11 Common Grilling Questions, Answered by Our Experts

Ready to fire up your grill? Whether you're a newbie or seasoned pro, our guide for all the tips and tricks you'll need for success.

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Even the best grill masters need some guidance sometimes. We've got you covered. From grilling burgers and sausages to preheating, we've tapped our experts to help you tackle all your burning questions. find what you need in this FAQ, so you can focus on relaxing and enjoying your food — not stressing about how it’s made.

What are the best foods to grill?

You can cook just about anything outside that you cook inside, giving you enough variety to keep things interesting all summer. Besides standards like steaks and hot dogs, think about turning to pork and beef cuts, lamb chops opens in a new tab, seafood, poultry and fruits, veggies and plant-based burgers.

What's the easiest food to grill?

Sausages — like our fresh house-made ones — and ribs are great since their flavor and moderate fat content are ideal for flame cooking. (More on ribs later!) Burgers are also an all-time favorite, easy to flip and fun to dress up, whether they’re beef, bison, pork, salmon or veggie. Whole Foods Market offers a selection of seasoned beef burgers, like our steakhouse, bourbon peppercorn and blue cheese bacon burgers that can keep you experimenting all season. Stop by the meat counter to check out our Animal Welfare Certified options.

Okay, but what about ribs on the grill? Pork ribs can be seasoned and cooked over indirect heat (see below) until tender, usually one to two hours, then basted with a barbeque sauce and quickly grilled over low flame until browned and delicious. Beef short ribs are also a great cut to grill and cook up quickly.

I follow a vegan diet. What can I grill?

Veggies, fruits, tofu — you name it. Grilling concentrates the flavors of vegetables and fruits, which makes them some of our favorite things to grill. And the smoky-sweet flavor of grilling gives plant-based burgers (like the plant-based Beyond Meat Burger opens in a new tab) more cred than just about any other way of cooking them; find out more about meat substitutes and how to grill them here.

How long does it take to preheat a grill?

For charcoal grills, light the coals 30 to 40 minutes before you want to start cooking. Gas grills will need 10 to 15 minutes to preheat.

Can I grill when it’s cold outside?

Absolutely! Just allow more time — up to 50 percent more — for both preheating and for cooking, and use your grill covered. Bad weather? You don’t have to cancel your grilling plans. You can also use a stovetop grill pan inside if your kitchen has adequate ventilation.

What utensils do I need to grill?

Long-handled tongs, a long-handled spatula, a basting brush and a stiff wire brush for cleaning the grill grate are your essentials. Other handy tools include metal skewers for kabobs, a grill basket for delicate or small foods and an instant-read thermometer for checking doneness.

How can I keep food from sticking?

Clean grates are vital. Brush the grate with a wire brush before and after preheating to remove the most burnt-on food particles. Then you can oil the grate (before the grill is lit) by holding a folded towel in tongs, dipping it in neutral oil and rubbing it across the grill grate. Finally, a coating of oil on your food will also ensure it cooks without sticking.

Direct heat, indirect heat: What’s the difference?

The direct heat method cooks food directly over the flames; indirect heat cooks food over a hot but flame-free area. Direct heat cooks foods quickly, typically forming a browned, caramelized crust within minutes. Indirect heat cooks more slowly, developing exceptional flavor and tenderness without flare-ups and charring. Generally, thinner, leaner foods are cooked over direct heat, while thicker or fatty foods (think skin-on poultry) are cooked with indirect heat.

Do I need rubs or marinades?

Not always; grilling adds a lot of flavor in and of itself, so often a generous sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper is all you need for delicious food. But rubs and marinades add great flavor and often contain ingredients like salt, acid and oil that can help tenderize and help keep meats juicy.

How do I know if my food is done?

An instant-read thermometer is the most accurate way for larger cuts of meat. It’ll also help you determine if the meat has been prepped to your desired degree of doneness. Simply follow these temperature guidelines opens in a new tab from the USDA.

What are some safety tips I should know about?

Never grill in loose or flammable clothing, especially floppy sleeves. Never leave your grill unattended. Never place a grill near anything flammable like vegetation, wood or paper. And never dump hot coals anywhere; wait at least 24 hours before removing ash from a charcoal grill.

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