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The following grilling hacks, tips, and tricks might seem fairly obvious and simple, and that’s because they are once you try them. These simple and easy hacks will have you thinking, “Self, why didn’t I think of that?” Becoming a proficient grill master takes time and effort, but the reward, in the end, is so worth it. Don’t be afraid to learn through grilling trial and error. I hope these simple and easy hacks will help you achieve your goal even faster.

1. Three easy steps for prepping your grill – 1) Be sure to place a large piece of cardboard under your grill to soak up any spills or mishaps during grilling. 2) When you fire up your grill, let the grill grates become hot, effectively burning off the gunk from your last barbecue, then brush off the ash with your grill brush. 3) Pour cooking oil on a paper towel, and with your tongs, rub the grill grates with the paper towel to further clean and lubricate your grill grates.

2. Use a charcoal chimney fire starter – After many years of grilling, this invention revolutionized my barbecue game. No more lighter fluid, no fire going out before it even gets started, no more frustration! Simply fill the chimney up with charcoal, place newspaper in the bottom, and light on fire. Your charcoal is ready to cook in under 10 minutes.

3. Indirect grilling with wood or wood chips – This is a pretty cool two-for-one hack. After your charcoal has burned down, move the coals to both sides of the grill. Place an aluminum pan filled with a few inches of water between the two piles of coals. Add a small handful of soaked wood chips to the top of the charcoal, add your meat, and close the lid. Now, you are indirectly grilling with the addition of smoke. 

4. Use an 8” x 10” wire oven rack and a drip pan – Placing your meat on the wire oven rack ensures that the meat will not sag into and between the grill grates, and it’s much easier to move the meat around and on and off the grill. This is especially helpful for smaller meats such as sausage or chicken wings. Placing an aluminum drip pan under the meat on the ash tray to catch the drippings will help when it comes to cleanup. Just toss it away! Also, you can add water to the drip pan to increase the humidity when indirect smoking on your grill.

5. Never let the fire or your coals go out – This seems like quite an obvious task. But it does happen, and it’s a tiresome chore to start all over (assuming you’re not using lighter fluid) and fire your grill back up. You will need to add more charcoal, wood, or wood chips as your meat is grilling. The best hack for this is to have a grill grate with hinged sides open so you can add more charcoal or wood. It is really amazing how convenient and simple this trick is!

6. Have wet and dry hands – This useful and time-proven hack works! When you rub your meat with a dry rub, always keep one hand dry and rub with the other hand. Sprinkle the rub on with your dry hand, and rub it in with your wet hand. This way, your wet hand is the only hand that touches the meat. I know this sounds simple, but try it out. It really works!

7. Don’t move the meat around – This is one lesson that I learned through trial and error. If you try lifting the meat off the grill before it’s ready, it will stick to the grill and tear. The secret is to gently lift a corner of the meat and give it a slight pull. If it doesn’t give, it’s still not ready to be flipped. The meat will “tell” you when it’s ready. Listen to it. There will be no struggle flipping the meat when it wants to be flipped.

8. I call this Chef’s Choice – You’re the one standing at the hot grill working away while everyone else is in the pool. Treat yourself. You deserve it! Grill a small snack for yourself while you are standing there. I like sausage for my Chef’s Choice because it grills up quickly, and you can cut it into small bites, but anything you like will do. This is a great little trick that will bring you tons of joy.

9. How do I tell when the meat is done? – Anybody who has ever grilled (starting with Cave Men!) has asked this question. Too early, it’s raw. Too late, it’s burned. And you really only get one chance with your expensive and precious meat. Watch this video from the American Heart Association for an incredible hack to test for doneness. As you become a proficient grill master, testing the doneness of your meat will become easier and easier. Always use a meat thermometer to be sure of the exact temperature. And a temperature chart is a great hack to have as well.

10. Creating smoke with a gas grill – This is a fun little hack. Can you create smoke on your gas grill? Yes, you can! Soak some wood chips and roll them up in a piece of aluminum foil. Poke holes in the top of the aluminum foil bundle and place it on your grill holes up between the burners. Keep your grill lid closed, and you will have smoke for your meat in no time!

I hope these hacks, tips, and tricks will help you improve and amp up your barbecue grilling game. As you become more proficient and effective at the grill, you will discover your own hacks, tricks, and secrets. And it is so much fun and very rewarding to know that you are well on your way to becoming a Grill Master.

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About Keith Morrison

Chef Keith has been a cook, restaurateur, and food writer for nearly 50 years. Since graduating of culinary school, Keith has completed classes at the world famous Le Cordon Bleu Paris, and has been a chef, manager, owner, consultant and recipe developer for dozens of restaurants and catering companies.

One of Keith's many cooking loves is BBQ in general and the Offset Smoker in particular. Keith has participated in competition BBQ for many years.

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1 Comment

  1. All great ideas. The one that resonates with me the most is the use of grill pans. I have two that I use regularly. They are priceless. I use them for veggies, meat, and whatever else. The two main things I use them for are potatoes and pork chops, but I have grilled steak and chicken in them as well. Great article.