If you’re taking your first step into the world of grilling, welcome! Anyone who’s obsessed with the savory deliciousness of fire-cooked food will fit right in here — and if you’re not obsessed yet, we’re pretty sure you will be soon. However, nobody was born with a grill spatula in their hand. We all had to learn how to grill at one point or another, and there’s no time like right now!
When you’re just getting started behind the grill, the most important thing is to master the fundamentals. That means knowing key info like the different types of grills, how to control your grill’s temperature and key grilling supplies that you need to get started. Sit back and relax — we’ve got all the basics of how to grill covered below.
How to Grill 101
You probably know grilling when you see it, and you definitely know it when you smell it. But could you give a definition of it? Don’t worry — this isn’t a quiz! The basic definition of grilling is cooking with dry heat, directly over a flame at a relatively high temperature. Typically, the food sits on grill grates or a rotisserie, where it cooks quickly and comes out with a deliciously smoky flavor.
It’s a simple concept, but the variety of things you can do with grilling is pretty much endless! From cookout staples like hamburgers to fresh garden vegetables to ribeye steaks, versatility is part of the fun. And, yes, grilling does even have some potential health benefits, like adding flavor without boosting calories. Grilling often gets mixed up with smoking, also called barbecue or BBQ. Both can happen on a grill, but the difference is time and temperature. Smoking involves lower heat than grilling, applied over a longer period of time. Although smoking does take some finesse, it’s absolutely something a beginner can do, especially with tools like a pellet smoker grill!
Must-Know Grilling Safety Tips
Before you get started, you’ve gotta know some crucial grilling safety tips:
- Don’t use any kind of grill in an enclosed area, such as a garage or inside a tent. All grills produce carbon monoxide fumes, which can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they build up in an area without good ventilation. Fresh air is a must!
- Keep your grill away from flammable materials like plants, fabrics and wood, and position it a safe distance away from any buildings.
- Place your grill on a flat surface, and make sure it’s somewhere that it won’t accidentally get bumped or jostled. This is especially important if children or pets will be around while you’re grilling.
- Follow the rules of food storage and prep safety. Keep foods refrigerated at the right temperature before you grill them, and don’t use the same utensils or surfaces for raw and cooked meats.
For more on how to grill safely, see our grilling safety tips roundup.
Getting to Know the Different Types of Grills
Grills are classified based on what kind of fuel they use. Each type works differently and requires different cooking techniques. That means the first part of mastering the grill is knowing how to use the type you’re cooking on. Here are the major types of grills, plus a basic rundown of how each one works:
Charcoal grills burn lumps of partially burned wood. (Many people use charcoal briquettes, but we highly recommend lump charcoal instead!) Food rests on a grate over the burning charcoal, and the pitmaster regulates the temperature by opening and closing the grill’s vents to control airflow. Charcoal grills come in lots of different varieties, including kamado ceramic grills, a popular style that features a heat-retaining ceramic liner.
Pellet grills burn tiny, compressed pellets of hardwood in an internal burn pot. A fan then circulates the hot air throughout the grill. Together, the radiant heat and convection help the food cook smoothly and evenly. Controlling cooking temperatures is as simple as entering your desired temp on the digital controller!
Gas grills burn compressed gases (usually propane) to produce flames. The pitmaster controls the temperature of the flame by turning the knobs on the front of the grill. Some gas grill models, like the Grilla Primate, offer a classic flat-top griddle experience as well.
Each type of grill has its own passionate defenders. Grilla Grills offers all three types because, frankly, all three are awesome! For more about the differences, make sure to see our ultimate grill buying guide.
Supplies You Need to Start Grilling
When you step behind the grill, what are the essential supplies that you should come prepared with? We cover this topic in more depth in our grilling essentials guide. For now, let’s go with a basic list that looks like this:
There are tons of other grill accessories that can make your life easier and your food even more delicious. However, these are enough to get off to a great start.
Lighting Your Grill
Depending on the type of grill, lighting the fuel can actually be the most challenging part. Here’s the fundamentals of how to do it, based on what type of grill you’re using:
Note: If you’re cooking on a brand new grill, make sure you season your grill first!
First, ditch the lighter fluid — your food is better off without it and it will damage the ceramic lining if you’re using a kamado grill. If you follow our recommendation to use lump charcoal, all you need is some natural firestarters, plus a grill lighter or matches. Place the charcoal in your grill and then toss in some of your firestarters, light them and open the grill’s dampers all the way. For more tips, see our guide to lighting charcoal.
Make sure the grill’s hopper is filled with high quality wood pellets. Open the lid of your pellet grill, turn it on and set your desired temperature. Your grill’s fuel system will start to push pellets into the burn pot, where the igniter will light them. Watch your grill’s digital display to see when it hits the correct temperature. If your temperature isn’t rising after a few minutes, you might need to prime your pellet grill.
Open the lid of your gas grill. Twist the valve of the gas supply until it’s in the open position. Turn the valves for the burners you want to light to their open position. Press the igniter button to start fuel flowing and light your burners.
Every grill is a little different, so be sure to check your grill’s owner’s manual before lighting it for the first time. Grilla Grill owners should check out our online quick start toolboxes for expert tips and tricks specific to your grill model.
Understanding Grilling Temperatures
Understanding the temperature of your grill and your meat is one of the most important parts of the whole grilling process. You need to be familiar with two different kinds of temperatures: the surface temperature of the grill and the internal temperature of the food. The grill’s surface temperature is the temperature at the level where the food is cooking. Before you start grilling, check the recommended surface temp for your food. Monitor your surface temps throughout the grilling process using the thermometer or digital temperature display built into your grill. If you’re using a WiFi pellet grill like the Grilla Silverbac, you’ll even have access to an app that allows you to monitor your grill temperature remotely!
The internal temperature is the temperature inside the food itself. Food should always be cooked at least to the USDA’s minimum safe internal temperature. For fast-cooking grill staples like burgers and hot dogs, your food will hit the minimum safe temperature with no trouble as long as your surface temps are right. However, getting the correct internal temperature can be harder for low and slow cooking, especially thick cuts like brisket or pork butt. If you’re getting into smoking, we highly recommend using the built-in meat probe on every Grilla Grill with the Alpha Connect app to monitor your temperatures. You’ll be able to dial your temps up and down remotely and even set an alarm if temperatures leave your preferred range.
When Is My Food Done?
Judging when food is done can be tricky. For a lot of beginners, the easiest way is to follow the times listed in a recipe. Most grill recipes tell you approximately how long you should leave your food on the grill, including when to flip it. Try setting a timer on your phone to get the timing just right. With some foods, there are telltale signs that the cooking process is finished. For example, if a rack of ribs starts to break apart when you pick it up with tongs, it’s almost certainly ready to rock! Double-check your recipe to find out if there are any key signs you should be watching for.
However, if you’re ever unsure about whether your food is done, an instant-read thermometer is your best friend. It’s easy: Check the temperature chart again and then insert the thermometer probe into the center of whatever you’re cooking. Even experienced BBQ chefs use a thermometer to check internal temps, simply because it’s much more accurate than just guessing!
What Should I Grill?
That’s completely up to you! However, it makes sense to start off with some beginner-friendly recipes to learn your way around a grill and develop your skills. A great recipe will help you learn crucial techniques, from seasoning to marinating to identifying when it’s done. These are some of our favorite simple pellet grill recipes:
- No Flip Burgers: Make your first pellet grill burger one to remember with our No Flip Burgers, which embrace the miracle of low and slow cooking. With a simple recipe and delicious results, our burgers offer the perfect way to learn your way around a pellet grill.
- Easy Thick Cut Pork Chops: Want a recipe that’s guaranteed to impress but insanely simple to pull off? Then you want this pork chop recipe, which will knock everyone’s socks off with its juicy deliciousness.
- Grilla’d Chicken Wings: These magically crispy wings will be a hit at dinner, at your next cookout or on game day. Serve with your favorite wing sauce or try our legendary Grilla Thick & Bold BBQ Sauce for a flavor explosion right out of the bottle.
- No Wrap Ribs: Ribs don’t have to be complicated! This no wrap rib recipe will give you smoky, savory ribs that will make your guests swear you’ve been grilling for years.
- Beer Can Chicken: Beer is the secret ingredient to many good things, but who knew a half-full can of beer was the secret to tender grilled chicken? Our recipe is ideal for cooking your first chicken on the grill, especially if you’re feeding a larger group.
You can only pick up so much grilling know-how from reading about it. Eventually, you’ve gotta get behind the grill and try it yourself! When you do, we have total confidence that you’ll absolutely kick butt at it.
If you’re just beginning your grilling career, a Grilla Grill is the perfect way to get started! Our designers are BBQ fanatics, and our grills are designed to turn you into one, too. With the user-friendly design of a Grilla Grill, newbies can jump right in and start serving up scrumptious burgers, wings, ribs and more.
Check out our full selection of Grilla Grills and find your favorite. Hungry to learn some more advanced grill skills? See our guide to the top grilling techniques of pro pitmasters.