t stick to stainless steel grills.
3. Get a Few Tips from Grilling Gurus
Once you’ve gathered your grilling tools, it’s time to do your research! A few words of wisdom from experienced chefs can go a long way in elevating your grill game. Crack open a cold one and enjoy some light reading from these 10 BBQ blogs, which are packed with expert advice and creative recipes that go way beyond burgers and dogs.
If you’re looking for a new addition to your bookshelf, there are also lots of great titles packed with grilling guidance. Beginners should pick up one or two volumes from grill expert Steven Raichlen, whose books are filled with approachable recipes and techniques tailored to home cooks. If you’re seeking exotic inspiration from world-class chefs, try out Seven Fires by avant-garde Argentinian Francis Mallmann or The Japanese Grill from celebrated chef Tadashi Ono. For the ultimate barbecue bible (we’re talking 450 recipes), check out the comprehensive Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue.
4. Start with Quality Ingredients
You’ve got the grill, you’ve done the required reading—but none of that matters if you don’t have delicious ingredients! Top quality meat, seafood, and produce are essential for getting the best flavor from your grilling endeavors. If you’re lucky enough to have a local butcher shop, stop in on barbecue day for the freshest cuts. We also love to hit up the farmer’s market for seasonal veggies, or even sign up for a CSA for super-fresh produce from our favorite farms. But there are other options if your local selection doesn’t make the cut.
If you grill on the regular, consider signing up for a subscription from Butcher Box, which will deliver a curated selection of high quality cuts to your doorstep each month. For those who prefer a la carte options, check out Farmer Girl Meats for grass fed and pasture raised options that you can order whenever you’re ready to barbecue.
5. Make It a Party
While we love the flavor of a perfectly cooked burger or steak, the best part of a barbecue is sharing it with your friends! Before you invite your BFFs over to show off all your new grill skills, stock your backyard or deck with a few lawn games to spark some friendly competition. Go old-school with classics like croquet, badminton, horseshoes and bocce, or pick up some new favorites like Kan Jam, cornhole, and spikeball. New York Magazine rounded up a great list of games for the ultimate in summer fun, if you need more inspiration.
Once you’ve gathered all the essentials, you’ll also want to look great while manning the grill. That’s where you favorite pair of shades comes in! Tag your best BBQ moments with #KnockFan for a chance to be featured in our feed.
Written by Caroline Lees for Knockaround.