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Adlen Robinson: Learn to use your grill like a pro
400 LIFE Tailgate Recipes 1 072419 web
Photo by Zac Cain on Unsplash

My dad taught me how to grill hamburgers, steaks and chicken when I was just a little girl. He used to start the gas grill for me and then stay with me while I cooked, giving me tips along the way. 

Adlen Robinson
- photo by Adlen Robinson
When I was a little older, he let me start the grill myself. When I married Paul, my oldest brother gave us a charcoal grill as a wedding gift. We loved that grill and used it often — but I have to say, when we got our first gas grill, I was in heaven. Unlike charcoal, a gas grill takes only a few minutes to heat up and then not much longer to cook dinner.

We have had several gas grills over the years and I have learned some important tips when it comes to gas grills and grilling in general. Since we are lucky enough to live in an area where grilling outside happens all year long, let’s get our grill on!

BTU’s matter. British Thermal Units tell you how much fuel your grill uses. The higher the number, the more fuel it uses and the hotter your grill will be. 

Our current gas grill has more than 60K BTU’s and it sears meat like it is nobody’s business. When we had a grill with low BTU’s, our hamburgers and steaks could never get a proper sear. Now we have to be careful to not overcook the food.

Brining meat is the way to go. Brining, or soaking meat in a salty water bath, might seem like an extra step, but it is totally worth it. 

Even if you only brine your protein for half an hour, it will definitely benefit. The meat will be seasoned and tender and you are much less likely to overcook it. To make a brine, just combine plenty of water with fine sea salt and stir until the salt dissolves. You can get fancy and add herbs, peppercorns, onion and sugar, but even with plain salt, your food will benefit. Just cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.

Use a dry rub. If you brined the meat, pat it very dry with paper towels, and then rub your spice rub all over the meat. Do let the meat sit out for half an hour before grilling to take the chill off.

Start with an impeccably clean grill. You don’t want last night’s salmon on tonight’s hamburgers.

Don’t mess with the food too much once it is on the grill. Usually, when the meat is ready to be flipped, it will release easily and not stick. Definitely do not press down on the meat — this causes the juices to leave.

Keep a spray bottle of water nearby in case of flareups. Also, use good quality, long handled tongs and spatulas.

Slightly undercook your food since carryover cooking does happen. Always let your cooked food rest a few minutes tented with aluminum foil. Thicker and bigger pieces of meat need to rest longer than small, thinner cuts.

Preheat your grill and know your grill. Many grills have hot spots, so you want to make sure you know where those are for even cooking.

If you are using barbeque sauce or other marinade, brush them on toward the end of cooking — you don’t want them to burn.

Always preheat your grill before cooking — some grills heat up quickly, but others may take a bit.

Avoid cross contamination by using a clean platter when getting your grilled meat and vegetables off of the grill. In addition, invest in an instant read thermometer so you make sure your meat is cooked until done.

Don’t forget to turn on some music and enjoy the last dog days of summer!

Adlen Robinson is an award winning columnist and author of “Organic Food and Kitchen Matters.” You can email her at