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From Tri-Tips to Safety Tips, Essentials of Outdoor Grilling

Reviewed by: Dr. Steven Knauf, D.C.

By: Paul Rothbart


As the temperatures rise, the great outdoors calls to us. It's the season for hiking and biking, swimming and boating, sunbathing, and exploring new places. Embracing outdoor activities isn't just enjoyable—it's also beneficial for your mental and physical well-being.

One of the most popular summertime activities is outdoor grilling. Cooking over a fire was the first method of preparing food, and it’s still popular today. Grilling appeals to multiple senses. The sight of meat browning, the sound of the sizzle, and the smell of smoke. And, of course, there's those delicious flavors. There’s something special about the taste of grilled foods.

Grilling is a different way of cooking. There are people who are lost in a kitchen but can work a grill like a Michelin-starred chef. To do so, you need to know the equipment, the skills, the food, and how to stay safe.

Did we mention that grilling your food is healthy?

Pros and cons of grill types

Although there are several types of grills, there are three basic kinds that are used by most people. Each has its pros and cons.

Propane grill

Propane grills have the advantage of being portable. They are usually on wheels, so they can be moved to any part of your yard or put in a truck to transport to another location. Propane puts out plenty of heat, and the flame is adjustable.

On the con side, propane grills can be expensive to run because you need to buy replacement tanks—or at the very least refill the tanks—when you run out. This includes the expense of keeping an extra tank handy in case you run out while grilling.

Charcoal grills

The old-school method, charcoal grills are preferred by traditionalists who enjoy the smoky flavor they impart to food. Charcoal is less expensive than propane, but it can be time-consuming and tricky to light and get up to the proper temperature. Regulating the amount of heat is challenging because it depends on the number of coals piled up. Charcoal grills are harder to clean because they leave ash and smoky residue.

Gas grills

Natural gas makes a great cooking fuel. Although it doesn’t burn as hot as propane, gas flames are easily adjustable and you don’t have to worry about running out and having to install a new tank. Gas grills can be expensive to set up. You need a gas line connected to the grill. This means that they have to be permanently mounted and are not portable.

Essentials of outdoor grilling

Cooking well is easier with the right tools. This applies to grilling as well as indoor cooking. There are essential grill tools that every master griller must have, not just to cook well, but to be safe.

  • Spatula - A good spatula is the most basic grilling tool. You’ll want one with a longer handle to keep your hands away from the heat.
  • Tongs - Tongs are another tool that comes in handy for turning foods you can’t get a spatula under. Long handles are the rule here.
  • Meat thermometer - Grilling meat to perfection and avoiding illness due to undercooking is much easier to pull off using a thermometer.
  • Basting brush - It’s much easier to spread barbecue and other sauces using a basting brush. It allows you to coat foods evenly.
  • Grilling gloves - Working around fire, it’s vital to protect your hands. A set of silicone grilling gloves will prevent burns while you work your magic.
  • Grill grates - Grills come with a grate, but you may need to replace it at some point. You can also upgrade to a grate that will catch drippings to prevent flare-ups and make cleaning easier.
  • Brushes and scrapers - It’s important to clean your grill after each use. For this, you will need scrapers or brushes to get rid of debris that is stuck to the grate and burners.

The items listed above are the must-haves. There are additional tools to take your grilling to the next level. A cast iron skillet can be incredibly handy for grilling, providing even heat distribution and enhancing the flavor of your food. Squeeze bottles are perfect for dispensing oils, sauces, and marinades with precision. Egg rings and pancake kits, designed specifically for griddle-top propane grills, make it easy to cook breakfast favorites right on your grill. Infrared thermometer guns allow you to check the temperature of your grill and food accurately, ensuring perfect cooking every time. While these items are not essential, they can significantly enhance your grilling versatility and convenience.

Life hacks for grilling outdoors

Recipes for grilled meals are plentiful and trying them out can be a lot of fun. Additionally, some excellent grilling hacks can simplify various aspects of grilling while adding extra flavor to your culinary masterpieces.

Use an egg carton to light coals

Charcoal briquettes can take quite a while to heat up. Place the Match Light type in the cups of a cardboard egg carton. Light the carton, and the briquettes will ignite and heat up quickly. Never use a styrofoam or plastic carton.

Soak wooden skewers before using

Kebabs are among the best grilling foods. If you use wooden skewers, soak them in water for about two hours before using them. This will prevent them from burning and putting out smoke while the food cooks.

Use an onion to clean your grill

It can be challenging to get your grill grate clean. Cut a piece of onion and rub it over the grate while it’s cold. The acidity of the onion will cut through all the grime and grease and get the grate shiny and clean.

Place herbs on the charcoal

Grillers who prefer charcoal like the flavor it gives to the food. Putting herbs directly on the coals will add their flavor to the smoke and the meat.

The best meats for grilling

There are many more delicious meats to grill beyond just hamburgers and hot dogs. Various cuts of steak, chicken, and hearty fish grill beautifully and offer a wide range of flavors and textures to enjoy.


There are a number of cuts that are just made for the grill.

  • Bottom sirloin tri-tip
  • Tenderloin
  • T-bone
  • Porterhouse
  • Rib eye
  • Strip loin
  • Top sirloin


Chicken thighs and legs are best suited to the grill. Their dark meat is juicy and won’t dry out the way chicken breasts tend to.


Fish filets or steaks should be thick and hearty enough to hold together during grilling. Some fish are made to be grilled.

  • Swordfish
  • Salmon
  • Grouper
  • Cod
  • Mahi-mahi
  • Tuna
  • Snapper
  • Sea bass

If you want to add some variety to your grilling menu, pork chops grill up nicely.

What are the best vegetables to grill

Talk of grilling usually conjures up thoughts of meat but there are many vegetables that can hold up to the grill for delicious side dishes with that that same outdoorsy flavor. And, who doesn’t love a grilled veggie? Put them on skewers with your favorite meat, place them in a foil packet with olive oil, salt, and pepper, or toss them right on the grill.

  • Poblano, jalapeno, and bell peppers
  • Corn on the cob
  • Portobello mushrooms
  • Zucchini
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Tomatoes

The list of vegetables is extensive. Two of the most tasty and popular are grilled asparagus and artichokes.

Health benefits of grilling food

The intoxicating aroma, beautiful texture, and incredible taste of grilled foods are well known. Lesser known but equally important are the benefits of grilled foods for your health.

Researchers have found that the higher heat used in grilling can bring out more of the vitamins and minerals in foods, making them more nutritious.

The added flavor that comes from being cooked on a grill helps people to eat more slowly and savor each bite. This has been linked to lower cholesterol and slower digestion, meaning you feel full longer. The foods that people grill are often lower in fat and have fewer calories, which reduces the risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

Safety tips for grilling outdoors

Whatever kind of grill you have, it cooks using fire. Any time you are working around a flame, safety procedures are paramount. The first tip is to keep a fire extinguisher handy. If the flame gets out of hand, you want to put out whatever is burning immediately. There are other safety tips that should be utilized.

Grill in a safe place

Grilling should always be done outside. You might want to grill on an enclosed porch in the winter but a grill can put out carbon monoxide, which is poisonous and needs to be able to float off in the outdoors.

Your grill should be at least 10 feet away from your house and not near trees, awnings, tablecloths, or anything else that could catch on fire from sparks.

Be careful with lighter fluid

Lighter fluid can be helpful for starting a charcoal grill but use it sparingly. Make sure it only gets on the coals, and never spray lighter fluid into an active fire. Many terrible accidents have occurred because of this mistake.

Open your grill before turning on the gas

Turning on the gas with the grill cover down can cause the propane to build up. When you press the igniter, the gas could flare up into a fireball that could injure you or anyone nearby.

Don’t leave your grill when it’s burning

An unattended grill is an invitation to disaster. Stay at the grill while it’s burning. If you have to step away for a moment, have someone you trust watch the grill until you get back. It only takes seconds for things to go wrong.

Inspect gas and propane grills frequently

Leaks in gas lines, hoses, or other fixtures allow gas to escape. Inhaling it can be deadly; if it catches fire, there could be an explosion that is sure to cause serious injuries or damage to property. Look for leaks before firing up the grill and don’t use it if you find any.

Clean the grill after every use

A clean grill is important for several reasons. You wouldn’t cook in a dirty pan because it could make you sick. A grill is no different. Excess buildup of grease can also cause fires that can get out of hand.

Be careful when cleaning a grill with a wire brush. The steel bristles can break off and get stuck on the grill and end up in food. There have been cases of trips to the ER when someone swallowed a metal bristle. Use the onion trick—or consider a grill stone or the Grill Rescue grill brush.

The doctors at The Joint Chiropractic want their patients to move, to get outdoors, and eat healthy. And grilling helps people do that in a way that also has social benefits.

When the weather heats up, so should the grill. Grilling is fun, tasty, and healthy. Whether you cook for the family, friends, or the whole neighborhood, keep these tips and hacks in mind for a safe experience and unforgettable meal.

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