The ebb and flow of coronavirus lockdown restrictions and the continued importance of social distancing may mean most of us haven’t hosted big group barbecues this year, but we’ve definitely been grilling. And even though Labor Day is finally upon us, there’s likely to be plenty of grilling season left to enjoy before it gets too cold and wet outside. So here’s where you’ll find all the best BBQ tips and intel (with recipes too, of course).
Grilling and barbecuing are synonymous with summer, and appeal to some primal part of us: meat, fire, feasting outdoors. What’s not to love? Whether you’re a self-proclaimed pitmaster, backyard griller extraordinaire, or just an avid eater of BBQ, there’s a lot to learn about the art and science of grilling. From the differences between wood and charcoal and the knowledge of when to use the lid on your grill, to the nuances of regional barbecue sauce styles and international BBQ techniques (not to mention coverage of things you didn’t even realize you could grill), we’ve got everything you need to know about grilling and barbecue right here.
Most are timeless topics, but this year, you’ll also need tips on how to safely host a BBQ (and whether you really should). But even if you’re just grilling for one or two, the rest of these pointers will serve you well all summer long—and beyond.
Below, you’ll find a wealth of information broken down into the following categories:
- Grokking Grilling: BBQ Basics
- The Best Grills, Grilling Accessories & BBQ Tools
- Getting (Barbecue) Saucy
- The Joy of Grilling Fruit, Veggies, Pizza & Dessert
- The Meat of the Matter: Protein Pointers
Before we branch out into all the finer points of barbecue, let’s get back to BBQ basics.
If you’re new to BBQ (or at least to grilling), start here—this handy guide will cover all the bases so you can grill with confidence even if it’s your first time. See our Guide to Grilling: How to Become a Barbecue Expert.
The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are entirely different things. Learn the important distinctions so you can school everyone at your next cookout. What Is the Difference Between Barbecuing and Grilling?
It’s not just for desperately smothering flare-ups. Find out the ideal times to close it up even when the food’s not on fire: When to Use Your Grill Lid.
Everyone prefers one or the other, but is one objectively better? We break down the differences to help you settle the score—or at least decide which type of grill is right for you. Read about The Difference Between Charcoal and Gas for Grilling.
Yet another question of fuel: wood vs charcoal. Which is better? That depends—and sometimes they’re best when they’re working together. Find out about The Difference Between Wood and Charcoal for Grilling.
The American south may be the first place you think of when you think BBQ, but the Midwest has its own grilling traditions too. James Beard Award-nominated chef Thomas Boemer explains, and gives some great tips on barbecuing (wherever you are). Learn about What Grilling Means in the Midwest.
The rest of the world also has delicious BBQ and grilling customs, from Korean barbecue to South African braai. Take a virtual world BBQ tour and try a global grilling recipe next time you fire up your barbie. See our Guide to International Barbecue Styles.
While we’re on the subject of trying new things, if you’ve never used your wok on the grill, now is the perfect time. It makes for some of the best stir-fry possible at home. See our Guide to Grilling with a Wok.
If you’re going to the trouble of grilling, a couple hamburgers might not feel worth it—so add a few more items to the fire for tomorrow night’s dinner. It’s a smart strategy to maximize your return and save time later too. See How to Use Your BBQ for Meal Prep.
Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean you have to miss out on grilling season; these Cheap BBQ Ideas and Recipes will help keep you and your wallet full.
The Best Grills, Grill Accessories, BBQ Tools & Services
When you’re ready to get into the grilling game, you need the right equipment. From the best grills to the best marinades, and even prime meat delivery services, this should help set you up for success.
Related Reading on CNET: Don’t Miss These Great Labor Day Meat Delivery Deals
For when you need new tech but don’t want to burn a lot of money. Check out The Best BBQ Tools Under $25.
Harness the wisdom of the crowd to help you find a new grill and everything to go with it. See The Best-Selling Grilling Tools and Accessories on Amazon.
Get chef recommendations on a few more grilling essentials for the season. Check out The Best Grill Accessories for Summer.
Trying to decide which type of grill to get? See the pros and cons of all the major options—and not just gas and charcoal. Get our Guide to Different Types of Grills.
Because sometimes good things—and good grills—come in small packages. Get our picks for The Best Compact Grills for Small Spaces.
Don’t have a good local source of high-quality meat? No problem, since you can have it delivered right to your door. See our round-up of The Best Meat Delivery Services for 2020.
A good soak (or dip) in a flavorful marinade improves most meats, seafood, and veggies. So get our picks for The Best Marinades You Can Buy for Steak, Chicken, Pork, and More.
Go on, rub it in. In the case of grilling, it’s a good thing. Check out The Best Dry Rubs You Can Buy for Every Type of Meat and Seafood.
Never wonder what you should grill tonight again—at least not for long, when you have one of these fantastic BBQ cookbooks to consult. See our picks for The Best Summer Grilling & BBQ Cookbooks.
What is BBQ without BBQ sauce? Ideally, still pretty delicious, but who doesn’t love getting slathered in saucy goodness? Break out the Wet-Naps and dive right in.
From Kansas City style BBQ sauce to Alabama’s white sauce, get to know Regional Barbecue Sauce Styles Across America.
Stepping back for a minute, where did barbecue as we know it even come from? Did it have a single origin, a one true birthplace? Find out in A Brief History of BBQ.
North and South Carolina BBQ sauces are each distinctive, and delicious. Grab a roll of paper towels and get elbow-deep into our Guide to Carolina Barbecue Sauce.
Most barbecue sauce is some shade of red, maybe mustard-yellow in S.C.—but go to Alabama and it’s likely to be bright white. How did that happen (and what’s in it anyway)? Find out All About Alabama White BBQ Sauce.
You could argue all day about which style of BBQ is best (well, some people could), but we’re picking one fight in particular: Georgia vs South Carolina. Choose a side and join in on our Battle of the Barbecue: Best BBQ in the South.
If you’ve gone keto (or paleo), you may have said bye-bye to BBQ sauce, since most kinds are sugar-heavy. But you do have options for slathering your meat in sticky, delicious sauce that won’t break your diet. Check out our round-up of The Best Keto BBQ Sauce You Can Buy.
How to Grill Fruit, Veggies, Pizza, Dessert & Everything That Isn’t Meat
Meat may be the star of the show at most BBQs, but there’s a whole lot else you can grill. Here’s how.
Like to start your meal with a salad? You can grill that too. See our Guide to Grilling Romaine Lettuce.
Summer corn is essential, and summer corn on the grill is chef kiss-worthy—if you do it right. Here’s How to Cook Corn on the Grill.
Another summer produce all-star, watermelon happens to take surprisingly well to the fire. See How to Make Grilled Watermelon.
Because watermelon is only the beginning; open that gateway and you’ll want to throw everything on the grill, from cherries and peaches to strawberries—and you should. Learn How to Grill Summer Fruit.
One Chowhound likens a properly seared avocado to vegan foie gras, and you can use them in all kinds of ways, including grilled guac. See Grilled Avocado Recipes and Tips.
Unless you have a wood-fired pizza oven (in which case, can we come over?), your grill is actually the best place to cook your pizza at home. Learn all the fundamentals of Grilling Pizza.
There are many other delicious carbs you can cook on the grill too, as these Grilled Bread Recipes prove.
In case you want to ditch the crust—give “grilled cheese” a whole new meaning when you cook everyone’s favorite dairy product directly on the grill. Find out How to Grill Halloumi and Other Cheese.
Is fish meat? Sort of, but…sort of not—salmon steaks are in a whole ‘nother realm than porterhouses, at least. So when you’re in the mood for surf over turf, learn How to Grill Seafood. And check out some chef tips for the best fish to grill.
When meat is not on any part of the menu, there are still lots of meatless BBQ options, from tofu to veggie burgers. See some pointers on Grilling Meatless Meals Everyone Will Love.
From the most common mistake people make with plant-based meat to the one thing you should always do with your grilled veggies, these are the Best Vegan BBQ Tips from Chefs.
Fruit is not the only sweet treat you can grill (but it does appear in a lot of these desserts, because it’s seriously so. Good). When dinner’s done, see How to Grill Dessert.
The Meat of the Matter
Naturally, we must give meat its due (and some would say we saved the best for last—but we also pay respects to meatless alternatives, because BBQ is for everyone!).
There’s nothing wrong with keeping things basic, but you can do better than your average supermarket frank or patty. With a premium on great flavor and a sustainable provenance, here are the Best Hot Dogs and Hamburgers to Buy This Grilling Season.
Want to take matters into your own hands? We spoke to some chefs about pairing marinade ingredients with their perfect protein partners. See our primer on How to Marinate Meat for Grilling, According to Chefs.
Beyond the obvious, do you know what each one does for your meat (and veggies)—and when you should use which? Learn all about The Difference Between Rubs and Marinades.
Smoking meat can be intimidating for beginners, but here’s a basic overview so you can DIY with confidence. Learn How to Smoke Meat.
You also have the option of signing up for a 16-part pro course in Texas BBQ from barbecue guru Aaron Franklin—but he shared some tips and tricks with us too. See Aaron Franklin’s Texas BBQ Tips.
Carryover cooking is real—here’s how to deal with that and other common grilling pitfalls, courtesy of Tom Perini. See Meat Grilling Mistakes to Avoid.
Rack up major points with smoked and grilled BBQ ribs. Here’s everything you need to know about How to Make the Best Baby Back and Spare Ribs Ever.
Everyone thinks they know how to grill a burger, but many are wrong. Learn the Secrets to Juicy Grilled Burgers.
We can’t pick favorites, but our community sure can—here are the grilling recipes they’ve loved most over the years. See The Most Popular Grilling & BBQ Recipes on Chowhound.
And don’t forget wine pairings—wine can be tricky to match with barbecue, but we picked the best bottles for the job. See The Best Affordable Wines to Serve with BBQ and Grilled Food.
Tried of hot dogs and plain old steaks? See some more interesting (and potentially divisive) options for your next barbecue. Check out 9 Unusual Things to Grill at Your Next BBQ.
From the Impossible Burger to good old veggie sausages, there are plenty of options for meatless grilling—but some are far better than others. See our picks for The Best Meat Alternatives to Grill This Summer. (And if you like to DIY, check out some of the best veggie burger recipes.)
Because the party has to end sometime, but you don’t want to waste any precious bits left behind. Luckily, you can transform everything, from brisket and BBQ chicken to your leftover potato salad, into delicious lunch and dinner the next day. See What to Do with Leftover BBQ.
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