A grill needs at least 15 minutes to get the grate hot enough to sear food properly. Preheat every time, and always give the hot grate a thorough once-over with a stiff-bristle brush before adding food. A hot, clean grate will brown food better, with less chance of sticking.
TIP 2: Season like you mean it.
Salt is more important to great taste than any other ingredient. First, oil the food (not the grate), then sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and/or other seasonings from edge to edge and on all sides. The oil will hold seasonings on the surface and prevent food from sticking to the grate.
TIP 3: Don’t have just one zone.
More heat zones mean more flexibility for times when something is cooking too fast or your food is flaring up or you are grilling two very different foods at the same time. At the very least, give yourself the advantages of two zones, one for direct heat and one for indirect heat.
TIP 4: Match the heat to the meat.
Not everything should be grilled at the same temperature. Generally speaking, thin and tender foods do better over high temperatures, while thicker and tougher items often do better over less intense temperatures, sometimes in the form of indirect heat.
TIP 5: Don’t crowd the grill.
Packing too much food onto the cooking grate restricts your ability to be nimble and responsive. You should leave at least one-fourth of the grate clear, with plenty of space around each item of food; that way you can get your tongs in there and move the pieces from one area to another.
TIP 6: Keep a lid on it.
Keeping the grill lid down as much as possible is especially important for maintaining even temperatures, controlling flare-ups, and capturing the fragrant smokiness that grilling generates.
TIP 7: Don’t fiddle so much.
Never poke and prod food more than you need to, or you’ll lose flavors and color. You might also tear the surface of the food if you try to turn it too often. Turn most foods just once or twice. When in doubt, wait it out—assuming flare-ups are not an issue.
TIP 8: Respond to smoke signals.
The quality of smoke from your grill could make or break your dinner. If it is black and dense, something is wrong (and maybe sooty). The food might be on fire, or the fire itself might not be getting enough air. What you want to see are wispy streams of clean, whitish smoke. Be ready to move your food, open the air vents, or add more fuel at the appropriate times.
TIP 9: Don’t just guess.
Knowing when food is done shouldn’t be a guessing game. Sometimes color can tell you a lot. Sometimes texture provides clues. But with most meats, poultry, and fish, a thermometer is essential. Invest in a reliable one. It will make you right time after time.
TIP 10: Imagine what else you can grill.
There was a time when grilling meant one thing: meat (and only meat) charred over open flames. Today, grillers play with a much wider range of ingredients. The methods vary, too. Grilling now also means using outdoor fires to roast, smoke, bake, simmer, and stir-fry, among other techniques.