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Sizzlin’ secrets: Great reminders when grilling for the first time this season

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Grilling was one of the first responsibilities I inherited in my house during the summer. Along with being trusted to mow the lawn, it was a rite of passage and I remember my dad talking me through the basics as young as 11.

Grilling season is as American as apple pie, baseball or the Red, White and Blue. Although a mainstay of summer holiday celebrations, it can also provide an enjoyable break from your usual cuisine and a respite from the warmth of your oven at the height of a summer heat wave. Beef and steak cuts, hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken, sausage – the possibilities are endless!

The first step for the inaugural barbecue of the season is cleanup. Hopefully you winterized your grill in clean condition, but it never hurts to give it a good “once over” anyway. This year, we took a household grease cleaner to the exterior (turned off, at a cool standing temperature), and it buffed up as good as new. This is especially important if you have left your grill unit uncovered and open to the elements.

My model is larger and has countertop ledges on either side. Even if I don’t clean the rest of the unit in depth, I still want to make sure those areas are clean so that I can prep food there. A simple scrub with a sponge and soapy water and a hose down will do the trick there. Wheel it outside and let it air dry in the sunshine, and it will be good as new. If you have a grill cover that came with your grill model, or if you have purchased one separately, you will have to do significantly less cleaning/maintenance.

Lifting the hood, it’s important to make sure that your grates are cleaned. Some swear by a nice quality grill brush. Others argue that the brush sheds, risking getting debris in your food, and advocate for the onion method. Here, I will defer to the experts at Char-Broil. I myself have used a brush in the past – but they don’t hold up well if you’re an active griller. Use whatever works best for you.

Next we need to talk fuel. When you mention grilling, almost everyone’s mind will go to a propane tank. There are other options available, but they are less common – like a natural gas grill. Natural gas grills utilize a gas hookup on your property. Propane grills utilize the tanks we’re all familiar with. Propane grills are far more portable – but you have to be mindful of your fuel levels. There is nothing worse than doing all of your preparation before a barbecue, going to start the grill and … nothing. You want to start the season with a fresh tank. You can usually procure a tank at any nearby convenience store or gas station – and trade in any empties.

Whether a first-time grill user or a seasoned grill master , you need good tools. A nice spatula. A good set of tongs. You can find a nice set at most stores that supply home goods, including your local hardware stores. This article from theSpruceEats includes a ranked list with several must-haves and where to find them.

What kind of seasonings to have on hand? Basics like salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder are a must. I frequently also gravitate to some “lazy” marinades – a bottle of barbecue sauce or ranch dressing (my personal favorites being Sweet Baby Rays and Hidden Valley Ranch). However, the sky’s the limit! This article from spice manufacturer Simply Organic has some recommendations for spices that can revolutionize the taste of your grill cuts.

And now we’re “off to the races!” Stay safe (with a quick word on that from our friends at the NFPA) and have fun!

Check out some of the resources below for some recipes and ideas and let your grilling adventures begin:

by Andrew Haman

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