• Be careful not to overmix ground meat — doing so will
make burger patties too dense.
• Use a light hand when shaping your burgers so they don't become
• To keep meat from sticking to you as you form burger patties,
work with damp hands.
• Resist the urge to press burgers with a spatula as they cook
— you'll press away flavorful juices.
• Freeze uncooked burgers in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag
for up to 3 months; place between sheets of wax paper so they'll be
easier to pry apart.
• When grilling meat kebabs, cut meat into similarly sized pieces
to ensure even cooking. Pounding chicken to an even thickness helps
it cook quickly and evenly.
• Soak wooden skewers in water for 15 to 30 minutes so they won't
burn on the grill.
• No amount of seasoning will change the essential quality of
the ingredients you grill, so use fresh vegetables and the best cuts
of meat and fish.
• Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after
handling raw seafood, meat, and poultry.
• The most effective way to apply rubs is to place the mixture
in a zip-top bag, then put the food inside and shake.
• You can store unused marinade in the fridge in an airtight container
for up to a week.
• A heavy, zip-top plastic bag is ideal for marinating food. Always
marinate in the refrigerator.
• Know in advance how long you expect to grill the food and set
a timer to alert you to check it.
• Take marinated meats out of the fridge and let stand at room
temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before grilling to avoid ending up
with a cold center.
• Add salt after the food has been cooked; otherwise, it will
dry the meat.
• Before you place the rack on the
grill, always coat it with cooking spray so the food has less chance
• As a general rule, give your grill 10 to 15 minutes to heat
• Check for gas leaks by mixing a little dish detergent with water,
brushing it onto all connection joints, and then turning on the gas
and looking for bubbles.
• Always make sure before you start that the cooking grate is
hot, lightly oiled, and clean.
• Preheat the grate with the cover down, coat it with cooking
spray right before you cook, and then scrape it clean with a wire brush
before it cools.
• For charcoal grills, use chimney-type starters to help coals
heat quickly with a match and a few pieces of newspaper.
• Check the tank on your gas grill each week. You don't want to
run out of fuel mid-cookout.
• Prevent flare-ups by maintaining a clean grate, trimming excess
fat from meat, and keeping oil in marinades to the minimum needed.
• Natural lump charcoal lights quickly and burns cleanly, without
producing the acrid smoke you get with briquettes.
• If you have a self-cleaning oven, use it to kill two birds with
one stone. Put dirty grill racks in the oven before you clean it.
• Clean the grate with a wire brush after every use. A hot grate
is easier to scrape than a cold one.
• Use medium fire for seafood and vegetables, more intense fire
• As a rule, cover the grill when doing slow, indirect grilling
with large pieces of food.
• Start cooking with a clean, hot surface. Preheat the grill before
adding food to ensure even cooking and to reduce sticking.
• Leave the grill uncovered when doing fast or direct grilling
with smaller items that cook quickly.
• Make sure your food is ready to grill when the coals are. If
you wait too long and the coals have cooled, fuel the fire by adding
• To avoid overcooking seafood, go with a medium-hot fire rather
than a really hot one.
• Test a fish's flakiness by making a small cut in the flesh.
Done fish is firm to the touch and opaque; undercooked fish appears
shiny and semitranslucent.
• Avoid moving food around the grate until it has had time to
sear. This will prevent sticking and help create the grilled "crust."
• Food shouldn't burn. When dripping fat produces a leaping flame
in one spot, move food to a different area, at least temporarily.
• For bold seasoning, use dry-rub spice blends rather than marinades.
Go light on sugar in homemade rubs. For a less assertive touch, try
salt and pepper alone.
• With steaks and chops, it's OK to make a small cut and peek
inside just before you're ready to serve. Alternatively, use an instant-read
• Cook whole fish, fish steaks, or fillets in a grill basket to
ease turning. Coat the hinged wire basket with cooking spray before
placing the seafood inside.
• To prevent burning wooden skewers, soak them in water for at
least 30 minutes before preparing.
• Use pastry or basting brushes made of natural bristles (not
nylon) for dabbing on marinades and sauces.
• Don't use a fork for grilling, since puncturing the food will
release its juices.
• Long-handled tongs and spatulas are wonderful for turning hot
• Grilling goes quickly, so it's important to have everything
you need — from seasonings to tools — in place and handy
before you begin.
• Grilling in the dark? Use a flashlight instead of a brighter
outdoor fixture to cut down on bugs near the grill.
• When turning chops, chicken breasts, and the like, use tongs
rather than a meat fork, which pierces the food and lets juices escape.
• Always place grilled foods on a clean platter or cutting board.
• Keep a spray bottle full of water handy to extinguish flare-ups
that can char your food.