Skip Navigation

Grilling…Tips and Tricks

Grill season is heating up!

Check out our tips and tricks to achieve safe and scrumptious grilled meals. 

Safety First!

The FDA publishes guidelines on how to stay healthy when grilling.

The simplest and most important step is to wash your hands. Sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice (or another fun song to remind you to wash for at least 20 seconds) while rubbing your hands together with soap and warm water. Remember to wash your hands frequently while cooking, especially after touching raw meat.

Speaking of raw meat, be sure to keep your raw meat separate from your vegetables and cooked meat. Never reuse a plate that held raw meat unless you first wash it with hot soapy water. If you’re taking a cooler to your grilling spot, be sure to store the raw meat at the bottom of the cooler so its juices cannot leak onto vegetables or other foods.

Marinate foods in the refrigerator, and always discard the marinade before cooking. If you want to baste your meat while grilling, separate a portion of the marinade (before adding the raw meat) to use later.

Use a meat thermometer to ensure that your meat is at the appropriate temperature. Insert the tip into the thickest section through the side of your cut. Try to insert about 2 inches of the tip into the meat without hitting bone or protruding through the other side (the thermometer senses the temperature range from the tip and upward two inches, and then averages the temperature for the reading). See below for the minimum temperatures suggested for safe food.

Ready, set…

Whether you use a charcoal or gas grill, you must prep the grill for maximum benefit.

Scrape the grates
 vigorously using a stiff brush to remove all the stuck-on food. Then wipe down the grates with paper towels coated with vegetable oil. This second step is essential to finish cleaning the grill, and to remove any broken-off brush bristles.

For a gas grill: Preheat your gas grill for about 15 minutes at 350 °F.

For a charcoal grill: Use a chimney starter. Set the chimney starter on the bottom of the grill (remove the grate) and place a layer of crumpled paper in the bottom, then fill with your charcoal. Light the paper, and it will catch the charcoal on fire. Coals in a chimney will be ready in 15 to 20 minutes. When you see the layer of grey ash on the smoldering coals, dump them into the grill.

Oil your grate. Dip a paper towel in vegetable oil and rub it on the warm, clean grate. If you’re looking to reduce your fat intake, cut a potato in half, and rub the white part along the hot grates to prevent food from sticking.

 Now, on to the fun part – the grilling!


Three factors (tenderness, juiciness, and flavor) comprise the quality grade.

Click here if you want a deep dive into the criteria for grading of meats.

Another important factor to consider when grilling steak is the cut. T-bone, tenderloin, and top sirloin are all winners. To learn more about these and other cuts of steak, head over to the Beef Checkoff website.

If you use a rub for steak, rub it on up to 12 hours in advance. Then remove the steak from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to cook it. Letting steak warm to room temperature is most important for thicker cuts like a bone-in rib eye or porterhouse. Placing cold steak on a hot grill is a good recipe for dried-out meat. Cook the steak until it’s at your desired doneness.

To learn how to make the perfect burger, check out 10 Best Tips for Flavorful Burgers.


Flavor the chicken with a wet marinade or dry rub. If marinating breasts, slice shallow cuts into the chicken to allow more surface area. Plan to marinate for at least a half hour for the chicken to absorb the tastes of your marinade or rub.

If using barbecue sauce, wait until the temperature of the breasts has reached about 160 ºF (about 9 minutes over high heat) before liberally applying the sauce. If you add the sauce too early, the sauce will burn.


Your goal with grilled fish is to create a seared exterior with a moist, flaky filet. Sturdy fish like tuna, salmon, and halibut can be cooked directly on the grate. More-delicate fish such as tilapia and flounder will break apart but is easy to grill in a foil packet.

To keep the fish from sticking, oil the grate really well until it’s glossy. Preheat the grill to a very high temperature — 400 to 450 °F.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel.

Season the fish, and allow it to rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes before placing it on the hot oiled grate, skin-side down, then reduce the grill temperature to medium-high.

Don’t move the fish until the skin side has a nice seared look. Flip halfway through cooking. To keep the fish intact, use two fine-edged spatulas to lift both sides of the fish at the same time. Allow about 8 minutes of total grilling time per inch of thickness. After you remove the fish from the grill, allow it to rest at room temperature for about 5 minutes — this allows the juices to be absorbed back into the fish, and leads to a more-tender dish.

Vegetables and Fruit:

Grilling isn’t just for meat. Lots of fruits and vegetables do well on grill with the high heat giving them a delicious caramelized flavor.

Simply a light coating of oil is all it takes. Beware, too much oil will drip from the vegetables and cause the fire to flare up.

To prevent burning, sear the vegetables over high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish.

Use a grill basket or foil if you’re concerned about smaller vegetables falling through the grate.

Ready to get grilling’?  Try one of these tasty grilling recipes.

Search for more grilling recipes in your DinnerTime Recipe Box.  Just type in “grill” in the search bar to see all sorts of different recipes for great grilled dishes. Bought extra ingredients at the market or cut from your own garden?  Add to your DinnerTime Pantry Manager and indicate to “use soon” for recipe recommendations in your next meal plan.  Your grocery list will show you already have this item in your pantry.

Korean barbecue meets Buffalo wings. Perfect for any party!

Quick, easy, healthy and tasty.

Beautiful and flavorful.