11 grilling tips and tricks everyone needs to know

Man grilling
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Nothing beats the taste and aroma of flame-grilled food. And if you love cooking outdoors with one of the best grills, you’ll want to master your backyard cook-outs, so you can impress your guests. While throwing on some burgers on the barbecue may seem easy, there is a skill to cooking those flavorsome feasts. 

In fact, many of us have probably made these common mistakes when grilling outdoors, which will compromise the taste and quality of our food. So if you want to up your backyard cook-out game, and grill like a pro, here are 11 grilling tips and tricks you wish you’d known sooner.

Just avoid these 7 foods you should never cook on a grill. Plus, you'll need to have one of the best grill brushes

1. Allow prepped meat to come to room temperature

Raw burgers on wooden boards

Raw burgers resting on wooden boards (Image credit: Shutterstock)

While we often grab our favorite meats out of the fridge, and immediately throw it on the grill, this is a no-no. Let it sit out for around 20 minutes and come to room temperature before grilling. This results in juicier meat that is more evenly cooked and flavorful. 

2. Oil your grill 

Oiling a grill with brush

Oiling a grill with brush (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Even if you know how to clean a grill to perfection, lean foods may stick when placed directly on the rack. To prevent ruined food, do the following: Turn on your grill so that the rack starts to heat up. Fold a paper towel into a small wad. Using a pair of tongs, dip the paper towel in a neutral oil, such as vegetable oil. Run the paper towel along the grill grates, so that they're coated in oil. (You can also use a heat-proof brush). 

Then, preheat your grill until the oil starts to smoke. This will ensure it reaches the right temperature for the best results. Never spray cooking spray directly on a hot grill. 

3. Create ‘hot zones’ 

Grilling over a flame

Grilling over a flame (Image credit: Shutterstock)

For charcoal grills, don’t cover the entire grill with charcoal briquettes. Instead, push hot coals to create a hot zone in one area of the grill, while leaving a separate area off to the side for indirect heat cooking. This allows you to cook high-heat foods and low-maintenance veggies at the same time. With gas grills, you can turn the heat up higher on one side than the other; this allows you to sear on one side of the grill, then move the item to the other side of the grill to slowly finish. 

4. Never press down on burgers 

Cooking burgers on barbecue

Cooking burgers on barbecue (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A common mistake many of us tend to make is to press down on burgers while grilling. In fact, the constant flattening releases the juices and fats in the middle of the meat — the stuff that makes burgers so tasty. It’s best to leave the burgers to sit and cook properly, before flipping them over just once. 

5. Don’t keep moving around the meat 

Meat steaks and food on a grill

Meat steaks and food on a grill (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Similarly, don’t keep turning over or moving meat around on the grill. While we think we’re helping the grilling process, it actually doesn’t allow the meat to sear properly on the outside. Searing helps to retain the juicy flavors, so leave the meat alone!

6. Soak sausages in water before grilling 

Pot of sausages in water

Pot of sausages in water (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Grilled sausage is always popular, but it can be a little tricky to get right on the barbecue. Experts suggest putting sausages in a pot of cold water, then bringing them to a simmer, before letting them ‘cool’ before cooking. This is just enough to semi-cook the sausages before grilling on a medium-high heat until fully cooked. Soaking prevents the skin from splitting — which causes the juices to run out, resulting in dry sausages. What's more, this method reduces the time you need to keep the sausages on the grill. 

 7. Don’t put sauce on meat too early 

Basting meat on grill with brush

Basting meat on grill with brush (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to baste meat with your favorite sauce or glaze, always wait until the last five to 15 minutes of cooking. This lets the sauce slightly caramelize and set on the meat better. However, if you baste too early in the grilling process, it can cause meat to burn and stick to the grill.

 8. Use a meat thermometer 

Using a meat thermometer in grilled meat

Using a meat thermometer in grilled meat (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you want to avoid undercooked or overcooked meats, invest in one of the best meat thermometers. They will ensure your meat is cooked all the way through, and is safe enough to eat. Plus, this is an essential tool if you’re hosting a backyard party or gathering as you don’t want your guests falling ill!  

 9. Grill vegetable pieces on skewers  

Vegetable skewers on barbecue

Vegetable skewers on barbecue (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Sliced vegetables are prone to falling between the grates, so piercing them on skewers will prevent this. Remember to soak wooden skewers in water for at least 15 minutes so they don't burn on the grill. Alternatively, you can wrap veggies in aluminum foil, or use a grill basket for diced veggies and fruit. Grease the basket before adding the food to prevent sticking, and get the best flavors. 

 10. Always keep the lid closed 

Man putting lid on top of barbecue

Man putting lid on top of barbecue  (Image credit: Shutterstock)

As they say, "lookin' ain't cookin.'" Considering that the golden rule is to only flip your foods over once, the lid to your grill should stay down for the duration. Not only will it keep in the hot temperature to sear your food and retain moisture, but will speed up the cooking time. More importantly, it prevents fire flare-ups by cutting out the oxygen coming into the grill. 

11. Allow grilled meat to rest before eating 

Barbecued meat on skewers on plate with salad

Barbecued meat on skewers on plate with cucumber (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Despite how hungry you or your guests might be, allow the meat to rest for at least 5-15 minutes before slicing into it. This tip is a great way to preserve the juices and flavors, and ensures it doesn’t dry out.  Experts suggest placing meats on an elevated cooling rack so it rests evenly. Then you can look forward to delicious grilled meat feasts. 

Finally, maintaining your grill is essential to keep it working better and last longer. Experts always recommend that you know how to clean a grill immediately after each use. Not only will it prevent food from sticking to the grill, but more importantly, allows the flavors of your next cook-out to come through nicely, without mixing with ones left behind. Then you can really enjoy your backyard feasts. 

If you’re hosting a summer BBQ or gathering, check out these ultimate summer gadgets to impress your guests. You also add one of the best Bluetooth speakers, best coolers, or  best solar lights to get the party started. 

Be sure to also check out 5 tips to make your grill last longer — and perform better

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!