help! i need grilling tips

In order to take full advantage of our first summer with a deck, we just had to buy a grill. As a longtime city-mouse, I have never ever owned a grill. (Until the other weekend, that would have been a recipe deal breaker for me.) Now that we have one we’re starting out slowly. Nothing fancy. I’ve been testing out some rubs and glazes from Real Simple that are pretty tasty. I also got the idea to put potato slabs on from Rachael Ray’s mag. But there are a couple of questions I have:

1) We have a gas grill, but don’t we need charcoal or something for flavor? What do you suggest and how does it work?

2) How the heck do you keep a grill clean? We got one of those uber-tough scrub brushes — is that enough? The meat sure does make a mess. I wish I could hose the whole thing off. Perhaps the mess makes things taste better, like a cast iron pan? I doubt it.

I’m sure you have some grill knowledge and experience to share. (Which reminds me, have you noticed how many Father’s Day cards feature grilling? It’s like women aren’t supposed to know how! Grrrrr.) Tell me your tips please! And I’ll write about the results. — Angela M.

From our partners

1) Most of the smoky flavor comes from the meat juices dripping and burning on the fire. Charcoal adds a little more flavor, but you can’t add charcoal unless you have a charcoal grill. You can, however, put soaked woodchips (not from treated lumber) on a disposable pan and set it on the grill and close the lid, if you’re doing long, slow cooking. I haven’t done this myself, but I’m sure others have plenty of tips for this.

2) To clean the grill, heat it to high, close the lid, and let it get super hot for 5 to 10 minutes. All the meat juice and gunk will char. This scrapes off easily with your brush. Do this both before and after cooking. Right before cooking, dip a rolled up paper towel into a high smoke point oil (Canola, Peanut) and wipe it all over the grates with tongs. That keeps the sticking minimal.

Have fun!

If you have a gas grill, don’t put charcoal in it. Some people prefer the flavor of charcoal, but it’s something you pick when you buy the grill, not when you light it. Gas still had the high heat and flame, so the food still tastes distinctively ‘grilled’.

You can also get wood chips that you wet and put in a metal box to smoke things, and add more flavor, but I’ve never done it myself.

To clean, you want to keep the grill lit for a while after you take the food off to burn off as much as you can. Then get a wire brush, or a heavy steel wool pad and scrub the bars. You probably won’t want to lick them when you’re done, but as long as there aren’t big greasy chunks stuck to ’em, the heat when you light it the next time will make them sterile.

If it gets really out of control (maybe at the end of the season?) you can use oven cleaner too.


I am looking forward to hearing other’s comments, but here are my two cents: we scrape the residue off of the grill before use, but that’s all the cleaning we do. Yes, it gets disgusting, but it’s not unsanitary and cleaning it is really a mess. Word of warning: we often have raccoons up on our deck trying to get at the drippings when we cook beef. Chicken and fish don’t drip that much fat, but boy beef does. For flavor, we love the cedar planks for salmon.


Minimal cleaning is my favorite part of grilling! Just follow the steps above for burning off the gunk. You can get a lot of flavor from using rubs (in the spice section at your grocer’s.) Enjoy!

If you are interested, I’ve been featuring a grill recipe on my blog each Friday.

And we use a grill brush with sort of a fork at the end that really gets the bits off the grill.


Thanks for this post. A couple of years ago I bought a grill, thinking I would use it constantly during the summer, but I really haven’t. For one thing, I have been grossed out by the mess. I do heat it before & after & scrub thoroughly, but it still seems dirty & I can only get the top side of the grates. Everything underneath (esp. those wavy things; I don’t know what they’re called) is disgusting. I hope it really is true that the high heat makes all that crud safe. I have tried cleaning all the parts once or twice, but that is a massive job & seems pointless b/c all it takes is one more grilling session to get them filthy.

I also find that vegetables–what I thought I’d be doing nonstop–are a pain. They take forever to flip over one by one (& a lot fall through the grates no matter what I do). I’ve tried a grill basket (but unless I do tons of batches most of the veggies will be on top of each other) & a flat thing that isn’t big enough & doesn’t always hold slices tight. Skewers: I hate to use wooden ones (have to soak & then dispose of them, right?). The metal ones are hard to clean & harder to turn b/c they get so hot. Plus, it adds a lot of time to thread them….

Any suggestions for vegetables, or is this method just not for me? :-)


I’m loving this thing! And it was the super cheap grill optio n at lowes. I want to try the wood chip idea. Maybe this weekend? Fathers day steak grill out?


My favorite method especially for squash and zucchini is to cut long strips of the zucchini lengthwise (I half the zucchini lengthwise and cut each half into three strips). I purposely keep the strips as long as the zucchini itself (do not cut the zucchini in half as this will mean much flipping). Oil and spice them up as desired and lay them on the grill so the metal bars of the grill are in the opposite direction of the zucchini. I guess horizontal is an easy way to say this? I’ve never lost a zucchini to the flames yet! I flip them only once after 3 minutes with tongs and cook for another 3 minutes on the other side—perfection!

This method will work with lots of veg, I guess the trick is to keep the vegetables as large as possible. For example, let’s take an onion—I would cut one onion into say 4 large circles (with the layers still intact) oil it up and place those directly on the grill so you get the nice grill marks. Mmm.


I found this article on Cooking Light’s website (also in their current print issue) to be handy and very informative from the cooking & cleaning front.,14343,1808710,00.html


For grilling vegs: throw an inexpensive cooling rack(s) perpendicular to the grill bars. This turns the cooking surface into a grid and helps prevent the vegs from taking flying leaps into the flames. A few small racks allow you to divvy up the grill area as needed and you’ll get much better results than those trays designed (poorly) for the purpose.

Before you start thinking about what a clever girl I am, in college I learned the hard way that “tabletop” charcoal grills aren’t really meant for the tabletop, especially glass tables. At least my friends were amused at the garbage bags of shattered tempered glass and brats. Sigh.

And finally, don’t forget to plan a grilled dessert. If you’ve already got the thing cookin, you may as well take full advantage! Mmm, there are few things tastier than grilled sugar-srinkled pears with the sugar all caramelized and the hot pears over vanilla ice cream… Maybe topped with fresh honey? ;)

shelterrific » Blog Archive » five things we learned last week

[…] 4. You are grill masters. After Angela M. asked for tips, a bunch of you wrote in with smart advice, including Ellobie, who says: “For grilling vegs: throw an inexpensive cooling rack(s) perpendicular to the grill bars. This turns the cooking surface into a grid and helps prevent the vegs from taking flying leaps into the flames. A few small racks allow you to divvy up the grill area as needed and you’ll get much better results than those trays designed (poorly) for the purpose.” Click here to add your own smart grilling tips. […]

shelterrific » Blog Archive » real life test kitchen: grilled meatball parmesan

[…] The joy of a new grill. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to look at all those summer grilling-themed issues of […]


i opened my grills , one is attached outside to a gas line the other was stored in my shed. the racks are all full of rust and the inside cover of my built in is also peeling , how do you prevent this from happening ?