New to Grilling? Here Are the 5 Recipes to Master First

updated Jun 7, 2019
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Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

I love my grills. Both my charcoal and gas grills are welcome cooking companions from early spring into the fall. Not only do I adore the flavors the grill brings — adding smokiness and caramelization to everything it touches — but cooking outside and the minimal cleanup required makes grilling one of my favorite cooking methods.

My personal mission is to get more home cooks grilling. I’ve heard from friends and family that they find grilling intimidating or stressful, but a good grill truly is a busy cook’s best friend, especially when you feel confident enough to fire it up on a random weeknight.

Confidence is the secret to becoming a better grill cook at home, because a knowledgable griller has just a few essential recipes mastered and a friendly relationship with their personal grill. These five recipes will equip you with everything you need to know to become a more confident griller in just a few grilling sessions.

5 Essential Grilling Recipes To Make You a Confident Griller

Here is your mission: Choose one recipe at a time from this list and cook it three times this summer. The first try might feel like a failure — though you’ll at least have something tasty to eat. The second attempt will give you enough confidence to serve it to guests, so much so that by the third attempt you’ll be making small changes that will make each recipe uniquely yours. You can choose your own order and cadence — maybe you jump around a bit between vegetables and chops — but I highly suggest starting your mission with a round of grilled vegetables.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

Here’s the beauty of grilled vegetables as a starting point: their cost is relatively low and they’ll get you deeply acquainted with your grill very quickly. Learning your grill’s hot spots and knowing what to expect any time you fire it up will make you confident in which foods you stick on certain areas of the grill. For instance, whole grilled sweet potatoes do really well on the back right corner of my grill, where a hole for the rotisserie tool makes the grill quite a bit cooler.

Grilling vegetables will also teach you the best way to prep your ingredients before grilling. For example, zucchinis love to be cut into large, steak-like planks, while tomatoes are best with almost no prep before hitting the grill. This recipe will also show you the brilliance of a fresh, herby dressing paired with warm, charred vegetables.

Here’s another idea for getting acquainted with your grill’s hot spots: grilling a loaf of bread!

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

Barbecued chicken, the ubiquitous backyard BBQ staple, is actually going to give you more moxie than any recipe on this list. Why? Grilled chicken will take what you learned about your grill (its hot spots and cool spots) and put it to good use by showing you how to use different heat zones to cook meat all the way through, while keeping it juicy and crisping the skin to perfection.

Grilled chicken will also teach you what I like to call “zone seasoning.” You’re going to season the raw chicken with a tasty dry rub, then hit it with a two-ingredient baste on the grill and skip the barbecue sauce all together.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

If grilling confidence had a signature look, it would be grill marks. Sure, this pork chop recipe will make you a brilliant briner — something you really want to be as a newly appointed grill master — but it will also walk you through the right temperature and number of turns for vibrant grill marks over a perfectly cooked pork chop every time.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

Confident grillers cook salmon all the time — for Sunday meal prep, in front of their in-laws, even after a few white wine spritzers. Grilled salmon is a little like those trust-building exercises: you’ve taken the time to get comfortable with your grill and know when it’s hottest, you understand how to build a brine for juicier grilled meats, and now you’re going to set flaky salmon skin side down on a hot grill in the name of gorgeous char and even cooking.

Your sheer confidence will be rewarded with one of the best, easiest grilled salmon filets of all time — perfectly rosy with lightly caramelized grill marks. Go ahead and pour yourself another spritzer in celebration.

Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

Steaks are a master class in grilling. It’s not that they’re difficult, but they do require some upfront investment and unwavering confidence in your personal grill. Steaks from the grill are even better when you know the areas of your grill that run hot or cold, when you trust the rules of time and temperature, and when you don’t rest a grilled steak before slicing it.