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The weather is warming up and we’re coming into primetime outdoor cooking season. If you haven’t been grilling or smoking throughout the winter, you’re probably itching to fire up your grill.

But, just like the fact that there are some things to do to prep your grill for winter storage, there are also some important things to do when it comes to bringing it back out and getting your grill ready for summer.

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know when it comes to how to get a grill ready for summer cooking the right way.


Making Sure Your Grill is Ready to Go:

After being stored away for several months, properly getting your grill ready involves a little more than just knocking some dust off. Here are the steps to ensure your grill is ready to go:


Visually Inspect Your Cooker

The first place to start is to do a thorough once-over and look at every part of your cooker. Check for any rust or corrosion that may have built up while it wasn’t being used. If you do find some, it should be addressed before cooking again.

If your grill was covered while being stored away, you also want to look for any pests or critters that may have snuck in. Make sure to check the regulator hose/gas line opening on a propane grill and the hopper and auger on a pellet grill, as these are favorite hiding places for small insects and rodents.


Decide On Its Location for the Season

Before you get too far into taking apart your cooker, you want to decide where it is going to stay for the summer. Of course, you want to keep it away from your home or any other enclosed structures while you are cooking. 

If it is going to be staying outside and not under a covered porch etc, it is a good idea to invest in a good grill cover to keep it protected. Direct sunlight can quickly wear on the exterior and components. 


Make Sure It’s Clean


cleaning pellet grill | how to get your grill ready for summer | getting your grill ready for summerSource: Oklahoma Joe’s


Ideally, before you stored your grill or smoker away for the winter you did a thorough deep cleaning. Either way, it is important to make sure it is totally clean before firing it up again. 

You want to start from the inside and work your way out. It is best to take out any removable parts and clean them to ensure everything is good to go. For example, the grates, flame tamers and burner tubes (on gas grills), grease pan, ash catcher (on charcoal grills), etc.

It’s important to always keep your grease pan(s) clean to prevent any dangerous flare-ups and grease fires.

Once the interior components are all clean, make sure to clean and wipe down the interior of the cooking chamber as much as possible also. Then, wipe down the exterior of the cooker as well. Soapy water is the safest cleaning solution for most types of grill exteriors. Finally, make sure everything is thoroughly dried to avoid any rust.

Check out our article on properly deep cleaning a grill for more info.


Replace Parts as Necessary & Test the Grill

During your visual inspection, you should also be making note of any parts that may have gone bad (due to corrosion, rust, etc.). Oftentimes rust can be cleaned off but if a part is crumbling, it needs to be replaced.

The last thing you want to do is take the time deep cleaning your grill, putting it all back together, and firing it up just to find out a component has gone bad. Replacement parts are going to be a lot cheaper than getting a whole new grill.

Once you’ve cleaned your cooker and fully reassembled it, you’re ready to test it and start it up.

If you have a gas grill, check the state of the fuel lines. Look for any cracks and test them with the soap test. Hook up the gas lines and brush soapy water on the lines and the connections. If there is a loose connection or break in the line, a bunch of bubbles will start forming.

Once you get the grill or smoker fired up, let it run for about 15 minutes to burn off anything else that wasn’t completely removed during the cleaning process. Make sure to also test any electrical components to ensure everything is working properly.


Season Your Grill


seasoning a grill | how to get your grill ready for summer | getting your grill ready for summerSource: SABER Grills


An important part of getting a grill ready for summer is seasoning it. This will help keep grill grates protected from moisture (which causes rust) and premature wear, make cleaning easier moving forward, and help prevent food from sticking. 

To season, use a high-heat-resistant cooking oil like canola oil to coat the grates and interior of the grill. Then, fire up your cooker and get it to high-heat and let it run for about 30 minutes. 


Check Your Grilling Tools & Upgrade/Replace As Needed

There’s probably a good chance that if you haven’t used your grill or smoker in a while, your grilling tools and accessories haven’t been used either. Some of them may have even been stored with your cooker. So, go through everything you have and get rid of anything that has severely rusted or come apart. Clean everything up that you will be keeping to ensure it’s fresh and ready to go.

This is also a good opportunity to upgrade your tool selection with new things you may need or want to try, like cedar planks or a rotisserie rod attachment for example. At the very least, make sure you’ve got all the essentials you’ll need to cook.


Stock Up On Fuel


stocking up on charcoal | how to get your grill ready for summerSource: Tyrus, Komodo Kamado Forum


 The last thing to do to ensure your grill is ready for the summer is to make sure you’ve got plenty of your fuel on hand. Whatever type of grilling fuel source that might be. Check how much you currently have. 

If you have a propane grill, you want to always have one tank connected to your grill and one backup on hand at a minimum. If you have a charcoal or wood-burning grill or smoker, you want to have enough fuel on hand for two cooks.

You never want to run into a situation where you run out of your heat source mid-cook.

Pro-tip for propane tanks: If your propane grill doesn’t have a fuel gauge, just pour a glass of warm water down the side of the propane tank. Your fuel level is wherever the water starts to feel cool on the outside of the tank.


Be Ready To Fire Up Your Grill 

If you have followed all of the steps above, your grill or smoker should be in good shape now and ready to perform. Remember, a little maintenance along the way goes far. Burn off excess food residue after every cook and deep clean your grill every few months to help extend its life. Plus, then you won’t have to work so hard the next time you bring the grill out for the start of the outdoor cooking season.

Did you recently get your cooker out for your first cook in the warmer weather? Do you know of another tip when it comes to how to get your grill ready for summer? Let us know below. We want to hear from you!


When you’ve got your grill cleaned up and ready to go, make sure to check out the step-by-step online video classes with top Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. You can learn how to master the art of grilling and smoking everything from the perfect steak to a full packer brisket!

Also, make sure to check out and subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for all the latest from the world of competition BBQ and insider secrets from the pros.

BBQ rubs can do wonders in imparting additional flavors when you are barbecuing and smoking. A rub is simply just a dry blend of spices, herbs, seasonings, and/or peppers that are mixed together and used to coat the surface of the meat. Oils or other “wet” ingredients can then sometimes be used with the rub, technically making it a wet rub.

When used properly rubs can help amplify the natural, delicious flavor of your meats without overpowering them. For example, when it comes to Memphis-style or much of Texas-style barbecue, BBQ rubs take front and center stage.

Of course, there are some great premade rubs available for purchase, from BBQ rib rubs to BBQ beef rubs and everything in between. For example, the Sweet Rub O'Mine Texas Beef Rub from one of our pitmasters, Mark Lambert's, Sweet Swine O’ Mine Distributing.

But, to really have some fun with your outdoor cooking and get creative, why not try out a homemade BBQ rub? One huge advantage of making your own rub is that you monitor and control exactly what goes into it. You can experiment with different ingredients and determine what your favorite flavor profile is for different types of meat.

If you are wondering how to make a BBQ rub, we’ve got you covered with advice straight from the pro pitmasters. In this article, we’ll cover some quick tips on making homemade BBQ rub that you’ll love. Let’s take a look:


Start With The Basics

There are, of course, a lot of different ingredients that can work in a homemade BBQ rub. But, it’s important to start simple and start with the basics. Many great rubs are made around the foundation of the usual three core ingredients: salt, pepper, and garlic (known in the barbecue world as “SPG”).

Many good rub mixes will also add sugar to those three ingredients to give a good balance of savory and sweet.

Salt not only adds and enhances flavor, but it also draws moisture away from the outer part of the meat. This allows a nice seared crust to develop, locking the rest of the moisture in the interior of the meat and keeping it juicy.


Homemade BBQ Rub ingredients | BBQ rub recipe | How to make BBQ rub


Start with those three core ingredients and build and modify your rub from there. For example, if you’re going for a spicier rub, you may use less garlic and more pepper as well as additional ingredients. If you’re going for sweeter, use less pepper and garlic and add an additional ingredient or two for sweetness. Sugar helps create a caramelizing effect on the exterior of the meat but be careful not to use too much. High amounts of sugar in a rub can make it start to burn.

Other good rub ingredients can include things like turbinado sugar, roasted red pepper, paprika, ground mustard seed, ground coffee, or even dried and ground apple. But remember, simpler is better when you are first venturing into homemade rubs.


Use Ingredients That Are Fresh (Or At Least Not Out Of Date)

If you are taking the time to make a homemade BBQ rub, chances are you want to cook some quality barbecue. So, that desire for quality should also apply to the ingredients you use as well.

Dry spices, dried herbs, etc don’t last forever. They do lose their potency over time. So, the more fresh your ingredients are, the better tasting your rub will be. At a minimum, your ingredients don’t have to be brand new but you definitely don’t want to use ingredients that are out of date. Your rub will end up not having the level of flavor that you are really wanting.


Kick The Flavor Of Your Ingredients Up A Notch

So you know you’re going to get fresh ingredients, but you can elevate the flavors of the types of spices and herbs you want to use even more. Buy the ingredients whole and roast them in the oven or in a dry skillet. Then grind the toasted ingredients yourself. This will greatly amplify the flavors and quality of your homemade BBQ rub.


making Homemade BBQ Rub | How to make BBQ rub
Source: The Kitchn


Don’t Forget To Taste Test

Before your rub goes anywhere near your meat, always do a taste test of it first. This guarantees there won’t be any unpleasant surprises. You want to make sure the flavor profile of the rub is what you are wanting and is a pleasing combination. The last thing you want is to put the rub on the meat and be disappointed when you go to take your first bite after it’s done cooking.


Take Notes

When you’re experimenting and putting together your rub, take notes of what ingredients and how much of them you are using. If you put together a killer great-tasting rub, you want to be able to make more of it later. So, the only way to do that is to take notes of what you’re making.

Ideally, you want to have documented recipes of exactly what rub ingredients to put together for different flavor profiles you enjoy and the different meats to use them on.


Keep Your Leftover Homemade BBQ Rub Fresh

Once you’ve come up with a homemade BBQ rub recipe that you like, you can make a large batch of it and store any leftover for later use. Just make sure you date it! As we mentioned above, you don’t want to keep rubs and spices for too long. Dating your batch will ensure this doesn’t happen. A good rule of thumb is that anything more than six months old should be discarded.

To keep your leftover rub fresh, put it in a sealable plastic bag, and remove as much air as possible (better yet, vacuum seal it). Then store the bag in a cool, dry place, like your freezer or a dark pantry.


A Starting Point For How To Make A BBQ Rub:

After reading the tips above, you may still be looking for an exact starting place for how to make a BBQ rub.

This BBQ rub recipe below, from Weber Grills, is an all-purpose BBQ rub that utilizes the core ingredients of SPG with some great aromatics mixed in as well.

From this recipe, you can tweak it, replace ingredients or add in different things, and get creative. Then you will have made your own homemade BBQ rub to fit the type of flavors you are looking for.


  • ¼    cup light brown sugar

  • 1     tablespoon salt

  • 1     tablespoon black pepper

  • 1     tablespoon granulated garlic

  • 1     tablespoon paprika

  • 1     tablespoon onion powder

  • 1     teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1     teaspoon white pepper

  • 1     teaspoon cumin


BBQ rub recipe | Homemade BBQ Rub | How to make BBQ rub
Source: Weber


Try A Homemade BBQ Rub For Your Next Cooking Session

Making your own homemade BBQ rub can not only be fun but it’s very easy and opens you up to a lot of flexibility depending on the taste you are trying to achieve. Just follow these tips above, get creative, and elevate your barbecue today!

Check out our other great article here for tips on how and when to properly use your homemade BBQ rub when you are cooking.

Have you come up with a great homemade BBQ rub that you love? Been experimenting with different ingredients lately? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!

You can learn more insider BBQ tips and techniques and elevate your outdoor cooking game with the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. In our first of its kind online barbecue classes, you’ll learn step by step, in stunning video, everything you need to know to cook competition-worthy barbecue. Check out our All-Access pass to get the full inside look.

It’s the beginning of fall and that means some great things---football is back and racing is in the final stretch of the season. Almost even more importantly, it’s time to tailgate. In some places, the tailgating before and after the event is just as big as the game or race itself. 

Of course, the goal for anyone putting together a tailgate BBQ is to make sure there is plenty of food and that everyone is enjoying themselves. A huge part of that is making sure you’ve prepared properly and that you’ve got everything you or your friends and/or family will need. Whether it’s at the event itself or you’re planning to “tailgate” in the backyard for the big game.

In the moment, when you’re starting to prepare and get everything together, it can be easy to start to feel like you are forgetting something. This is where having a complete checklist of all of the tailgating essentials can be a life-saver. So, we’ve done the work for you! 

In this article, we’ll help you get prepared to show off your BBQ game and make sure you have all of the essentials for tailgating with a handy checklist:


Things To Consider First:

Before you start going through a tailgating essentials checklist, there are some things to consider first. Depending on certain factors, you may not need everything on the list or you may find you need to add a few things. 


Consider Any Stipulations of Your Tailgate Location Beforehand

When tailgating at an event, make sure you check any regulations or stipulations of the location. There may be regulations on certain types of grills or smokers, the size of the area you’ll have, if glass bottles are allowed, etc. All of these things will impact what you will need to bring or leave home.


The Time Will You Be Starting Your Tailgating

The part of the day that you plan on starting your tailgate will determine exactly what types of things you need to bring food and beverage-wise, utensils, etc. If it’s going to be an all-day affair that starts early in the day, plan for breakfast items and breakfast friendly drinks (think mimosas and bloody marys) as well as lunch and possibly even dinner for after the event. 

To really show off, select beers that pair best with the types of meat you’ll be serving. Check out our beer pairing article for more info.


tailgating essentials | tailgate essentials | tailgate BBQ partySource: PeachfullyChic


Where/When The Majority Of The Cooking Will Be Happening

Another thing that will impact your list of tailgate essentials is if you’re going to be cooking mainly at the event or if you’ll be cooking a lot of the food ahead of time. It’s best to stick to “simple” foods if you are cooking there at the event. Plan for food that will allow you to enjoy the time with your friends and/or family too. 

Trying to tackle smoking a brisket or ribs will be impossible unless you’re cooking it at home first. You can easily cook large meats like that ahead of time, time them to finish shortly before it is time to pack up and go, and hold them at temperature wrapped up and stored in a dry cooler. Then all you have to do is serve them at the event.

It also helps to do as much prep as possible beforehand. If you are cooking things at the event that have chopped ingredients, for example, go ahead and take care of that ahead of time and store them in containers. Then everything is ready to go. 


Food Safety

Another important thing to consider for the day is food safety. Keep in mind that you won’t have hot running water or refrigeration away from home. A set of good thermometers is imperative to have when tailgating. Keep cold food below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and hot food above 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are storing cooked meat to hold at the desired temperature in a cooler, label that cooler.

Also, make sure you’ve got jugs of clean water on hand for washing your hands, clean up, etc. You should also have hand sanitizer and a spray bottle of a diluted bleach solution to help sanitize surfaces and utensils throughout the day.


Tailgating Essentials List

Print out this list, broken down by category, and mark it off as you go so you know you won’t be forgetting anything for your tailgate get-together:


__ Portable grill/smoker

__ Charcoal (or propane tank)

__ Charcoal chimney starter

__ Wood chunks/chips

__ Lighter (x2)

__ Grill brush

__ Gloves



__ Meat

__ Breakfast

__ Side dishes (check out our article on some great tailgate sides)

__ Hamburger or hotdog buns

__ BBQ Sauce

__ Condiments: mustard, ketchup, mayo, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles,
                          peppers, hot sauce, sauerkraut

__ Salt/Pepper

__ Snacks (chips, salsa, trail mix, etc)



__ Water

__ Sodas

__ Beer

__ Liquor

__ Champagne/Wine

__ Mixers/Juice



__ Apron

__ Basting brush/mop

__ Meat claws

__ Meat thermometers

__ Spatula

__ Tongs (one set for cooking, one set for serving)

__ Skewers

__ Spices/rub

__ Cooking oil/butter

__ Knives

__ Cutting board

__ Mixing bowls

__ Fire extinguisher

__ Heavy-duty aluminum foil

__ Aluminum pans

__ Pots/pans/grill baskets



__ Hand sanitizer

__ Coolers (label each cooler)

__ Paper towels

__ Napkins

__ Bottle and can openers

__ Corkscrew

__ Ice

__ Cups and plates

__ Koozies

__ Plastic silverware

__ Serving spoons

__ Bowls

__ Wet towelettes

__ Sharpie marker

__ Bar utensils for mixed drinks



__ Pop-up tent or tarp

__ Portable tables (for food serving and eating)

__ Portable chairs

__ Tablecloths

__ Blankets

__ Wireless speaker or boom box

__ TV

__ Lanterns/flashlight

__ Generator

__ Extension cords

__ Extra batteries



__ Jug of water for cleaning

__ Spray bottle with bleach solution

__ Clean plastic bins for washing and rinsing

__ Dish soap

__ Trash bags

__ Large Ziploc bags



__ Cell phone charger/charging block

__ Camera

__ Duct tape

__ Tailgate games (football, cornhole, etc)

__ Sunscreen

__ Mosquito repellant

__ First aid kit

__ Jumper cables

__ Tool kit

__ Event tickets!!

* This list covers everything you may need. After first considering what we covered earlier in the article, just cross off anything you won’t need on game day (if you’re cooking meat ahead of time, serving breakfast or not, etc.)


tailgating essentials | tailgate essentials | tailgate BBQ party


Now You’re Ready To Set Up The Perfect Tailgate BBQ

With the tips above and the tailgating essentials list we’ve provided, you should be ready to go to set up the perfect tailgate BBQ without forgetting anything. The main thing is to be prepared with everything you’ll need (or may need). It’s better to be over-prepared than scrambling for something you missed.

If you really want to impress your friends and family at your next tailgate or backyard BBQ party, dive into our in-depth online barbecue cooking classes taught by champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. You’ll get all of the insider tips and secrets step-by-step to take your BBQ game to a whole new level. Check out our All Access now!

Did we forget anything on our list? How have you mastered your tailgate BBQ process? Let us know. We want to hear from you!

The goal of any grilling or smoking session is to cook delicious food and have fun doing it. So, the last thing you want is to end up with an overly charred piece of meat you have to throw out. Especially knowing it can be avoided. Grill flare-ups can happen quickly, often in seconds, if dripping fat or grease starts to get too hot. 

Most of the time, a grill flare-up will happen when you are cooking on a charcoal or wood-fueled grill since they don’t usually have drip guards like many gas grills do. But, flare-ups are still possible on a gas grill.

In this article, we’ll break down how to prevent grill flare-ups and how to put them out if you do encounter one that becomes an issue. Let’s take a look:


What Exactly Is A Grill Flare-Up?

Grill flare-ups are quick bursts of high-intensity flames that are often the result of fat and oil dripping onto hot coals or wood and igniting. A flare-up and a grease fire are not the same things. Quick, short flare-ups that happen from small drips can be common and are not usually a problem or something you have to worry about extinguishing. These often happen when placing fatty meat onto the grill, like chicken or steak, or when flipping the meat. 

If you have a small flare-up happen, the best thing to do is to move the food to another part of the grill and it will typically die down quickly. It is when a small flare-up grows and gets out of control that it can change into a grease fire and quickly turn into a problem. This usually happens when there is a buildup of grease and carbon in your grill.

There are several things you can do to prevent grill flare-ups from getting out of control.


Preventing Grill Flare-Ups From Happening


“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of sirloin.” 

Kevin Kolman - Weber Grills


Proactive habits that help prevent grill flare-ups will save you burnt food and heartache, and in the worst cases, a destroyed grill. Most of these habits come down to preventative maintenance and proper preparation. 

Here are some ways to prevent large grill flare-ups:

  • Keep your grill clean - The number one reason that a quick flare-up gets out of control is a dirty grill. Make the effort to deep clean your grill if needed and then help keep it clean between cooks. After each cooking session, turn the heat up high and burn off any food residue leftover on the grates. Also, use a grill brush or ball of aluminum foil to scrape the grates off to remove any carbon. You do not want to have a leftover buildup of grease and carbon when you go to light your grill next time.In a charcoal grill, make sure to thoroughly scrape out the interior of your grill when you are cleaning out the ashes. Also, make sure to clean out your grease pan after each cooking session. In a gas grill, make sure to clean/degrease the drip guards (diffusers) after each session.


  • Use the two-zone grill setup - When you have a two-zone grill setup, you have one side that has the fuel source and is the direct heat side and the other side is the indirect heat side without the fuel source. So, with a charcoal or wood grill, all of your charcoal or wood will be on one side of the grill, creating a high heat zone and a cooler zone. With a gas grill, leave half or one burner (depending on the size of the grill) off. This will create a safety zone and give you an area away from any flare-ups to move your food to and let them die out quickly.


two zone grill set up | how to prevent grill flare-upsSource: Two Zone Grill Setup from Weber Grills


  • Trim off excess fatFat and oil dripping is the main cause of grill flare-ups initially. So, trim off as much of the excess fat from your meat as you can without sacrificing too much flavor. By trimming off excess fat, you’ll help discourage flare-ups from occurring.
  • Use oil sparingly - If you are using oil or marinade, don’t go too crazy with it. Make sure the meat is not dripping when it goes onto the grill. 
  • Try to avoid the wind - Try to position your grill where you can avoid the wind as much as possible. A gust of wind into your grill will quickly stoke the fire and cause larger flare-ups. 
  • Build the right size fire - When using charcoal or wood as your fuel source, there is no need to overdo it with the amount that you use and create a huge, extremely hot fire. If you are grilling a couple of steaks, don’t use an entire large bag of briquettes. Try to proportion the amount of fuel and fire size for what you are actually grilling.


As you can see, it’s important to work these habits into your normal grilling routine. But, what happens if, somehow, you do end up with a serious flare-up and you find yourself with a grease fire on your hands? Just as important as prevention is knowing what to do in the chance this happens.


How To Put Out A Grease Fire Quickly

If you do end up with a grease fire, it is important to act quickly. First, remove your food from the grill to save what you can. One important thing to remember is that oxygen fuels fires. So, the first method to try and put out the fire is to close your grill lid and vents to suffocate the fire. (If you are cooking on a gas grill, turn off the burners right away as well.)

If the flames have started to die down, carefully look through one of the grill vents to see if it is safe to open the grill lid. If you still see flames and/or white billowing smoke, do not just throw the lid back open. You risk creating a flash fire when all that oxygen rushes back into the grill. When the flames have subsided or gone out, slowly open the lid partially to “burp” the grill before opening the lid all the way.

Another method to put out a grease fire, especially if it is getting more and more out of control, is to pour baking soda, a box of salt, or even sand on it to smother it. This won’t be the most ideal method due to the additional mess you’ll need to clean up after, but it works. (Make sure to check out our article on how to properly clean your grill)


grill flare-ups | how to prevent grill flare-ups | how to put out grill flare upsSource: LifeHacker


You DO NOT want to spray water on a grease fire. This can actually make it worse. Doing this can spread the grease around further since the water will not extinguish burning grease or fat and it will also cause ash to go everywhere.

If the fire continues to burn uncontrollably for 30 seconds and it coming out of the vents, this is the time for a fire extinguisher. Of course, if the fire is continuing to spread quickly, is too hot for you to get near it, or if the flames are reaching the gas hose or tank on a gas grill, get out of the area and call 911 immediately.


Be Proactive To Avoid Out Of Control Grill Flare-Ups

Knowing exactly what causes grill flare-ups, how to avoid them, and what to do if one gets out of control will help ensure your outdoor cooking goes smoothly. Prevention and preparation are key. Keeping your grill clean will prevent 90% of grill fires. 

When you don’t have to worry about a flare-up, you can focus on cooking like the top competition cookers do. 

You can get more of the inside scoop like we’ve covered in this article, as well as competition BBQ secrets, straight from the pros in the online grilling classes and barbecue cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will walk you through step-by-step to help you elevate your outdoor cooking game like never before. 

To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!

As we have touched on in previous articles, preparation is key when it comes to successful outdoor cooking. A huge part of that is making sure your grill or smoker is clean and stays that way in between uses. To get the best flavors in your grilled foods, it is essential to start with a clean cooker and grates. But, you may be wondering, how to clean a grill or smoker properly and what you can do to keep it clean.

In this article, we’ll break down why you should be cleaning your grill consistently, the best ways to clean a grill, and some tips on how to keep your grill or smoker cleaner. 


The Importance Of Keeping Your Grill Clean

Old buildup on your grill is not the “ingredient” you want to help flavor your food. That should be left up to the seasonings, sauce, or wood you decide to use.

When you cook, two things can build up on your grill: grease and carbon. Left for too long and not cleaned off, the grease can get rancid, vaporize with heat, and leave a foul taste to your food. The grease can also become a food safety issue if left uncleaned for too long. The carbon forms a black crust on your grates and other components and can quickly leave a burnt taste on your food. It also makes it a lot easier for your meat to stick to the grates.

A buildup of grease and carbon also wreaks havoc on your grill itself. It will cause grill components to break down or rust very quickly, unnecessarily shortening your cooker’s life span.

Keeping your grill or smoker clean and free of excessive buildup will not only help you cook great-tasting food but also help extend the life of your cooker.


High Heat Will Help You Clean

Whether you are doing a deep clean or cleaning immediately after you cook, high heat is one of the best weapons against a grill that needs to be cleaned. It will carbonize grease and food remnants that may be leftover from your last cook and make it easier to scrub clean.

Get the grill as hot as possible (if it is a gas grill turn all of the burners on high) and close the lid. Leave the lid closed for about 15 minutes. If the grill hasn’t been cleaned in a while you may have some smoke but most of this will be grease smoke. This should burn off after about 15 minutes. 

After 15-20 minutes have passed, open the lid and let the grill cool to a moderate temperature of about 250-300 degrees Fahrenheit. Now you will be able to use your choice of tool or method (see below) to effectively scrub the grates clean.


how to clean a grill | best ways to clean a grill | what to use to clean a grillSource: Seriously Smoked


Best Ways To Clean A Grill

There are some tried and true ways to clean a grill that will help you get your grill clean now and clean it in between cooks. It is recommended that avid cookers deep clean their whole grill or smoker every 2-3 months. More casual cookers should do a deep clean at the end of each grilling season. Then, once you’ve deep cleaned, you can clean more easily in between cooking sessions.


How To Clean Grill Grates

When cleaning your grill or smoker, the grill grates is always the first place to start. After using high heat and getting the grates nice and hot, once they’ve cooled to a moderate temperature, the main goal is to scrape off any remaining residue and carbon char. This can be done in several ways, including:

  • A ball of aluminum foil: This simple scrubber method works surprisingly well. After heating up the grill, wad up a large sheet of aluminum foil into a ball, and, with a heat-proof glove, scrub the grates.


  • A block of hardwood: You can easily make your own effective grate scraper by using a hand-sized block of oak or other hardwood. Again, make sure you have a heat-proof glove for this one and then rub the wood block on the hot grill grates. After a few uses, grooves will be worn into the wood that will fit the grates perfectly.


  • Steam clean the hot grates: Using a bucket of water and a good-quality wire brush, you can create steam to help clean and scrub the grates. Dip the brush in water and scrub the hot grates with the wet brush. Then, use a paper towel to remove any remaining food bits and ensure there are no loose wire bristles on the grates. 


You should periodically deep clean your grill grates as well. Remove the grates and use hot water, mild dish detergent, and a brush or stainless steel scrubby to thoroughly clean both sides. Soaking the grates for a little while in a large tub of hot water with the detergent will make the scrubbing even easier. 

Make sure to rinse the grates off well and dry them when finished. If the grates are cast iron, make sure to oil them before your next cook. Deep cleaning cast-iron grates like this may cause them to lose a little of their non-stick properties. But, it’s essential to keep them clean. 

Important tip: You should not run your grill grates through the dishwasher. The grease leftover on the grates will quickly coat everything in your dishwasher, making a much bigger mess than you started with.


how to clean a grill | best ways to clean a grill | how to clean grill gratesSource: DIY Network


How To Deep Clean Your Grill

When you want to deep clean your grill or smoker, before starting, make sure the grates are cleaned and removed and the cooker is completely cooled. If it is a gas grill, also make sure the burners are off and the gas is disconnected.

The best way to deep clean your grill is to work from the top to the bottom. Focus on every part of the grill and just utilize a clean, heavy-duty stainless steel wire brush. This will scrub off the carbon buildup throughout the grill. Remove components individually that can be removed and scrub them with the brush outside of the cooker. This will help ensure each part is thoroughly cleaned.

Water, a mild dish detergent (like Dawn), and a clean sponge will help safely clean off any remaining residue and carbon from any components. Just make sure to thoroughly rinse and dry them before cooking again.

Remember, harsh chemical cleaners, caustic oven cleaners, chloride, or bleach should never be used to clean your grill. Mild enzymatic cleaners, like Dawn, or even baking soda are much safer bets.

Use the wire brush to scrub the exterior of any remaining fixed components as well as the sidewalls and firebox walls (if applicable). These must be cleaned and maintained also or else the carbon buildup can quickly corrode the metal. 

As you work your way towards the bottom of the grill, your drip pan would be the last component to clean. Make sure it is fully emptied and cleaned out with mild soap and water. 

Finally, just wipe down the exterior of the cooker with a clean, damp cloth. Never use an abrasive brush on the exterior of your cooker.

Then, you are ready to put all of the freshly cleaned grill components back in the reverse order that you took them out.


how to clean a grill | best ways to clean a grill | what to use to clean a grillSource: Traeger Grills


Keep Your Grill Clean Moving Forward

Once you have done a deep clean of your grill, being proactive about keeping your grill clean will make things much easier and your cooking more successful. One of the easiest ways to do this is to do a quick clean of your grill grates after each cook while the grates are still hot. This will keep grease and carbon from building up on those grates.

If you are using charcoal and/or wood as your fuel source, just let the coals burn out and carbonize the food residue. Then, use one of the methods we covered above to clean your grill grates. If you are using a pellet cooker or gas grill, leave the heat going for a little bit after you are done cooking and clean those grates off. Just make sure you don’t forget to turn the cooker all the way off when you are done.

Then your grill grates will be clean and ready to go for the next time you cook.


Be Careful With Metal Bristle Brushes

Metal bristle brushes are a very effective tool to use when it comes to cleaning a grill or smoker, but you have to be very careful. Especially with cheaper brass bristle brushes. Sometimes, the bristles can become loose, fall out, and stick to the grill grates. This is the last thing you or anyone you are cooking for want to end up ingesting. That can quickly turn into a bad situation.

If you are using a metal bristle brush, make sure to wipe the grates with a damp paper towel or cloth to pick up any loose bristles. Some people even rub half a lemon or onion over the grates after brushing to eliminate any bristles. Look the grates over one last time before cooking just to be extra careful.

You will have less chance of stray bristles with a good quality stainless steel grill brush versus cheaper copper. But, if you do notice any bristles coming loose from your brush, don’t chance more getting stuck on your grill and throw the brush away.


how to use a grill brush | best ways to clean a grill | cleaning a grillSource: TheDad.com


A Clean Cooker Helps Set You Up For Success

Now, you should have a good idea as to how to clean a grill properly and how to keep it that way. Preparation is key to successful outdoor cooking and maintaining a clean grill is part of that.

When you are working with a clean cooker for each and every cook, you give the other elements you are using, from the seasonings to the wood, an opportunity to live up to their full potential. You are also protecting your investment in your grill or smoker and helping to ensure it holds up for many more cooking sessions to come.

If you really want to elevate your cooking game on your freshly cleaned grill, get the inside scoop straight from the pros in the online outdoor cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters will walk you through step-by-step how to cook like a pro like never before. To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!

Slow-smoked brisket is undoubtedly one of the kings of the BBQ meat world. Perfectly cooked brisket results in tender, juicy, and flavorful bites. This can quickly make it easy to forget that this cut of meat actually comes from one of the most muscular, weight-bearing areas of the cattle. This lower chest area is responsible for carrying roughly 60% of a steer’s total weight. Thus making it a challenge to slow cook it properly without drying it out. Preparation of the meat is key and keeping it moist is critical. One way to do this is by injecting brisket. 

Many competition pitmasters swear by using injections when it comes to cooking great BBQ brisket. The process of how to inject brisket is easier than you may think. It will help ensure you end up tender, juicy meat that is packed with flavor.

In this article, we’ll go over why you should try injecting brisket, and some tips on how to do it the right way.


Why Inject Brisket?

When a marinade or rub is used on meat, it will only impart flavor to the surface of the meat and just below the surface. No matter how long you let it sit. This will leave a nice, delicious bark on the outside. But, the inner part of the meat won’t have the same level of flavor from the seasonings.

Injecting brisket (or any other large meat) is the method of delivering salt, fats, seasonings, and other flavors straight into the core of the meat, well below the surface. This is the only way to get any additional flavor and liquid deep into the meat. 

The mixture that is injected also helps to moisten the meat throughout and keeps it from drying out while it is cooking low and slow for long periods. This is why brisket injection is so effective. With brisket being a more muscular, tough cut, injecting it with fats, oils, and other ingredients helps to tenderize the meat and keep moisture locked in.


Essential Tips For Injecting Brisket


how to inject brisket | brisket injection | injecting beef brisketImage from Corey Mikes' Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy


Injecting brisket properly is not overly complicated or difficult. But there are some essential tips when it comes to learning how to inject brisket, straight from the pros, to make sure it is done effectively:


Opt for the proper injector

When it comes to doing barbecue right, ensuring you have the proper tools is just as important as the actual cooking process. For injecting meat, there are a couple of things to look for in an injector. A stainless steel injector is going to be your best bet as far as material. It will hold up longer, is easier to clean, and won’t hold smells or oils like plastic can. 

Also, make sure your needle size is big enough to handle your injection of choice. If you plan on using a thicker injection or one with some herbs or spices mixed in you have to be able to push it through the needle effectively. Most quality injector needles will come with two or more holes on the sides of it as well to help distribute the injection evenly.

Finally, make sure your injector holds 2 ounces or more. This will save you a lot of time from having to constantly refill it.

Using a deep container or tall glass to hold your injection will allow you to fill your injector easily without damaging the needle.


Distribute the injection evenly

It is important to make sure you distribute the injection evenly throughout the meat. To do this, insert the needle at a slight angle (not perpendicular to the meat) in a checkerboard pattern every 1-2 inches across the brisket. You want to insert the needle and then slowly depress the plunger as you are pulling the needle out each time. This will help ensure you are getting the injection between the muscle fibers and bundles.


Focus on the Flat when injecting brisket

All parts of a good quality full packer brisket will benefit from the injection, but the Flat is where you want to focus your attention most. The Flat section of brisket is the leanest part of the cut. Which means it’s the most likely section to dry out during slow cooking. Making sure that most of your injection is adequately throughout the flat will help retain moisture and keep it tender. 

Since the Point (aka Deckle) section of brisket has a higher fat content, the injection will be more for flavor throughout this section versus moisture retention.


how to inject brisket | brisket injection | injecting beef brisketSource: Northwest Edible Life


Don’t overpower with flavor

When injecting brisket, the goal is to add enough complimentary flavor to elevate the meat without overpowering the delicious beefy taste. So don’t load up on a big combination of heavy flavors like garlic, pepper, or bold herbs. You still want your beef to taste like beef. Go for ingredients like butter, beef stock, saltwater (brine), vinegar, and flavors that complement the brisket. Keep in mind that you want to aim for 1-2% salt content in your injection so that it helps tenderize the meat without being too salty.

You can get creative and put together great homemade injections with complementary flavors at home. Or, you can even try a competition-winning pre-made injection mix like Butcher BBQ Brisket Injection from David Bouska, one of our Champion Pitmasters.


Be careful not to end up tenderizing the meat too much

When using an injection on brisket, it is still up for debate on how long to let the meat sit with the injection before cooking. Some let it sit for several hours, while some inject just an hour before cooking. But, one certain thing is that you have to be careful letting your brisket sit too long with an injection that has a high acidic, vinegar, or citrus level. 

The acid in an injection that has a good amount of vinegar, apple juice, or pineapple juice will quickly break down the collagen and tenderize the meat. This is great for a couple of hours, but anything longer than that can quickly ruin your meat and turn it into mush.


How much injection for brisket

The muscle in beef brisket is 75% water, so you won’t need a ton of injection. There’s not a whole lot of room for a lot more liquid. The injection will go between the muscle fibers and bundles, not within the fibers.

A common rule of thumb is 1 liquid ounce of injection per 1 lb of meat.


how to inject brisket | brisket injection | injecting beef brisketImage from Corey Mikes’ Brisket class in BBQ Champs Academy


Have paper towels ready

It will be inevitable that you will end up with the injection mixture across the surface of the brisket as well. Leaving it on the exterior will make it difficult if you plan on using a rub as well. It will just cause your rub to cook into a light crust that won’t stick to the surface effectively and flakes right off.

So, make sure to have paper towels ready and use them to pat dry the exterior of your brisket after injecting it. This will help give your rub a better surface to stick to.


Keep Meat Deliciously Tender With A Brisket Injection

Now you should have a good idea of where to start when it comes to how to inject brisket. Injecting brisket is an effective, easy, and fast way to deliver moisture and flavor deep into a tough and lean cut of meat. 

It is a great method that is used by many of the top Pitmasters to cook tender, juicy brisket every time. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your injection ingredients and flavors, whether it’s a homemade recipe or pre-made mix.

But, by following the tips above, you can ensure you are properly injecting your brisket and setting yourself up for BBQ success.

Want to learn more insider tips and info, as well as proven techniques and competition barbecue secrets? You can get the inside scoop from David Bouska, Mark Lambert, Robby Royal, and more Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here in the BBQ Champs Academy online barbecue classes. To get the full inside look, check out the All-Access pass now!

Also, check out our YouTube channel for the latest videos packed full of tips and insider info straight from the pros, as well as the latest BBQ news. Hit “Subscribe” on our channel to catch all the latest from BBQ Champs Academy!

When it comes to grilling and smoking on a charcoal, gas, or electric grill, you don’t (and shouldn’t) have to be restricted to cooking strictly over direct heat. You can easily broaden your cooking horizons and master your grilling temperatures by utilizing the two-zone cooking method.

The most common mistake in outdoor cooking is using too much direct heat. Then, sometimes, this can lead to being afraid to utilize enough direct heat when appropriate and you end up with food not being cooked enough. This creates a food safety issue. If you want to avoid overcooked undercooked food and up your barbecue game on your grill, you have to learn to use two-zone cooking.

In this article, we’ll break down exactly what it is, its advantages, and how to properly set up two-zone grilling.


What Is A Two-Zone Grill Setup?

When you hear two-zone cooking, it actually refers to your fire or heat source. A two-zone grill setup is the most versatile way to cook because it provides both direct radiant heat and indirect convection heat on the same grill. Unlocking the opportunity to sear, roast, and smoke meat all in one place. 

With a two-zone setup, you simply divide the grill into two zones. One side of the grill is your high, direct heat source zone while the other side of the grill is clear of any charcoal or active burners. Thus making it your indirect heat zone. The indirect side also serves as a safe-zone in case of flare-ups.

On the direct heat side, directly over the fuel source, you can cook fast, sear the meat, and get good caramelization and grill marks. Alternatively, on the indirect side, you can smoke and cook meat to juicy, tender perfection using the low and slow method. 

Instead of being restricted to one temperature while grilling and smoking, with two-zone grilling, you can utilize two separate cooking temperatures and master your grill. 


indirect cooking | two zone cooking | two zone grillingSource: Vindulge


Advantages To Two-Zone Cooking

No matter what type of grill you are cooking on, two-zone cooking has many advantages. These include:

    • More flexibility: You can cook multiple different things at the same time at different temperatures if needed. You can also cook several meat cuts to different doneness at the same time. For example, if you need some steaks cooked to medium-rare and some cooked to medium or medium-well.
    • More control: With two-different temperature zones, you’ll have more control over your cooking. For example, you can cook and smoke larger meats indirectly and move them to the direct side just before they are done to get a perfectly caramelized exterior crust. You can also hold meats at the desired temperature on the indirect side, without overcooking, while your other items are finishing on the direct side.


  • Better flavor: Different types of meat react differently with high and low heat. This is because they all have varying water content, fat content, proteins, sugars, etc. Each of these elements within the meat react at different temperatures. With the two-zone cooking method, you can utilize the proper temperatures for the specific type and cut of meat and maximize flavor. 
  • Longer burning fuel source: Since you are not using a whole grill full of charcoal or wood and keeping it contained to half of the grill, you’ll actually have a longer burning fire.  


How To Properly Set Up & Use Two-Zone Grilling

Setting up two-zone grilling is very simple. The most important thing is to create the two defined sides, one with the direct heat source and the other without. This can be done on a charcoal grill, gas grill, or electric grill. Here’s how to set up a two-zone fire or grill:


On A Charcoal Grill

  1. Light the coals: Light your coals, ideally using a chimney starter, and get them white-hot. To get sufficient high heat, use a full chimney of charcoal or light a pile of about 100 briquets.
  2. Spread out coals on one side of the grill: Pour the hot coals out of the chimney starter all to one side of the lower grill grate or use tongs to move all the coals carefully to cover only 50 percent. This will be your direct heat side where meat can be cooked right over the heat source at a much higher temperature than indirect heat.
  3. Leave the other side of the grill coal-free: This will be your indirect heat side. Through convection heat, this other side free of coal will still be hot enough to cook meat low and slow. The food on this side won’t cook nearly as fast as on the direct side right above the heat source.
  4. Aim for proper temperatures: This is where a set of good digital thermometers comes in handy. Don’t trust your grill thermometer when doing a two-zone system. Aim for 225 degrees Fahrenheit on the indirect side and a minimum of 325 degrees Fahrenheit on the direct side.
  5. Cook over the appropriate side: Always start with the larger items you are going to cook. A general rule of thumb is that you will cook larger meats over the indirect side the majority of their cooking time to avoid quickly overcooking them. Use the high heat side for direct cooking and searing (whether searing first or reverse-searing). While using the indirect side for longer cooking over lower temperatures. For example, you can smoke larger, more tender meats like brisket over the indirect side. 

Bonus Tip: Utilize different types of kiln-dried cooking wood and add them to or use in place of traditional charcoal to generate delicious wood smoke and experiment with different flavors. B & B Charcoal has a great selection. For example, smoking meat with B & B Cherry wood will create a whole new flavor profile. You can try different variations of wood including wood chunks, chips, pellets, and even B & B Char-logs.


two zone cooking | two zone grilling | what is a two zone fireSource: Weber Grills


On A Gas Or Electric Grill

  1. Turn on the appropriate burners: Turn half your grill’s burners (or elements, if you’re using an electric grill) on high, this will be the direct heat side. Then put the other half on low, this will be the indirect heat side. 
  2. Decide on the direct/indirect ratio: If you have four burners it is very easy. Two will be your direct side and two will be your indirect side. But if you have three burners, you have a decision to make based on exactly what you are cooking. You do two burners on high and one on low, or one burner on high and two on low. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the ratio to achieve desired temperatures.
  3. Follow steps 4 and 5 from the charcoal grills steps above.


two zone cooking | two zone grilling | what is a two zone fireSource: Kary Osmond


Wrapping It All Up

Temperature control is essential to mastering great barbecue and grilled meats. The best way to do this is by utilizing the two-zone cooking method. You’ll have the control and flexibility to cook both perfectly tender and juicy meat as well as perfectly seared and tender steaks. Gone are the days or you overcooking or undercooking meats.

Want to learn more insider tips and secrets to up your smoking and grilling game? Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn everything you need to know straight from the champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Our first of its kind online barbecue classes will have you cooking outdoors like a pro in no time. Get all-access today!

Few things bring people together like a great barbecue. As the spring progresses and we get into summer, this often means much more outdoor cooking and more barbecues for your friends and family. One thing you may not know is that according to the CDC, food poisoning peaks during the summer months. This is because foodborne germs flourish in the warmer temperatures. 

The last thing you want to do when you are showing off your barbecue skills is to risk your health and the health of your friends and family.  This is easily avoided by following some important grilling food safety precautions and avoiding improperly cooked food and cross-contamination.

In this article, we’ll cover some essential smoking and grilling food safety tips every outdoor cook should follow each and every time you cook. No matter what time of the year you are cooking. 


Shop For Meats & Seafood Last

When you are shopping, make sure to pick up your meat, poultry, and seafood last. Bacteria start to multiply very quickly when meats and seafood reach room temperature. So, pick up your dry goods and produce first and make the meat or seafood counter your last stop. This will help keep your items cold until ready to cook.

You also want to make sure that you keep your meats and seafood separate from other foods while shopping and make sure they are bagged separately. This will help prevent cross-contamination, a very important thing to keep in mind when it comes to food safety. Cross-contamination occurs when the juices from raw meat and seafood come in contact with ready to eat or cooked food. 


Ensure Your Hands Are Clean

Before handling raw meat and seafood it is very important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. This will eliminate any bacteria that may be on your hands. 

Always wash your hands directly after handling raw meat or seafood also. Especially before touching any other surfaces or food products. This may mean you are washing your hands multiple times before your food ends up on the grill.

Another option is to use rubber or latex gloves when handling raw meat. When the meat is on the grill and you’re ready to take the gloves off, pull them off from the cuffs inside out to avoid contaminating your hands. 


Check & Clean Your Grill

Before putting anything on to cook, you want to make sure you check your grill and clean it as necessary. Once your grill has started to preheat you can use a moist cloth or paper towel to clean off any remaining food particles. If you use a wire grill brush, check to make sure that there are no wire bristles stuck on the grill surface that could stick to your food. 


how to clean a grill | grilling food safety | food safetySource: BBQChiefs


Clean Your Utensils And Workspace

Another way to avoid cross-contamination is to clean your utensils, cutting boards, plates, and workspace after coming in contact with raw meat or seafood. A bleach solution works best to clean and sanitize everything that can’t go in the dishwasher.

When cutting boards start to get worn and get deep cuts, you can quickly encounter a problem with bacteria hiding in the cuts even after cleaning. If your board gets a lot of deep cuts and gouges it is time to replace it. Or if it is wood, sand it down to a smooth surface again. 


Make Sure You Have A Fresh, Clean Set Of Utensils For The Cooked Food

To avoid cross-contamination, never use the same plate, cutting board, and utensils to handle cooked meat as you did for the raw meat. Unless, of course, they have been cleaned before reusing. 

So, as mentioned above, as soon as you get your meat on the grill make sure to clean everything that touched the raw meat before reusing. Or have an extra set of everything ready to use for the cooked food. 


Ensure The Food Is Cooked Thoroughly

One of the quickest ways for a person to get food poisoning is to eat undercooked food. That is why it is so important to use a good-quality thermometer when doing your outdoor cooking to make sure you cook everything thoroughly and the meat has reached safe internal temperatures.

Keeping the internal temperature of your grill or smoker between 225 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit will allow you to properly reach the recommended internal temperature for the meat. Safe internal temperatures, as outlined by the USDA, are:

  • 145°F – for whole cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and veal (allow the meat to rest for 3 minutes at this temperature before cutting)
  • 145°F – fish (you can often tell when shellfish has reached the proper temperature when it turns from semi-translucent to opaque)
  • 160°F – hamburgers and other ground beef
  • 165°F – all poultry


grilling food safety | food safety | food safety when smoking meatSource: Mic


Keep Cold Foods Cold and Hot Foods Hot

As you can see, maintaining proper food temperatures is very important when it comes to avoiding foodborne bacteria. This applies to both keeping cold food cold and hot food hot.

You never want to leave cold food out longer than 2 hours (1 hour if the outside temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more.) Make sure these items are refrigerated or placed on ice as soon as possible. This applies to your cold raw meat, poultry, and seafood before cooking, perishable side items, and leftovers after the meal.  

After you have cooked your meats and seafood, it is important to keep those items hot until served. This can be done by setting the meat to the side of the grill rack away from direct heat, wrapped in aluminum foil and then towels and placed in a warmed cooler, or in the oven inside at a temperature setting of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Wrapping It All Up

Some of the grilling food safety tips above are things that are often overlooked by many outdoor cooks. Food safety is all about properly cooking food, keeping everything you use for smoking and grilling clean, and avoiding cross-contamination. 

As you can see, following these measures we covered each and every time you are smoking and grilling will ensure you are cooking as safe as possible and keeping everyone healthy.

Want to learn more tips and techniques on cooking competition-worthy barbecue straight from the pros? Here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn everything you need to know in step-by-step video classes directly with World Champions Pitmasters and Grillmasters. Check out the All-Access Pass to get the full inside scoop or purchase classes individually!

The official start of winter is coming up soon this month, but many parts of the country have already been seeing cold temperatures and even snow for several months. For the serious outdoor cooker (or even those of you just starting to get serious), a little cold weather won’t deter you from wanting to cook some great meat. And it doesn’t have to. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind cooking outside is the effect the cold weather will have on temperature consistency for your smoker or grill. For great BBQ, consistent cooking temperatures is critical. Maintaining that consistency in the cold will be tough but not impossible. 

The exterior of your cooker will be cold. That cold metal will absorb the heat from the warm air inside which will decrease the inside temperature. Also, the cooker will draw in cold exterior air during the combustion process. This can also decrease the temperature. So, you will need to preheat your cooker until the exterior metal is too hot to touch and you’ll need more fuel to do that. Also, be prepared to use more fuel throughout the cooking to maintain the necessary temperature.

You don’t have to pack away your smoker or barbecue grill for the winter season. But, there are some tips & tricks to keep in mind when barbecuing and smoking in cold weather to make sure you achieve the best results. Let’s take a look:


Keep The Lid Closed In The Cold

While opening your smoker or grill’s lid in the summer doesn’t make too much of a difference, in the cold it can have a huge impact. So, it is important to try and keep your cooker’s lid closed as much as possible when barbecuing or smoking in cold weather. This will help maintain the constant proper temperature inside. There are better ways to check the temperature of the meat when needed. (See below)


Keep Your Cooker Warm & Dry

You can help maintain proper temperature inside your cooker by keeping it warm and dry. One trick to do this is to use a welding blanket as insulation over the cooking chamber. Rated for high temperatures, these blankets will protect the cooking chamber from snow, wind, and cold temperatures without catching fire. You can also use furnace insulation. It’s best to only use any type of insulation on the cooking chamber and avoid covering the firebox.

Make sure when you are using a welding blanket or similar type of insulation that you still provide for enough airflow. You don’t want to block the flow of oxygen in and keep too much smoke in. Then your fire can go out or your meat ends up tainted with a gnarly smoke taste.


BBQ smoking in cold weather | tips for barbecuing in cold weather | BBQ champs academy

Source: Smokin’ MAK


Have A Good Digital Thermometer On Hand

Barbecuing and smoking in cold weather is definitely a situation where having a good wireless digital thermometer on hand is extremely useful. Especially if it is multi-probe. Then you can easily and constantly monitor the temperature of the inside of your cooker as well as the current temperature of your meat.

Many of these digital thermometers have capabilities to set alarms for a particular temperature range. So you are immediately alerted if the internal temperature of your cooker falls below that range. Then, you can jump into action before it falls too low and add more fuel.


 Stock Up & Get Your Fuel Ready

As we mentioned above, when cooking in cold weather you are definitely going to burn through more fuel. So, it’s important to make sure that you are stocked up and ready to go, with whatever fuel source you are using, before you even start heating up your cooker. The last thing you want to happen when it’s time to refuel is to not have more readily available on hand, your internal temperature crashes, and you have to start all over.

If you are using wood, make sure you’ve got your stockpile already chopped up, stored in a nearby dry place, and ready to go. If you are using charcoal or gas, make sure you’ve got enough on hand to make it through the entire cook before you start. For any type of fuel source, it’s a good idea to have on-hand double the amount of fuel as you would when cooking in warm outdoor temperatures.

While you are getting your fuel stocked up and ready to go, it’s also a good idea to get any tools, utensils, seasonings, etc ready to go while you are at it. You want to make sure you are totally prepared before you even start cooking.



BBQ smoking in cold weather | tips for barbecuing in cold weather | BBQ champs academy

Source: EcoHome


Adjust For The Wind

Cold winter weather almost always means cold gusty wind as well. Dealing with and adjusting for the wind is going to be crucial to maintain good temperatures inside your smoker or grill. 

One way to do this is to find a spot outside to put your cooker that is a little more sheltered or protected from direct wind flow. This will help maintain a little more consistency in cooking temperature in the cold weather. But, definitely make sure you are not cooking in an enclosed space in or near your home. Especially not in a garage.

Also, you should monitor the wind direction. You should know how the air flows through your cooker and from what direction and you can make adjustments based on this and the wind direction. Positioning your cooker perpendicular to the wind is often most effective. You don’t want to get too much wind flowing into your cooker or else your fire will be stoked and it will raise temperatures quickly. You also don’t want to be getting too little airflow and lose your fuel source. 

By monitoring the wind direction, you can also adjust your air intakes on your cooker accordingly. You may need to use another vent to adjust temperature and completely close off the vent facing the wind.


Wrapping It All Up

These are just a few tips and tricks for barbecuing and smoking in cold weather. As you can see, the most important thing to remember is to prepare to have to do a little more to maintain constant internal temperatures inside your cooker. The more you can do to keep your cooker dry and warm, the easier it will be to do that.

Treat your cooker like you would yourself in cold weather. When outside, both of you must be kept warm and sheltered (safely) as much as possible to keep cooking great BBQ.

With the first of their kind BBQ cooking classes available from us here at BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll learn all the tips and tricks from champion BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters. You’ll be excited all year round, even in the cold weather, to show off your skills and cook championship-quality barbecue. 

Have you been cooking outdoors in the cold weather lately? Have you figured out another great way to keep those internal temperatures warm in the cold? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!


So you got yourself a good new grill or smoker and you may be wondering what are the best or essential grilling accessories to have. There are a ton of BBQ grill accessories available these days. Some are definitely essentials and some may be considered more “nice-to-have” gadgets. 

Of course, the goal is to cook great tasting meat. One key aspect of doing this is to make sure you’ve got the right tools. With the proper tools on hand, you can make sure you are prepared, help make your outdoor cooking go smooth and easy, and take your BBQ skills to the next level. 

Let’s break down what the essential grilling accessories are for your grill or smoker if you are looking to cook great quality BBQ:


Digital Wireless Meat Thermometer

Consistent temperatures are key to great BBQ. Don’t rely just on your smoker or grill’s built-in lid thermometer (which can sometimes be inaccurate). Avoid overcooked or undercooked meat by using a quality digital wireless meat thermometer, especially on those “low and slow” long cooks. Out of any of the tools in our list, this is a #1 priority.

Ideally, you want to use a dual probe BBQ thermometer so you always know the temperature inside your cooker as well as the temperature of your meat. With both readings digitally displayed in an easy to read manner on the same device. As well as timer settings so you know your meat is getting the desired cook time at the right temperatures. Wireless capabilities allow you to move around more freely without having to hover over your cooker the whole time.

Make sure you get a quality, rugged and durable design so you’re not replacing your wireless thermometer every other cooking session.


Instant-Read Meat Thermometer

Yes, you read that right. We’ve got two thermometers listed here. But they serve two different purposes and you’ll want both. The digital wireless thermometer above is used to monitor the temperatures on your long cooks. For grilling, a good instant-read meat thermometer is another essential accessory. 

With an instant-read thermometer, you can quickly and accurately test the temperature on steaks and other meats. Where even a slight variation of degrees in temperature can make a huge difference.

You can also use your instant-read meat thermometer on long cooks to check the temperature in different parts of the meat.


Insulated Heat Resistant BBQ Gloves

When you’re smoking (or grilling) meat you’re dealing with high temperatures often around 500 degrees. So, a good pair of insulated heat resistant BBQ gloves to protect your hands are going to be another essential. 

The gloves are very useful for handling meat and you don’t want to damage the bark on the outside, need to move your whole smoker, or when you’re lighting your grill with a chimney starter. They’re also great for when it comes time to shred or pull meat also.

Look for gloves that are rated for 900 degrees or higher and fit your hands snug so you don’t lose any dexterity.


Chimney Fire Starter

Many agree that a charcoal grill provides a much better flavor than propane. But struggling and waiting 20 minutes to get your charcoals lit can be a pain. Get rid of those chemical fire starters and lighter fluid. Start your charcoal in a much cleaner and faster fashion with a charcoal chimney fire starter. 

Grab those gloves we mentioned above. Then just put your charcoals into the chimney and scrunch up some paper into the bottom of it and light it. It’ll only take about 10 minutes before you have fully lit charcoals ready to be used in the grill. One of the best parts of a chimney starter is that you’ll end up with charcoals that are all heated evenly. This means your meat will be also be cooked evenly and thoroughly. 

The best size chimney starter is usually going to be the 7.5 x 7.5 x 12 inch. Check out this video on how to use a chimney fire starter.


Meat Claws

Meat claws, sometimes referred to as bear claws, are another handy choice of BBQ accessories to have. Sometimes lifting and transferring meat from the smoker or grill to a plate or cutting board can be tough. 

These handled meat claws are ergonomically designed, designed for high heat, and make the process much easier. They are also great when it comes to shredding or pulling the meat.


Quality Long-Handled Tongs

One of the BBQ tools you’ll use and need most often is a good, LONG pair of metal tongs. Having a long pair of tongs (think 16”) will allow you to work with the meat and still keep your hands at a distance away from the heat. Keeping you from having to put on the gloves every time. Many BBQ pros actually have two pairs of tongs. One only for moving around charcoal when needed, and another pair only for moving meat and food around.

Look for tongs that are high-quality stainless steel so you don’t have to worry about the metal getting far too hot too easily and bending. A good pair will also have a spring-loaded hinge, the ability to open wide and lock closed, and have some kind of insulation on the handles like wood or nylon.


BBQ Grill Brush

You spent good money on your smoker or grill, you want to protect it and make it last. One way to do that is to make sure it is cleaned well before and after use. A good BBQ grill brush is an essential tool to make that happen. This is one tool to definitely not skimp on quality.

A good grill brush will also ensure you don’t have any leftover gunk from before burning up and tainting the flavor of the meat you just put on to cook.

The best way to keep your cooker clean with a BBQ grill brush is to turn up the heat for about 10 minutes when you’re done cooking and brush any leftover meat or gunk off while it’s hot and easy to remove. Then, before the next time you cook, make sure to take the inside grate off and rinse with water, replace it, and let it get hot before you put any meat on.

Look for a grill brush that has a long handle and a wide surface cleaning area of high-quality metal brushes that can effectively get in between grate bars. Make sure if you are using porcelain or ceramic grill surfaces that the brush is rated safe for those surface types to avoid scratches.


Basting Brush Or Mop

There are BBQ recipes that call for the meat to be basted with a sauce or marinade while cooking. This is a situation where the marinade brush you might have in the kitchen isn’t going to cut it. Get your hands on a basting brush or mop made just for outdoor cooking. 

A long-handled brush or mop will allow you to easily and evenly spread the glaze, marinade, sauce, or butter across the meat. A basting brush often performs better for thicker sauces while a basting mop works great for thinner sauces or marinades.


A Sharp Boning Knife

A high-quality sharp knife is a BBQ pro’s best friend. One specific type of knife that works great in many instances for trimming BBQ is a boning knife. 

Because of the shape of the blade, a boning knife works great for cleaning up a slab of ribs, tidying up the cut on a ribeye, or trimming the fat cap on a brisket. Look for a boning knife with an extra sharp approximately 6” blade and a comfortable handle. 


Quality Butcher Block Cutting Board

If you’re taking your smoking or grilling seriously, especially if you’re cooking a brisket, a quality butcher block cutting board is a good accessory to have. For large cuts of meat, your average kitchen cutting board isn’t going to do it.

A good large wood butcher block board is going to keep your knives sharp and give you plenty of room to work with when trimming or shredding meat. Look for boards made of high-quality pre-treated woods like bamboo and approximately 13 inches by 17 inches. A juice groove around the edge will also help keep your area clean and prevent the juice from getting everywhere when moving or slicing meat.


Grill Or Smoker Cover

If your smoker or grill is in an area outdoors that is not undercover, then the best accessory you can’t pass up is a cover. You spent good money on your cooker, keep it covered to keep it dry, prevent rust, and keep out dirt and dust.

Most manufacturers make covers for their smokers or grills but there are also great quality third-party covers. Just look for a quality heavy-duty cover that is made from a thick polyester that is fade-resistant and waterproof.


Wrapping It All Up

It’s important to make sure you don’t just stop at getting a good bbq grill or smoker. Set up for BBQ success by arming yourself with the essential bbq accessories. By having the tools listed above, you’ll be fully prepared and have a much higher chance of cooking great BBQ. You’ll also protect your outdoor cooking investments and increase their lifespan.


best grilling accessories | bbq accessories | grill accessories | BBQ grill accessories

Source: BBQIndustry.com


The online tell-all BBQ cooking classes available from BBQ Champs Academy will show you just how to put those grill accessories to good use. Learn from some of the best BBQ pitmasters and grillmasters in the country as they show you pro techniques, recipes, and secrets to cooking championship-quality barbecue. 

Have you found your perfect mix of the best grilling accessories? Did we forget something on this essentials list? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!


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