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Backyard Grilling 101

Have you detected the smell of burning charcoal in the air around your neighborhood? If so, that’s proof that grilling season has begun! Burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and corn on the cob seem to take on extra flavor when you grill them yourself, don’t you think? Today, I have some quick grilling tips you can put into practice this spring and summer.

Choosing a Grill

Are you in the market for a new grill? Some people are loyal to charcoal grills, while others won’t use anything but a gas grill. Of course, both varieties have their benefits and drawbacks.

Grill Size

Both gas and charcoal grills are available in a variety of sizes. You could go with a gas grill with four or five burners or opt for a one-burner model. You could get a 22-inch kettle-style charcoal grill, or you could go all out with a 60-inch stainless steel monster. Your decision will depend on how much space you have for a grill, how many items you want to be able to cook at once, and how often you plan to grill.

Heating Time

It takes just ten minutes for a gas grill to heat up, but it takes a charcoal grill about 15 to 20 minutes to get hot enough to start cooking. So a gas grill could be more appealing if you love spontaneous cookouts!


The price of a grill depends on its size, features, and brand. However, charcoal grills are generally less expensive than gas grills. You could spend less than $100 for a simple charcoal grill, while an average gas grill costs between $130 and $600.


When it comes to maintenance, a charcoal grill requires less attention. You just empty the ashes after every use and brush the grate. Having a gas grill means checking the connections to make sure they’re secure, checking your level of propane, and cleaning the grate.

Starting a Fire

One of the easiest ways to light your charcoal grill is with a chimney starter. Chimney starters are inexpensive and allow you to avoid exposure to the chemicals in lighter fluid.

Lighting a gas grill is a lot easier and quicker than lighting a charcoal grill. Remember to follow the proper steps listed in the grill’s instructions to light it safely.

Are You in the Zone?

The two-zone cooking method allows you to have more control over the amount of heat you use to cook certain food items. Divide your grill in half, making one side the direct zone and the other the indirect zone. Items in the direct zone get a high amount of heat, while those in the indirect zone receive a low amount. If you have a charcoal grill, position most of the hot coals in the direct zone while leaving just a few in the indirect zone. On a gas grill, light the burners on one side to create your direct zone and use the other side or your warming rack as the indirect zone. If you want to sear meat or cook burgers quickly, then put them in the direct zone. But if you have a large steak or a whole fish, it should be put in the indirect zone so it will cook slowly and evenly.

Tools for Great Grilling

Look for a collection of grilling tools that includes a grilling spatula, tongs, a barbecue fork, and a basting brush. Remember to get a reliable grill brush to clean the grate after every grilling session.

Safety Tips

  • Position your grill at least ten feet away from your home.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher near your grilling area in case of emergency.
  • Use a thermometer to monitor the temperature of your meat so it stays within a safe range. Hamburgers and other ground beef should be at 160 degrees Fahrenheit or above, while fish should be 145 degrees or more.
  • Keep a spray bottle of water close to your grill so you can water down any flames that start to get a little too high.

Get those grills going, and don’t forget the ketchup! Thanks for reading. – Alan

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