Tips, tricks, hacks, and how-tos to level up your grill game.

By Vanessa Greaves
May 12, 2021
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If you haven't spent time with your grill since last fall — or you're new to grilling — Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, has some quite frankly brilliant tips to help you kick off grilling season and guarantee success all season long. Combine her tips with our guide to grilling all kinds of foods, and you're headed for grilling greatness. Watch the video up top and read on to get Nicole's top tips for grill season.

Before You Grill

  • You want to get all the gunk off your grates before you use them. A wire grill brush will do the trick, but you can also use a wad of aluminum foil to clean the grates if your grill brush has gone bad or you don’t have one to begin with. It's cheap and it really works.
  • After you grill, you can use an onion to clean grates while the grill is hot. Simply cut the onion in half and rub it on the hot grates to remove any food residue. Now it's all ready for the next time you grill (and your grill will smell tantalizing).
  • To prevent food from sticking to the grates, create a non-stick surface before you lay down the food by coating the grates with vegetable oil. Use tongs to hold a wad of old rags or paper towels, dip them in vegetable oil, and rub the wad on the hot grates.
  • Nothing's worse than running out of propane while you're grilling. Here's how to check to see how full your propane tank is before you start: Pour hot water over the top of the propane tank, and then feel down the side with your bare hand. Where the tank begins to feel cool is where the propane level is.  The empty part of the tank will feel warmer from the hot water.

Light It Up

  • If you're grilling with charcoal, you can avoid using lighter fluid to get your coals going by using an inexpensive charcoal chimney starter instead. It's easy to use, you won't be messing around with chemicals, and your grilled food will have a better flavor.
  • If you don't have a chimney starter, an egg carton stuffed with charcoal can also act as a starter. Just make sure it's not plastic — but you knew that.

Get to Know Your Grill's Hot Spots

  • Just like with an oven, every grill will have hotter and cooler areas, and it's good to know where they are so you can plan your cooking accordingly. To find your grill's hot spots, heat the grill and place a layer of sliced white bread on the entire surface. After a couple of minutes, turn the bread over and look at the grill marks. The bread will indicate where any hot spots may be based on which slices get darkest fastest.

Flavor Boosters and Cooking Hacks

grilled chicken and vegetable kabobs, bundle of herbs for basting grilled foods, and grilled pork chops on a wooden cutting board
Credit: Allrecipes
  • Turn your grill into a smoker by enclosing soaked hickory chips in aluminum foil (sheets or disposable pan) and poking holes in the cover. Place the packet on the lit side of your grill, place your food on the unlit side, and close the lid to capture all that delicious wood smoke.
  • Spritz meats with a fine spray of apple juice or apple cider to add moisture and flavor. This works great especially with pork and chicken.
  • Create a flavorful grill brush by tying a bunch of fresh herbs onto a wooden spoon. Dip the herbs in oil and use it for basting any kinds of meats, fish, or vegetables.
  • Love kabobs but don't love how the food rolls around on the skewer? Here's the fix: Thread the food onto two parallel skewers instead of just one. And if your skewers are wood or bamboo, be sure to soak them in water for 30 minutes or so before threading on the food. This keeps them from charring badly on the grill.

Related:

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips, tricks, and ideas from Nicole: