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Whether you are cooking fish, steaks, or burgers, there are few things in life more enjoyable than firing up the grill and cooking over an open flame. From the perfectly seared surface to the richness of the flavors, grilling can make any meal more memorable from start to finish. Here are a few grilling tips to guide you from novice to master of cooking over an open flame.

  1. Brush the grill: One of the most important grilling tips is to brush the grill. If the grill grates are dirty with caked-on buildup, it will definitely impact the way the food cooks. You should always brush the grill using a long-handled grill brush with wire bristles before and after cooking. This will make sure nothing gets in the way of the flavor or cooking consistency when grilling your favorite meats.

  2. Oil the food, not the grate: A clean grill is only the starting point. You also need oil to make sure food doesn’t stick when cooking. While most people are tempted to oil the grill grates, it is actually better to oil the food itself for a few reasons. Oiling the food brings out flavor and locks in moisture while preventing food from sticking. If you just oil the grate, a lot of that oil drips into the flames beneath and the food doesn’t benefit from it as much. It is also safer and easier to brush the food with vegetable oil than oiling hot grates.

  3. Invest in a grill basket: Another one of the best grilling tips is to invest in a grill basket. What do you use a grill basket for? This small basket is ideal for cooking a range of smaller items on the grill without losing them through the grate. They can be used for items such as vegetables, smaller cuts of fish, cubes of tofu, and even fruits. It is easier than trying to turn these items one by one and also suitable for delicate items you don’t want to risk falling apart from using prongs or a grill fork.

  4. Know the setting based on temperature: You will often read about cooking food on the grill at medium, medium-high, or high heat. How do you know what that it is since most grills don’t exactly have this as a setting? You gauge it based on a tried and true method of master grillers everywhere. To test the temperature of the grill, use caution and safely place your open palm around 5 inches above the grill rack. If you have to move your hand away in 2 seconds or less, then that is a high setting. If you have to move your hand away in about 5 seconds, it is medium, while moving your hand away in 10 seconds means low.

  5. Let meats rest: When most people grill out, they are usually grilling delicious meats. While you may be tempted to serve up hot, juicy meat straight from the grill to the plate, it is best to let it rest. When you let meats such as beef and pork rest for about 10 minutes with a tent of tin foil over it, it creates tender meat with evenly distributed juices. The exception to this rule is fish. You do not want to cover fish and let it sit before serving because it could easily dry out.

  6. Use a timer: The key to cooking anything to perfection is paying attention to time. If you are grilling as a social event, it is all too easy to get distracted and overcook something. While some grillers think they are too cool for a timer, master grillers know a timer isn’t a sign of ineptitude in cooking but rather a sign of attention to proper detail. A timer helps make sure food isn’t undercooked or overcooked so it comes out perfectly. It also helps with knowing when to turn meats.

  7. Turn only once: Too many novices think they need to repeatedly turn food on the grill. The goal is actually to let one side get a nice caramelization and only turn in the last few minutes to make sure it has cooked all the way through. If you keep excessively turning while cooking, you lose the chance to get the rich flavors of a proper caramelization.

  8. Grill over wood for rich flavor: Charcoal was once the standard for grilling, but times have changed. If you are really looking to step up your grilling game, cooking over wood chips should be your next challenge. Wood naturally gives a smokier taste to the food without the chemicals of charcoal and lighter fluid. Best of all, there are so many flavors and types available so you can experiment to find the right one for your preferences.

  9. Don’t stab: One of the simplest yet most commonly overlooked grilling tips is to avoid stabbing the meat. When you are turning the meat, it is best to use prongs to pick up meats instead of a grill fork or a knife. When you poke or stab the meat, it leaves little holes in the meat allowing juices to escape and you want to keep all that flavor contained.