Guide to BBQ Essentials
Beautiful weather and grilling go hand in hand. Having a BBQ is perfect for everything from entertaining friends and family to making a quick dinner on a regular summer weeknight. But if you're new to grilling, BBQ essentials can seem like a bit of a puzzle. We'll help you decode the puzzle with these basic tips and tricks to get you started.
Get Your Grill On
While smokers have their place in barbecue culture, most people associate barbecuing with grilling, entertaining, and feeding family and friends, particularly on beautiful days and nights in spring and summer. If you're new to the craft, you need to figure out what kind of grill works well for you. There are two main types to choose from: charcoal and propane. Each has its own pros and cons. For example, charcoal grills often cost less and offer fuller flavor, but they require more cleanup and monitoring to make sure you keep the cooking temperature even. Propane grills are typically more expensive up front, but they offer convenience and easy cleanup.
Tools of the BBQ Trade
There's more to it than just the main event. You also need a few extra essentials, most notably the fuel for your grill (propane or charcoal). Other helpful tools include:
- Long-handled grill brush to clean the grates between grilling sessions
- Tongs and spatulas for flipping meat and other food and transferring it to a platter when you're done cooking
- Instant-read thermometer to gauge when meat is fully cooked
- Grill light for easy night grilling
- Fire extinguisher
Essential Grilling Techniques
Fast and hot or low and slow — those are the two main grilling techniques you need to know about. Also known as "direct" and "indirect" grilling, each has its own benefits.
This is the method most people think of when they talk about grilling. You turn all the burners on or evenly arrange the coals and place the food on the grates for fast cooking right over the heat source. The lid should remain closed for most of the cooking time, with the only exceptions being when you turn the food and when you baste it. This is the technique to use for any food that's less than 2 inches thick, including:
- Chicken breasts
- Fish fillets
When you think of good ol' fashion barbecue, you might very well be thinking of foods cooked using this low and slow method. Better for meats more than 2 inches thick, indirect grilling involves turning on only one burner on a three-burner grill or two burners on a four-burner grill. If you use charcoal, you'll arrange coals to leave the actual cooking area over an unlit part of the grill. Because the heat source isn't directly below the food, it cooks slowly over a lower heat, giving you "fall off the bone" tender ribs and meat that melts in your mouth. It's ideal for foods like:
- Whole chickens or turkeys
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