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10 Tiny Changes You Can Make to Improve Your Grilling

This grilling season might be your best ever!

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grilling toolsTaste of Home

Stay Organized

Whether you’re just learning the grilling basics or are practically a pro, a few tiny changes can instantly upgrade your grill game. Your first tip: Be prepared. No one wants to have to scramble for tongs in front of a bed of hot coals. Having everything in order–veggies chopped, grill tongs ready–will go a long way.

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Old Grill BrushMissionMike/Shutterstock

Don’t Skip Cleaning Your Grill

It’s not the most exciting task, but keeping those grates clean is essential. Extra residue can cause food to stick, cling on to unwanted flavors, or worse—start a grease fire. To avoid serious buildup, clean your grill grates regularly.

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Add a Hint of Wood Flavoring

You don’t have to spend all day slow-smoking pork to get that smoky wood flavor. In Any Night Grilling, author Paula Disbrowe suggests soaking wood chips, then placing them with your grill’s hot coals. The smoke will bring bold flavor to grilled pork or grilled pizza!

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grilling steaks on flaming grillJoshua Resnick/Shutterstock

Cut Notches in Your Steaks

To stop grilled steaks from getting that dreaded curl, the Char-Broil Great Book of Grilling suggests adding a few small notches to the fat areas before putting it on the grill. They’ll be perfectly flat and ready for a slab of compound butter.

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Use Spatulas to Skin a Salmon

There are so many amazing grilled fish recipes! When you’re cooking it skin-on, the Char-Broil Great Book of Grilling suggests grabbing two spatulas to work some magic. When the salmon’s fully cooked on the skin side, it should be easy to slide a spatula beneath the skin to remove it.

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Pair of hand mixing raw ground beef mixture preparing to make fresh gourmet hamburgersTeri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Don’t Form Burger Patties Too Tightly

Our Test Kitchen finds that looser burger patties retain their juices better while grilling. So don’t worry too much about packing the meat into perfect circles–how you cook them is way more important. That’s just one of the most common burger mistakes we see.

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Flipping burgers on a grillG Allen Penton/Shutterstock

Don’t Touch the Food Too Early

As Disbrowe explains in Any Night Grilling, meats should be easy to flip when they’ve spent enough time on the grill. But if you try to flip a beautiful burger too soon, it might stick to the grates. Give your food time before turning!

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Use a Two-Zone Fire

You can create direct and indirect heat zones on your grill by putting coals under just one half. That way, you have part of the grill devoted to direct-heat cooking, while the other half is the perfect way to cook indirectly at lower temperatures.

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You Don’t Have to Marinate Everything

If you don’t feel like marinating your meat (or decided to grill last-minute), just brush on a glaze, like barbecue sauce, within the last 10 minutes of cooking when it’s no longer over direct heat.

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Think Beyond Meat and Veggies

Grilled vegetables and steaks are wonderful, but your grill can make so much more. Grilled fruit makes a delicious dessert, and it’s the perfect way to end a night of cooking. Between pineapple slices, bananas, apples and other fruits, the possibilities are endless!

Meghan De Maria
Meghan is an entertainment and lifestyle writer with a soft spot for nostalgic snack foods. Whether it's a new Pop-Tarts flavor or a new menu item at Taco Bell, there's nothing she won't try in the name of research... or just in the name of a junk food craving.