Almost everyone can think back to that one memorable summer barbecue. The heat, maybe a pool, that token soda cooler and sliced watermelon. But the main event is on the grill, whether hamburgers, shish kabobs, chicken breasts or portobello mushrooms. Grilling is a fresh, reliable way to cook almost anything—and you don’t have to be a dad in a polo shirt to do it.
The day I started grilling I never went back. Starting up a grill can seem intimidating, but after learning my way around the knobs and picking out a couple must-try recipes, grilling became my summer meal go-to. Whether you have charcoal or gas, full-size or small enough to fit on an apartment balcony, mastering your grill is so easy.
The Charcoal Grill
Charcoal grills are exciting to use and cost the least amount of money up-front. They are also typically more portable, making them great for a small space. The heat of the fire is maintained through charcoal of course, which is lit with a match or lighter. Be sure to use a non-toxic fire starting material, like old newspapers or naturally made tinder kits from your local home improvement store.
Starting up your Charcoal Grill is like building a campfire in girl scouts:
- Arrange the pieces of charcoal in a pyramid shape, which provides the best oxygen flow for the start-up of the fire.
- Place your fire starter under the pieces and light with a match or lighter.
- Wait until the briquettes have a light gray dusting of ash, which usually takes 20 minutes or so, and then you’re ready to cook! Spread the charcoal pieces out in a single layer for even cooking before you start.
The Gas Grill
If building your own fire isn’t your forte, the gas grill may be for you. With the push of a button, your grill can be ready to go in 15 minutes, and the heat of the fire is easy to control and adjust. Gas grills cost more up front but are easy to maintain. No charcoal means it’s easier to clean, and you might just find them easier to operate.
A few things to do when starting up your Gas Grill:
- Make sure your LP tank is not empty, and that your knobs are turned to off. Open the lid.
- Turn your LP Gas tank on. Turn on one burner for ignition. Light the grill with a match or lighter, if called for in the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Close the lid and turn on all burners, preheating them all on high, at 500° to 550°F degrees. Once all burners have finished preheating, which usually takes around 10 to 20 minutes, you can turn them down to the temperature your recipe calls for, if necessary.
If you’re like me, you might want something smaller and more manageable to start out with, check out these top rated grills for a small space.
The types of food you can cook on a grill are essentially limitless. Vegetables, meats and even hamburger buns for the perfect grill cheese or barbecue sandwich. Whether you’re entertaining a bunch of people on game day and want to cook up hamburgers and hotdogs, or if you want to cook a healthy meal for one, there is a grilling recipe for it all.
I originally started grilling to lose weight, as a matter of fact. Summer rolls around, and the last thing you want to eat are deep friend meals with high carbs. Grilling is a great way to eat clean, and with a little vegetable oil, salt and pepper, you can grill up the perfect lean meal.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes.
With so many varieties to this dish, you have tons of options to explore, and odds are you’ll find several that fit your dietary needs and taste pallet. The Shish Kabob is just about the cleanest meal there is, usually sporting a protein—shrimp, chicken, beef or tofu to name a few—and as many fresh fruits and veggies as you feel like adding. Pineapple, green tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash are a few fun ones to try.
I am a huge fan of anything with soy sauce, and this Asian style shish kabob recipe is one of my favorites. If Barbecue is more your thing, try this sweet spin on the classic kabob from Kraft Recipes. Once you feel adventurous enough to make your own combination, you’ll be doing shish kabobs right.
Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
Everyone needs a good portobello mushroom recipe in their life. Portobello mushrooms are a healthy, vegetarian alternative to hamburgers, and make for a great stand-alone dish when you stuff them! This delicious recipe adds grilled tomato halves on the side. I would also recommend green and red peppers or crab if you’re feeling fancy and eat seafood.
Feel free to use a non-stuffed portobello as a salad topper, too! Cutting up your grilled mushroom and putting it on a fresh bed of lettuce tastes just as good as it sounds.
We have ALL been there. You find yourself in need of a good old fashioned grilled cheese sandwich, and what better way to use your new grill than with a classic comfort food?
I used to make grilled cheese on a skillet in the house, but try it on an actual grill and you will never go back. It’s a crowd pleaser, couldn’t be easier to achieve, and can be an immediate go-to for a new grill user.
Turn up the Heat
And turn down for what? Because the other major plus about grilling is that it’s not eating away at your air conditioning. I remember my mom shaking her head in dismay every time we used the oven on a hot summer day. “Keep the heat outside, thank you very much,” she would say. And just like every kitchen master would do, she took her kitchen outside and turned on the grill.
So can’t you just see it? A cool drink in one hand, grill tongs in the other? What are you waiting for girl? Make the grill your summer BFF this year.