Summer is synonymous with two things: nice weather, and barbecuing. But being a grill master is easier said than done, and it can be an overwhelming task for many. Having some pro tips under your belt can help bring you the juiciest flavours in your meat, seafood, or veggies. Instead of winging it, stick to these fool-proof hacks, which have been vetted by BBQ experts all over.
1. Sub rosemary for skewers. It’s still sturdy enough to hold your kabobs together, with an added aromatic bonus. Why use a wooden stick when you could be slow roasting fragrant herbs instead? This takes some of the legwork out of seasoning and also stops your food from falling through the grill gates.
2. Need a fire starter? Grab an empty egg carton and some charcoal bricks. This can also be done on camping trips if you’re lacking a fire starter. Fill the egg carton with the bricks and light it — by the time it burns down, the charcoal bricks should be hot enough for cooking.
3. Grill your fish on a bed of sliced lemons. Grilling fish can be especially tricky — filets are often flaky or tend to stick on the grill, making you lose those gorgeous grill marks and thus skimming off some of the flavour. This way, your filet will be infused with a zesty burst of citrus.
4. Get your BBQ to double as a smoker. Maximize the flavour of your ingredients with a minimal investment of time. Many brands sell affordable BBQ smoking chips but it can also be achieved in a DIY process by wrapping wood chips in an aluminum foil pouch and poking holes in it. Then, place it under the grate for some smokey goodness.
5. Place an ice cube in the middle of your beef patty before grilling. There’s nothing worse than a dry bite of burger, so doing this simple step when you’re forming your patties ensures a perfectly moist, restaurant quality bite. Remember to cover it up with more meat. If an ice cube is too watery, you can always add a pat of butter in the center instead.
6. Spray your meat with apple juice. This might seem odd, but it adds a sweet flavour to your chicken, pork, or ribs. You can add a small portion of apple cider to bring some more acidity into your patty. This is also a fantastic way to add moisture to your protein, like the ice-cube trick does.
7. Keep your clean grill with an onion or a grill mat. Instead of overusing your grill brush, preserve its shelf life by scrubbing with an onion half, which wipes grills clean of residue. Get your grill hot, and stab the onion half with a skewer as a handle, scrubbing sliced side face down. You can even avoid the mess entirely by investing in a grill mat (see our favorite below), which are placed over the grill before cooking and prevent sticking, letting you skip frustrating cleanup.
8. Do the propane test. There’s nothing worse than realizing you have an empty propane tank and a patio full of hungry people. If you’re not sure you have enough propane to grill for everyone and don’t have a propane gauge, pour a bucket of hot water over your propane tank before your soiree. The tank should feel cold where there is propane, and warm where it is empty.
9. Create heat zones on the grill. Every grill has sections that are naturally hotter and naturally cooler. Knowing these hot spots in and out can be used to your advantage — create zones by starting items on the hottest side of the grill, and finishing them on the cooler side. Starting at a hotter temperature gives your patties a crisp finish while the cooler zones ensure that they’re cooked all the way through.
10. Use a grill light for better night visibility. There’s a reason that people host BBQs in the daytime — because in the evening, it’s nearly impossible to get an accurate look at your meats without a headlamp, resulting in both over-cooked and under-cooked filets. To guarantee complete visibility for nighttime BBQing, opt for a flexible grill light with a sturdy base and your nocturnal grilling adventures will become much easier to tackle.
11. Use a meat thermometer for a consistently perfect grill job. Even for the pros, it can be tough to gauge if a piece of meat is done cooking on the grill, as heat can vary based on factors like the weather, the type of grill, and how long the meat keeps cooking once you take it off the grill. To cook with a proper finish each time, invest in an instant-read thermometer which allows for accuracy and saves a ton of anxiety.
July 4th BBQ shopping list
Meat thermometer: Try an Instant Read thermometer which can record temperature In just two to three seconds with a wide temperature range. Say goodbye to guesswork with the Wizen Digital Food Thermometer, which comes decked out with waterproof and backlight features and has a lifetime warranty.
Grill light: A bright and malleable LED light is a must-have when it comes to nighttime BBQ lighting, and we’re not talking about ambiance. Get fast and clear illumination just where you need it. The LED Concepts BBQ Grill Light has a 22 inch gooseneck design with 360 degree adjustability, as well as an adjustable screw clamp.
Wood chips: If you don’t feel like going full DIY with this hack, try out a variety pack of smoking chips like Western Premium BBQ Products Smoking Chips, which come in four flavours. Try out peach, maple, apple, and cherry natural raw wood chips which are compatible with charcoal, gas grills, or electric smokers. This variety pack comes with a reusable smoker tray.
Survival fire starter: This Swiss Safe 5-in-1 fire starter with compass, whistle and paracord might be designed for more dire situations, but it gets the trick done. Perfect for BBQs, camping, or hiking adventures, this useful tool comes in a 2-pack and can start a powerful fire in any weather condition.
Gas grill: You can’t get anywhere in your BBQ endeavors without a solid grill. This 40,800 BTU gas grill has 438 sq. inches of grilling space and a 192 sq. inch warming rack spread out over cast-iron grates. Constructed of durable steel, the Char-Griller E3001 Grillin Pro comes with electronic ignition and utensil hooks. It’s a worthy and affordable contender compared to more expensive options on the market.
Grill mats: Keep your BBQ looking like brand new with a heavy-duty but flexible grill mat. This version by Kona Best has non-stick features and comes in a two-set which can withstand up to 600 degrees and 10,000 uses. It also comes with a 7-year warranty, in case this grill protector isn’t up to par with your standards.