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How to Use a Grill

Created January 26, 2017
Whether you have a gas, electric or charcoal grill, learn how to use a grill with the tips in this helpful grilling guide. What foods work best on which types of grills will make you a grill master!

Gas, electric or charcoal? Take the mystery out of that machine on your patio and learn what it can do.

Gas Grills

Someone once told me that her dad made it his goal to teach his kids how to turn on a gas grill. It sort of went like this: “Turn the gas on from the propane tank.” Then he paused here, actually pausing a long time in case she misunderstood. “Open the lid on the grill and punch that starter button to ignite the flames.”

Because there was so much time spent between turning on the gas and opening the lid — you guessed it — once she hit the ignition take-off switch, the flames flew up high because the lid had been closed too long. Cringe!

Okay her dad wasn’t the best teacher -- his lengthy explanations between the actual lighting almost caused their back porch roof to explode.

But learning how to use a gas grill isn't hard. Most gas grills are propane-tank equipped with a button-type ignition switch. All you need to do is open the lid (before you do anything else), turn on the gas at the propane tank, turn the burner knobs on, punch the switch and you're done. Most come with temperature gauges on the lid that show you when the grill is hot and ready for cooking.

Gas grills come in all shapes and sizes and some have side stove tops you can cook an entire meal on. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these, while your chicken, pork or steaks are grilling, you can heat up your homemade baked beans on the stove portion.

If you don’t have a side stove element, create veggie packets with aluminum foil, add some butter or your favorite salad dressing and cook on the upper tray while meats cook on the bottom.


Charcoal Grills

Again, learning how to use a charcoal grill is fairly simple. That lighter fluid you throw on the charcoal doesn’t mean the whole bottle!  A few squeezes followed by a lit match is all you need.

Essentially, to use a charcoal grill all you need is a bag of charcoal, some lighter fluid and a firestick to get it going. Most have covers to ensure heating temperatures are reached fast and some even come with temperature gauges for no-brainer cooking.

A tip for the charcoal grill is allowing the coals to get hot enough to cook your steaks, burgers and chicken. Putting food on too early risks overcooking – or it may dry out just from the smoke.

Those who swear by their charcoal grills often use wood chips like apple, cherry, smoke or hickory to flavor up grilled meals. Veggies also cook nicely on charcoal grills, and the aluminum foil pack idea ensures no burning.

Electric Grills and Smokers

Electric grills and smokers are becoming more popular. You can use these much as you would gas or charcoal grills and most of them (like gas grills) feature a thermometer so you know when the grill is right for the cooking. Smokers work nicely for cooking entire meals.

All electric grills or smokers should have at least a 120-volt grounded plug so when you fire up the grill, you won’t get shocked.

Electric grills come with electric heating elements under the cooking surface and are a snap to plug in. Again, depending on the model you have, temperature gauges guide you. These are great for condos or apartments where gas and charcoal grills are a no-no.

Smoker-type grills gain their heat from many sources, depending on the type you buy. Some are of the charcoal type, there are electric ones and even those where wood chips are added for slow-cook smoking that makes meat fork-tender.

No matter what type of grill you have, remember to keep the grill’s cooking surface clean with a wire brush, use no-stick cooking sprays before you heat the grill, and keep all utensils clean.