True Rules of Grilling

True Rules of Grilling

The McCormick Grill Mates Grillerhood on Facebook is compiling a list of “True Rules of Grilling” and here’s where we can be a part of it. That’s you, our readers, and us.

Here is our submission for a True Rule of Grilling:

Always keep a “cold zone” on your grill.

In case of flare-ups, or if you think a meat is cooking too fast, you’ll have a “cold zone” to move the meat to while you make adjustments.

On a charcoal grill, this may involve building your hot fire with most of the coals to the left side for high heat, and some coals in the middle for lower heat, while you have no coals on the right side for the “cold zone”. This technique is also known as a “3 Zone Fire”.

On a gas grill, you can accomplish this by having one burner OFF to create the “cold zone”.

What do you think about this “True Rule”? Do you practice the multi-zone method of building your fire? Do you have a “cold zone” for safety?

We also encourage you to add your own “True Rule of Grilling”. All submissions will be considered and the end result of this discussion will be added to the Grillerhood on Facebook by McCormick.

What is the ONE THING you think is an important grilling tip or technique?

Click here to tell us!

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  1. An easy trick, especially if your having a party and need to feed a lot of hungry people quickly…..When grilling chicken (with bones), possibly with the exception of wings, cook the marinaded (or rubbed) meat through for about an hour at 375 in the oven first in a foil covered pan, with a little liquid in the bottom of the pan (I use Sprite, orange juice, apple juice or beer), THEN move to the grill for a nice sear with your favorite sauce. This provides the best fall off the bone chicken, and a nice char on the skin, without burning or undercooking.
    Unless of course you’re long smoking the chicken.

    1. Nice tip Tom! I hate to admit, that our ribs in the oven BEFORE grilling are the best, and ditto with wings. Roast in the oven before grilling = winner!

      Thanks for chiming in!

      1. Unfortunately, with the oven method you lose that much-needed smoke flavor. I cannot eat non-smoked ribs. There’s just that feeling of something ‘missing” when do.

        1. I have to agree with you about the lack of smoke, Scott. But after the ribs come out of our oven, and when placed on the grill, we smoke the heck out of them.

          I think you just inspired me to try a 3-2-1 (sort of) method of cooking ribs. A couple of hours in smoke on the grill / smoker, a couple of hours in the oven to really cook them thru, then finish on the grill for the char and sauce.

          But we digress and get off topic. 🙂

          1. And you can always throw some smoke on finished meat with the Smoking Gun, that’s a handy tool to have around.

      2. Opinions being the rule, Most Proffessional rib “chefs” say that when you bite into a rib, the rib should not “fall” off the bone, there should be a place “bite” off the rib.

        I, for one, tend to agree, because in my “opinion” the texture of the meat, when enjoying the rib, is better at that stage of the cooking.

        My secret to achieve this, is similar to the “cook slow, then finish with a sear”, method.

        works for me… you should try it!
        Rub the ribs with your favorite seasoning (mine has Brown sugar, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper.)
        Slowwwwww smoke (or cook however you choose; oven ,grill, smoker, etc.,) the wonderful ribs at 190F to 225F (about 3 hours) to an internal temp of 155F.

        My preference is, smoke with Apple or Hickory and Oak.

        then you can Sear over charcoal adding the sauce if preferred at this time. Or I have Frozen them from two days to 2 wks before finishing them off with the sear! (Thaw first)

        What a pleasant surprise for everyone, seared on charcoal with my favorite rib sauce!!

        1. Hey Shaun, that’s a great tip. I especially like the idea of freezing the partially cooked ribs, to be grilled later. I’ve never tried it and would love to get a few more details from you as to how you do it.
          We have a Vacu-seal machine. So, any further advice you have would be awesome.

    2. When I grill with charcoal, I always use a weber charcoal starter. I always set my grill up for indirect heat. All my coals are on one side of the grill. Usually if a am cooking whole chicken or a roast I put a pan of water direclty under them.When I cook steaks or beef roast I will start out putting them on the hot side(direct heat) to sear them then transfer them to the indirect side. The drippings in the pan below can be used for a sauce. You can subsitute the water in the pan with wine or a broth or any liquid you desire. If you have a large enough grill(I have a 22 inch) you can cook a vegitable on the indirect side while cooking your meat. A great side is a baked potato. A tip for grilling the potato is to wrap them(individually)in a wet paper towel then wrap them in tin foil. If I am cooking a large roast or chicken I will put the potato on the indirect side wih them. BE GOOD,BE SAFE, BE A GRILLER.

  2. Buy Rubs and Sauces made by BBQ Teams. The cutting edge of BBQ is found on the Competition Circuit. These Rubs and Sauces are just getting “Out of This World!” BBQ is getting better by the day and the same thing that was the best yesterday may have gotten better. The right rub and sauce will send your BBQ to the next level! Get in touch and find the best. Hot Sauce Weekly is a great place to stay up with this!!


    1. Darryl, you make a great point. The rubs and sauces from the BBQ comp teams are absolutely some of the best offerings around.

  3. For grilling, I think heat management is key. For most chicken and beef, I like to set up grill so it’s screaming hot at the start, and then I back off from that to a steady low-medium as I’m cooking. That way, what I’m grilling chars up a bit at first and then has a chance to cook slowly and soak in some of that smoke flavor from the coals as it cooks. For veggies, I slice them up to an even thickness and keep them on that low-medium the entire way — save for potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and the like, which I’ll par-cook beforehand and finish on the grill. Seafood is fast and hot the whole way if possible — less of a chance of it sticking that way.

    — Eyal
    Fat Cat Foods

    1. I should also mention that I’m a big fan of those grills where the coal bed is on a crank of sorts. That’s mostly what I use and it makes heat management easier. Want more heat? Just lift the coals closer to the meat. Want to keep things at a low simmer? Crank ’em down.


    2. I would put “heat management” and the 3 zone fire in the same category. Thanks for your input, Eyal.

      A friend of ours has one of those big pits inside his Man Cave. It’s pretty awesome.

  4. A few rules:
    Don’t let the food drop into the ashes.
    Don’t get completely drunk while cooking – you won’t enjoy/taste your food.
    Don’t serve undercooked food.

    It’s early in the season and I’ve witnessed the ill effects of the above at other BBQs already – not pretty.

    1. I agree, a good thermometer is essential. I sometimes forget to have a spray bottle handy, but I sure do remember it when I need it.

  5. I’ve found that lubricating your cooking surface with vegetable oil prior to cooking makes things a LOT easier.
    Oh, and of course, make sure you are enjoying a quality craft beer while grilling 🙂

    1. Sten, that reminds me of Steven Raichlen’s mantra “Keep it hot, keep it clean, keep it lubricated.”
      Oh, and the beer. A must have staple. You never know when a batch of brats is headed your way, and they’ll need a bath. 🙂

  6. One word, two syllables: GrillGrate. If you a grilling and not actually smoking use them. The results are just flat out better and they are worth the money.

  7. Here is a tip for lighting your charcoal in a chimney. Lightly Coat your newspaper in cooking oil this will create a torch like affect and allow your charcoal to get hotter faster reducing the time it takes to get ashed over,

    Also when grilling a lot of items at once make sure you leave room between them for even cooking and with chicken it aids in a good crispy skin.

  8. #1 Grilling tip:

    Put the meat on the grill grate and then…wait for it…LEAVE IT ALONE!!! Don’t get after it right away with your tongs or spatulas…let the meat tell YOU when it is ready to flip!



    1. Excellent point Greg! A certain “Top 3” Grilling Tip. Don’t futz with the burger/steak/chicken. Let it freakin’ cook.

      I would think the only exception would be brats/dogs/sausages… they almost demand to be rolled around and played with.

  9. Nothing can improve grilling like proper equipment. Nothing can save the skin and hair on your knuckles like a set of long tongs and a long spatula. If you can keep your hands away from the heat you will drastically improve your grilling experience and the food in the end.

    1. Ah, good tools. Yes. We have a set of tongs dedicated to just moving charcoal around.
      Great tip, Rex. Thanks.

  10. I agree, you should always have a “cold one” around the grill 🙂

    Ohhhhhh. Cold ZONE on the grill, well that too.

    1. Cold beer, cold zone, hot meat. Works for me! Thanks Chris!

      What’s your beer of choice? Me, I’m a pilsner man.

    1. Hey Todd! Makes me rue the day I bought a “PigTail” flipper tool. I’ve not used it once since bringing it home. We love our gadgets, but some are not worth it. 🙂

  11. My top grilling tips are:

    1. Learn how to use a 3 zone fire, especially when cooking for more than one or cooking more than one type of food.
    2. Cook meats to temperature, not by time. There are lots of variables that can make 10 minutes for one piece of meat not provide the same doneness as 10 minutes for another. And, as already stated, use a good thermometer.
    3. Let the meat rest when it’s off the fire. Put it under a foil tent for at least 5 minutes, and the meat will be juicier and better just from that resting period.

    1. Those are 3 really important tips. Thanks Curt!

      I’m with ya on #1 – The 3 zone fire is what I started this thread with, and will probably be the rule I submit to the Grillerhood page.

      #2 – Absolutely cook to temp, using a good thermometer.

      #3 – Excellent tip! I’m so guilty of not always doing this step. The foil tent is perfect.

  12. The meat will crust, Butts, Brisket, Ribs will crust and the juice is inside, breaking that crust will let the juice run out. That is one reason Pig Tails are used to turn meat it won’t break that crust, Ribs put them on for 70 minutes, wrap put them on for 65 minutes, unwrap put on with sauce for 30 minutes, and then glaze them and 20 minutes more. When you wrap them they will have a crust between 70 and 60 change that is where not breaking the crust comes in. Then when they are all done Let the Butts. Brisket rest and all those juices go back in. That is the magic of BBQ!! Don’t Break the crust!

  13. Thank you readers! I started this post with my True Rule of Grilling as “Keep a 3 zone fire…” but the overwhelming comment was “Cook meat to temp using a quality digital thermometer”.

    That will be the submission to the Grillerhood on Facebook.

    Again, thanks for your input!

    Comments are now closed.

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