8 Grilling Hacks That Will Make You Feel Like a Meal Prep Genius

updated May 20, 2020
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Summer is the season where casseroles are out and charcoal is in, and that means a change in how we prep and plan meals for the coming week. Meal prep sessions are now about making marinades and chopping vegetables down to size. It doesn’t matter if you grill your food in advance or have it ready to hit the flames, there’s always another smart strategy that can make make you a savvy griller. Here are eight of the smartest meal prep tips we’ve found for the grill.

Credit: Kelli Foster

1. If you do only one thing, freeze pre-soaked wooden skewers.

Do you want to keep bamboo skewers from burning before your eyes? You have to soak them for at least 30 minutes before grilling, but no matter how many years I’ve been grilling, it’s a simple step that’s easy to forget — until now. Instead of soaking a few skewers every time you grill, take a little time during your next meal prep session to soak and freeze them in bulk. Remove pre-soaked skewers from the freezer when it is time to grill and start cooking. Your future self will thank you!

Read more: A Simple Trick for Always Having Wooden Skewers on Hand

Credit: Lauren Volo

2. Prep kebabs, then grill straight from the freezer.

Everyone enjoys eating food off of sticks, but when that food can be made in advance and cooked straight from the freezer, that’s true love. Meal prep the kebabs by cutting chicken or steak and vegetables into bite-sized pieces and assembling separate skewers for each ingredient. Most importantly, flash freeze the kebabs in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. When you prepare them this way you can grill just what you need straight from the freezer, no thawing required.

Try it: How to Make and Freeze Kabobs for the Grill

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3. Prep ribs with a spoon and a paper towel (yes, seriously!).

All of the best smoked ribs have one thing in common: The cook remembered to remove the membrane. The thin membrane on the underside of the rib never softens, even after hours of cooking, so it is best to discard it early. Slide the tip of a spoon between the bone and membrane to release a small section, then grab the membrane with the paper towel and pull to remove. Once the membrane is gone, the ribs are ready for seasoning.

Get the recipe: How to Make the Best Smoked Ribs

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

4. Metal cooling racks double as the ultimate grill basket.

From sandwiches and pizzas, to salads and hummus bowls, there are very few meals that can’t be improved upon with grilled vegetables. But to get that charred flavor you risk losing them between the grates or steaming them in a sub-par grill basket. The solution: Grab an uncoated metal cooling rack. Yes, the same kind you use for freshly baked cookies! Place the cooling rack directly on the grill grates to support tomatoes, mushrooms, and other pint-sized produce.

Read more: The Very Best Grill Basket Is Probably Already in Your Kitchen

Credit: Shelly Westerhausen

5. Anytime you’ve got a lemon out, go ahead and slice another one.

Your meal prep plan probably includes juicing lemons for vinaigrettes, so while lemons are on the cutting board, go ahead and slice one more. There’s no need to buy a fancy fish basket or risk fish sticking to the grill when you can elevate and infuse them with flavor at the same time. Use thin citrus slices as a barrier between the grill grates and flaky fish fillets.

Read more: Here’s How To Easily Keep Fish from Sticking to the Grill

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

6. Any time you fire up the grill, toss on a (foil-wrapped) head of garlic.

Grilled garlic is proof that the best meal prep happens when you already have the grill fired up to cook a meal. It’s everything you love about the rich, buttery softness of roasted garlic, but a hint of smoky char from the grill. You’ll cut a head of garlic in half, drizzle it with olive oil, season it with salt, wrap it in foil, and place it on the grill over indirect heat while you’re grilling dinner. Throughout the week use grilled garlic cloves for salad dressing or sauce, rub it onto warm bread or corn on the cob, toss it with pasta, or partner it with chicken or fish.

Read more: How (and Why) You Should Grill a Whole Head of Garlic

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

7. Get a jump on greasing grill grates.

When preparing food for the week, it’s best to anticipate every step that can be accomplished early. While you can’t oil the grill now, you can assemble the supplies. The options for greasing grill grates are slim, but your choices go beyond spraying aerosolized oil into the flames or singing the bristles of a pastry brush. Roll an old kitchen towel into a bundle and tie with twine. When ready to grill, dip the bundle in oil and use tongs to hold the bundle and wipe the grates. Store the bundle in the freezer in a zip-top bag to prevent the oils from going rancid and to be ready for your next grill session.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

8. Slow cook meat before firing up the grill.

Love the flavor of slow-smoked meat, but just can’t find the time? Use the slow cooker and grill in tandem to guarantee meat is cooked to perfection before moving to the grill for the finishing touch. Pre-cook the meats in your slow cooker when you prep for the week, then reheat and finish on the grill. It’s an especially helpful strategy for larger cuts of meat and even sausages, and guarantees they’re tender, flavorful, and evenly cooked.

Read more: Why the Slow Cooker is the Secret to Great Grilled Meats