grilling tips

7 Ways to Upgrade Your Grilling Skills

Last Updated on July 9, 2020

During summer, grilling is life.

Cooking outdoors is an excellent way to soak up the sunshine while making delicious meals for the whole family.

If you’ve had your fill of grilled burgers and hot dogs, we’ve compiled some tips to upgrade your grilling skills. From a simple plan to smoking meat at home, to working your way up to grilling centerpiece-worthy roasts, this list offers seven novel ways to use your grill.

Master these tips, and you’ll never grow bored of a grilled meal again.

1. Get smoking (no fancy equipment necessary)

If you’ve ever enjoyed a masterfully smoked cut of meat, you know the huge difference smoke can make to your barbecue exploits.

And while many people believe it requires fancy equipment (like expensive smokers) to achieve that flavor, you can actually smoke meat with little more than a charcoal grill and some wood chips.

Simply arrange a 50/50 mix of wood chips and coals under half of the grill, place your hunk of meat on the indirect heat (cooler) side of the grill, and close the lid. You may also want to use a drip pan. Follow your preferred recipe and cook your cut for the correct length of time. Here’s a guide to smoking meat at home for more information.

2. Learn to reverse-sear


We’re taught to sear our cuts of meat—like steak—on the grill first, to lock in the juices. There’s nothing really wrong with that approach. It definitely gets the job done.

The one pitfall of searing first? Sometimes, it leads to overcooking our meat. If you’d like to upgrade your skills, try learning the reverse-sear.

Reverse-searing is exactly what it sounds like. Start by cooking your meat to your desired doneness on the indirect heat (cooler) side of the grill. Cook until a meat thermometer reads your desired temperature.

Then, add fresh coals to the direct heat side of the grill. Once the grill is screaming hot, sear your meat quickly. Let the meat rest. That’s it!

This can also be done quite easily on gas grills by setting different temperature zones.

3. Upgrade to full roasts on the grill

Burgers, hot dogs, steaks. We’ve all made these on our grills. But if you’re looking to upgrade your skills, opt for a centerpiece-worthy roast. Made completely on the grill.

If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. When it comes to grilling a roast—whether it’s pork butt, brisket, or even a whole chicken—the biggest change is the amount of time the cut spends on the grill. It will spend more time on indirect heat than you may be used to, but it’s not hard or inaccessible, at all.

Find your favorite recipe—maybe our sirloin cap with peppers and onions—and get grilling.

4. Try fruit tree wood chips

If you’ve tried smoking meat on your grill, there’s a good chance you used either hickory or mesquite wood chips. Those are wonderful for achieving sweet and smoky flavor profiles, but there are a number of chips from fruit trees and beyond worth experimenting with.

You could try applewood, which is mild and sweet, and pairs wonderfully with lighter cuts, like chicken or fish. Or, there’s cherry, pecan, and peach wood chips. Here’s a breakdown of their flavor profiles:

  • Cherry wood: Mellow, sweet, tart (pairs well with most anything)
  • Pecan wood: Mellow and nutty (try beef, poultry, lamb)
  • Peach wood: Sweet and fruity (try poultry or fish)

5. Dry your steaks overnight

dry salted steak

You’ve heard that you should let your steaks come to room temperature before grilling, and we all know they need a good rest after cooking. But, there’s one step that can help you achieve the juiciest steaks ever: Let them dry overnight.

This method is called dry brining, and requires you to salt your steaks and leave them uncovered in the fridge overnight. Make sure there’s nothing funky, with a strong odor, in the fridge. You don’t want that flavoring your meat.

By dry brining, you tenderize the steak, as well as dry the surface to achieve a perfect crust while searing. It’s a simple step that will totally upgrade your steak grilling skills.

6. Make dessert on the grill

The grill is not the place most people think to make dessert, and that’s a shame. Hot grills can deliver beautiful caramelization to hearty pieces of fruit, and leave slices of shortcake nice and toasty. Try our grilled peach shortcake and you’ll see what we’re talking about.

More than that, it’s an excellent option for skillet desserts. Load your cast iron skillet with the ingredients for a berry cobbler, and use the grill as you might use an oven by closing the lid. Perfection.

7. Add herbs to the coals

Here’s a novel use for herbs like rosemary, thyme, and sage: Throw them in with the coals in your charcoal grill. As they burn, they’ll impart your steaks, chicken, and more with a herbal smokey flavor that’s to die for.

First, soak your herbs. Then add them to the coals—even soaked—they’ll burn off fairly quickly, so you’ll want to keep the grill closed while they flavor the meat.

Hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme will hold up longer in the coals, while basil or dill might burn off quickly. Experiment to find your favorite combination.

Courtney Hamilton is a writer and editor with over seven years' experience in journalism, blogging, communications, and other media. She has written for publications like PaleoHacks, PaleoPlan, The Center for American Progress, OC Weekly, and more. 
Check out more of her work at