Grilling used to be a very mysterious way of cooking to me, but over the past few years, I've slowly become more confident at the grill. I've even taken on larger projects, like using it as a rotisserie and deep-frying on it.
I also live in a building with a communal grill, and while it's been fun to meet my neighbors and share grilling recipes, there's one mistake I've observed many first-time or very-occasional grillers make.
The one thing you can easily do that will help you be more successful at grilling?
When grilling, keep the cover on as much as you can!
Why Grill Covered?
I know most photos of people grilling show them huddled around an open grill loaded up with meat, flames licking the sides, but for most foods, grilling them covered means that food cooks faster and more evenly.
Think of the grill as an outdoor oven that uses an open flame. When you're baking, you would never think of leaving the oven door open, right? All that precious heat escapes, and that's the same thing that happens with a grill. Fuel gets wasted and food just takes longer to cook if the lid's off, plus it's hard to get some great char marks and browning if the grill isn't hot enough. Check on food, flip it, move it around if you must, but keep the lid on as much as you can.
What If There's No Grill Cover?
There are times when you just don't have a grill cover, like if you're camping or grilling on a park grill. Don't fret! Bring along a deep disposable foil tray and just place it upside-down over the food as it's grilling. Problem solved.
What Foods Don't Need a Cover While Grilling?
Some fast-cooking foods that just need a quick sear don't need to be covered if you're going to keep an eye on it. The following foods are all fine to grill without a lid: pizza dough before you top it, burgers if you want to keep the insides relatively rare, or fragile foods (like fruits) that you don't want to get too mushy.
You'll see a big difference in grilling foods when you remember to put the lid on. Remember this rule of thumb if you're sharing grill space with others, too!