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When it comes to smoking meat, brining is a technique that can help take your results from okay to deliciously perfect. And understanding the differences between wet brining and dry brining can help you achieve the perfect balance of flavor and moisture in your meats. 

In this article, we break down wet brine vs dry brine, exploring the unique characteristics and benefits of each. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of when to choose wet brining and when to go with dry brining for your meat smoking sessions.


What is Brining Exactly?

Brining is a culinary technique used to enhance the flavor, juiciness, and tenderness of meat, poultry, and sometimes even seafood. It involves utilizing the power of salt, along with other flavorings, for a designated period. This versatile method can be applied to various cooking processes, such as smoking, grilling, or roasting, offering a wide range of possibilities to elevate your dishes.

At its core, brining is the process of immersing food in a solution or coating the surface in a rub that contains a high concentration of salt. The salt penetrates the protein cells of the meat or poultry, altering their structure during a process that is known as denaturing. 

By allowing the meat to brine for a specific duration, typically anywhere from several hours to overnight, the salt works its magic, leading to a more flavorful and moist final product.


The Purpose of Using a Brine

As mentioned above, the salt in the brine helps to open up the cellular structure, allowing the flavors to penetrate deeper into the food. This results in a more flavorful outcome compared to simply seasoning the surface with spices.

Additionally, brining helps to retain moisture within the meat. The salt alters the protein structure, enabling it to retain more water during the cooking process. As a result, the meat becomes juicier and more tender, even when exposed to high heat.

Brining also aids in the prevention of overcooking. The additional moisture retained in the meat acts as a buffer, reducing the risk of it becoming tough and dry, even if it is cooked for an extended period.

Using brining techniques can be especially helpful for lean cuts of meat or poultry that tend to dry out easily. By brining these cuts, you can ensure a juicier and more enjoyable eating experience.

There are two different effective ways to brine meat: wet brining and dry brining. Let’s take a look at the differences in each.


Wet Brine: Immersing Meat in Flavorful Liquid

Wet brining involves immersing meat in a solution of water, salt, sugar, and various aromatics. The purpose of a wet brine is to infuse the meat with moisture and flavor, resulting in a succulent and well-seasoned dish. Here are the general steps on how to do it:

  1. Create the brine solution by dissolving kosher salt and sugar in water. The amount of salt and sugar will depend on the size of the meat and your personal preference. (It’s important to specifically use kosher salt when brining.)
  2. Add aromatics such as herbs, spices, garlic, or citrus zest to the brine for additional flavor.
  3. Place the meat in a plastic or metal container or resealable bag and pour the brine over it, ensuring it is fully submerged.
  4. Refrigerate the meat in the brine for the recommended period, usually 1 hour per pound of meat.
  5. After brining, rinse the meat thoroughly to remove excess salt and pat it dry before cooking.

Wet brining is particularly effective for lean meats like turkey and chicken as well as shrimp, as it helps to counteract these foods’ tendency to dry out during cooking. It also allows the flavors to penetrate the exterior of the meat, resulting in a more flavorful end product.


Dry Brine: Salting the Exterior of the Meat


dry brining meat | wet brine vs dry brine | wet brining vs dry brining
Source: Serious Eats


Alternatively, dry brining, also known simply as salting, involves rubbing dry salt directly onto the meat's surface before cooking it. This method is almost identical to using a BBQ dry rub but with a much higher salt content. Here's how to dry brine:

  1. Generously sprinkle kosher salt over the meat, rubbing it into the surface evenly. The amount of salt will depend on the size of the meat.
  2. If you like, you can also add other dry spices or herbs to the salt for additional flavor.
  3. Place the salted meat on a wire rack set over a baking sheet to allow air circulation.
  4. Refrigerate the meat uncovered for the recommended period.
  5. Before cooking, rinse the meat to remove excess salt and pat it dry.

Dry brining is particularly great for cuts of meat with a thicker or more robust flavor, such as beef steaks, prime rib, brisket, pork butt, pork chops, ribs, venison, and more. It helps to enhance the natural flavors of the meat while also improving its tenderness and moisture retention.

This method of brining is also good for fish like salmon and trout.


Wet Brining vs Dry Brining - Pros and Cons

With wet brining and dry brining, each method has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s break down the pros and cons of both:

Advantages of Wet Brining:

  1. Increased juiciness: Brine helps to retain moisture in the meat, resulting in juicier and more tender results. The salt within the brine helps to break down the proteins, allowing for better moisture retention.
  2. Enhanced flavor: The meat absorbs the flavors of the brine, resulting in a more flavorful end product, while the salt in the brine helps to season the meat from the inside out.
  3. Versatility: Wet brines can be easily customized with different herbs, spices, citrus zest, or even sweeteners to complement various types of meat and achieve different flavor profiles.
  4. Convenience: Wet brining usually requires less time compared to dry brining. It typically takes only a few hours for the salt in a wet brine to start to sufficiently penetrate the meat and work its magic.


Disadvantages of Wet Brining:

While wet brining has its benefits, there are also a few downsides to consider:

  1. Requires sufficient refrigerator space: Since wet brining involves submerging the meat in a liquid solution, you'll need enough space in your refrigerator to accommodate the brining container.
  2. Leaves more of a mess: Anytime you’re dealing with liquids, you’re going to have more cleanup to do.


wet brining in the refrigerator | wet brine vs dry brine | wet brining vs dry brining


Advantages of Dry Brining:

  1. Crispy skin: Dry brining is particularly beneficial for smoking poultry as it helps to draw out excess moisture from the skin, resulting in crispier and more flavorful skin when cooked.
  2. Easier cleanup: Unlike wet brining, which requires disposal of the brine, dry brining eliminates the need for excess liquid and makes cleanup hassle-free.
  3. Effective on larger cuts: Dry brining is much more effective on thicker and larger cuts of meat, helping to keep them deliciously tender while enhancing the naturally robust flavor of the meat.


Disadvantages of Dry Brine

Though dry brining has its perks, there are a couple of drawbacks to consider:

  1. Less intense flavor penetration: Compared to wet brining, the added flavors in a dry brine may not penetrate the meat as deeply. This can result in a milder flavor profile.
  2. Time-consuming: Dry brining usually requires a longer timeframe compared to wet brining, especially for larger cuts of meat or whole poultry. This can be a drawback if you're short on time or need to prepare the meat quickly. For example, for a 16 to 20-pound turkey, it should be dry-brined for 24 to 48 hours.
  3. Limited customization: Dry brines usually just consist of salt and a few other seasonings, limiting the variety of flavors that can be achieved compared to wet brines.


Utilize the Power of Brining For Delicious Results

As you can see, when it comes to a wet brine vs dry brine, both have their advantages and can produce delicious, flavorful results.

Ultimately, the choice between the two methods depends on personal preference and the desired outcome. Experimenting with different brining techniques can lead to exciting culinary discoveries and enhance the flavors of your favorite smoked or grilled meats and seafood. Whether you choose to wet brine or dry brine, one thing is certain - brining is a surefire way to elevate the taste of your meals and impress your friends and family.

Do you have a preference between wet or dry brining? Have you recently tried brining for the first time? If so, leave a comment below! We want to hear what you have to say.

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Article feature image source: Perdue Farms

When it comes to smoking meat, there are a few key factors that can affect the outcome of your cook. One of the most important being the type of wood you use. Different woods impart different flavors to the meat, so it's important to choose the right one for the job. And one of the most popular forms of fuel for smoking meat is wood chips, which, like other wood fuels, come in a variety of types (aka “flavors”).

In this article, you'll learn why and how wood chips play such a big role in smoking meat, how to select the perfect wood type of wood chips to enhance your meat, and some bonus tips on using them. Don't settle for mediocre barbecue; elevate your grilling game by picking the best wood chips to match your preferred taste and style.


The Role of Wood Chips in BBQ Flavor

When it comes to achieving that perfect smoky BBQ flavor, the type of wood chips you choose can make or break your final result. The smoke produced from burning wood chips is one of the main things that gives meat that signature “BBQ” flavor and aroma. But how exactly does it do this and why are the results different between different types of wood?


The Science Behind Wood Smoke

The science behind how smoke affects meat is simple yet fascinating. To summarize it briefly, when wood is burned, it releases a complex mixture of gasses and compounds. These include carbon dioxide, water vapor, syringol, and guaiacol

When the smoke particles come into contact with the meat, they react with the proteins and fats in the meat, creating new flavor compounds. These flavor compounds are what give smoked meat its smoky, slightly charred flavor that we all know and love.


The Importance of Choosing the Right Type of Wood Chips

Choosing the right wood chips when smoking meat is crucial for achieving the desired flavor and aroma in your BBQ. Different types of wood impart different distinct flavors, with some being more subtle and others being more bold. The right choice of wood type can enhance and complement the natural flavors of your meat.

For example, hickory wood chips provide a strong, smoky flavor that pairs well with rich, fatty meats like pork and beef. On the other hand, fruitwood chips like apple or cherry can provide a more delicate, sweet smoke that's perfect for chicken or fish. So, let's dive a little further into the types of wood that are available to choose from.


types of wood chips | choosing the right wood chips
B & B Charcoal


The Types of Wood Chips for Smoking Meat

In general, two types of wood are commonly used for smoking meat: hardwoods and fruitwoods.

Fruitwood Chips

Fruitwood chips are made from various fruit trees and are known for their sweet and subtle flavors, making them better suited for lighter meats.

  • Apple: Apple is a popular choice for smoking poultry, pork, and some fish. It has a mild, fruity flavor that pairs well with the natural flavors of the meat.
  • Cherry: Cherry is another good choice for smoking chicken and fish. It has a slightly sweeter flavor than apple, and it can also be used to smoke pork and beef.
  • Peach: Peach wood chips provide a mild flavor that works well with virtually any type of meat, especially poultry and pork.


Hardwood Chips

Hardwood chips are made from trees such as oak, hickory, and mesquite, and they offer strong and bold flavors.

  • Hickory: Hickory is one of the most popular woods for smoking meat and has a strong, smoky flavor that goes well with pork, beef, and poultry.
  • Oak: Oak is another versatile wood that can be used for smoking a variety of meats, especially red meat. It has a slightly milder flavor than hickory, but it still imparts a nice smoky taste.
  • Maple: Maple is a good choice for smoking lighter meats, such as chicken and fish. It has a sweet, mild flavor that compliments the natural flavors of the meat.
  • Pecan: Pecan is similar to hickory, but it has a slightly sweeter flavor. It's a good choice for smoking beef, pork, and poultry.
  • Mesquite: Mesquite is a distinct, strong-flavored wood that is best suited for smoking beef and game meats. It has a smoky, slightly spicy flavor that can be overpowering if used too heavily. This wood is a favorite of Texas-style BBQ purists.



Technically, there is a third type of wood known as softwood. This wood, which comes from trees such as pine and cedar, is not commonly used for smoking meat. This is because of their high resin content, which can cause a bitter taste and even produce toxic smoke. Cedar planks are a popular accessory used to grill salmon on (and it’s perfectly healthy to do this), but don’t use the wood to create smoke when smoking meat.

Whether you prefer sweet and subtle fruitwood chips or bold and strong hardwood chips, experimenting with different types can help elevate your BBQ game to the next level.


Matching Types of Wood Chips with Types of Meat

When it comes to smoking or barbecuing meat, choosing the right wood chips can make all the difference in the world. As mentioned above, different wood chips impart different flavors and aromas to the meat, which can either enhance or detract from its natural taste.


smoking with wood chips | choosing the right flavor of wood chips | types of wood chips


So, how do you know which wood chips to use for the meat you're cooking? Let's take a look at some classic pairings between wood chips and types of meat:


For beef, the best wood chips to use are hickory, mesquite, oak, or pecan. Hickory wood chips are the most popular choice for creating a savory smoky taste that complements the meat's natural flavor, while mesquite wood chips impart a more intense and somewhat spicy smoke flavor. Oak wood chips produce a milder smoke flavor that is perfect for beef cuts such as brisket. And pecan wood chips add a sweet and nutty flavor to the meat.



Pork pairs well with wood chips such as apple, cherry, hickory, and maple. Applewood chips have a sweet and fruity flavor that enhances the meat's natural sweetness, while cherry wood chips offer a mild and fruity smoke flavor that is perfect for pork chops and ribs. Hickory wood chips, as mentioned earlier, are a classic choice for smoking most any type of meat, while maple wood chips add a subtle sweetness to the natural, salty flavor of pork.



When it comes to smoking poultry, the best wood chips to use are apple, cherry, hickory, or pecan. Apple and cherry wood chips impart a sweet and fruity flavor to the meat that pairs perfectly with the mild flavor of chicken or turkey. Hickory wood chips add a more robust smoky flavor to the meat, while pecan wood chips offer a sweet and nutty flavor that complements the meat's natural flavor.



When smoking seafood, the best wood chips to use are maple and oak. Maple wood chips have a mild and sweet flavor that compliments the delicate flavor of fish. While oak wood chips produce a milder smoke flavor that can also be a good choice for seafood.

Of course, these are just general guidelines. The best way to find the perfect wood for your BBQ is to experiment and see what you prefer and what gives you the best results.


Bonus Tips for Using Wood Chips to Smoke Meat


tips for using wood chips | choosing the right flavor of wood chips | types of wood chips


As you can see, when it comes to smoking your meat, the right wood chips can make all the difference. Not only do they add a smoky flavor, but they can also create a unique taste depending on the type of wood you choose. Here are some tips for using wood chips properly and achieving the perfect smoky flavor on your meat:

  • Control the Smoke: Controlling the amount of smoke is crucial when smoking meat. Too much smoke can overpower the flavor and make the meat taste bitter. Remember, you want a steady stream of thin, blue smoke.
  • Use the right amount of wood: Too much wood can make your meat bitter, so it's important to use the right amount. A good rule of thumb is to use one cup of wood chips for every three pounds of meat.
  • Smoke the meat at a low temperature: Smoking meat at a low temperature (225-250 degrees Fahrenheit) will help to develop the nice, smoky flavor that you want.


Using Wood Chips with Gas Grills

Yes, you can still use wood chips on a gas grill.  Doing so can create the same smoky flavor as a charcoal or wood-fueled grill/smoker. Here's how to do it:

  1. Wrap the wood chips in aluminum foil, creating a packet with holes poked in the top.
  2. Place the packet directly on the heat source, under the grates.
  3. Preheat the grill to high and let it smoke for about 15 minutes before adding the meat.


Using the Right Wood Chips Can Help You Achieve BBQ Success

The type of wood chips you choose can make or break the flavor of your BBQ. By selecting the right wood chips, you can achieve that irresistible smoky flavor that will have everyone coming back for seconds. Remember to consider the type of meat you are cooking, the intensity of the smoke flavor you want, and the overall taste you are trying to achieve. 

Whether you prefer hickory, mesquite, or applewood, make sure to experiment with different types of wood chips to find your perfect combination. With the right wood chips and a little bit of practice, you can become a BBQ master in no time.

Do you have a preferred type of wood? Did you recently try a different type with a specific kind of meat? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!


Do you want to get more insider information like this, as well as proven competition barbecue cooking techniques and secrets that will help you master your smoker or grill? You can get all of this and more from the Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters here in the BBQ Champs Academy online barbecue cooking classes. Our step-by-step classes, all in high-definition video, are unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere online and are packed with everything you need to know to start cooking like the pros. 

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To many, beef brisket is the ultimate choice when it comes to cuts of meat to smoke. But, it can take some strategy and technique to do it properly. Using a brisket injection before smoking the meat is one of the easiest and most effective ways to keep the beef moist and tender and enhance the flavor.

Of course, you could use a pre-made brisket injection marinade mix (like Butcher BBQ's Prime Brisket Injection from David Bouska, one of the Champion Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy). But, it can be fun to experiment with different flavor combinations by making your own homemade beef brisket injection. 

In this article, we’ve outlined why you should be using an injection to begin with, some tips on making a homemade beef brisket injection, and a brisket injection recipe you can start with.


Why You Should Use a Brisket Injection

The key to good smoked meat is adequate moisture retention. But, with it being smoked slowly at warm temperatures, it can be especially vulnerable to drying out. This is especially true for a super lean cut of meat like beef brisket. 

When smoking a brisket, the meat can quickly start to lose moisture. Injecting the meat can help compensate for this. Using a brisket injection helps get extra moisture and flavor deep into the inner layers of the meat quickly. It is actually a very easy process that won’t leave much cleanup at all.

Check out our article on how to inject brisket to learn more about the benefits of using a brisket injection and exactly how to do it the right way.


injecting brisket | brisket injection | homemade brisket injection
Source: Derrick Riches


Tips for Making a Homemade Brisket Injection

Brisket injections can range from a very thin, water-like mixture to a thicker, heavier almost sauce-like consistency. No matter what kind of injection you are using, the most important thing to keep in mind is to keep things simple.

You don’t want to lose the delicious natural taste of the beef. So, you only want to use ingredients and flavors that will complement the brisket. Some of the most commonly used ingredients in homemade beef brisket injections include things like:

  • Beef stock/broth/base
  • Olive oil
  • Brine (saltwater)
  • Alcohol (like bourbon or beer)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Vinegar

Some brisket injection recipes also start to work in more creative ingredients like:

  • Apple juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Brown sugar
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, etc.)


Along with keeping the ingredients simple, there are some additional tips to keep in mind when it comes to making a good homemade brisket injection that will yield good results. Here are a few things to remember:


You don’t want to clog up your injector! - 

Remember, your injection is going to have to pass through some small holes at the end of the needle of your meat injector. So, keep the injection thin enough to easily pass through without clogging things up.


Don’t go too salty - 

Try and keep your injection between 1% and 2% salt content. Then it will still help tenderize the meat without being overly salty.


Avoid using liquid smoke -

If you are going to smoke the brisket using wood as a fuel source (whether as the main fuel source or a flavoring source), DO NOT use liquid smoke in your brisket injection mixture. Doing so will result in an overly smoky, bitter flavor that could ruin your whole brisket. If you are using an electric or gas smoker and not heating up any wood chips in it, you may be able to get away with just a little bit of liquid smoke to add that flavor.


The injection should complement the rub (and vice versa) -

If you are also using a dry rub on the exterior of the brisket, make an injection that either has the same flavor profile or a complementary flavor profile of your rub. You don’t want to create a situation where there are too many flavors competing with each other in/on your brisket.


brisket injection recipe | brisket injection | homemade brisket injection


Grind any solid ingredients - 

If you decide to use any solids as ingredients in your mixture, try and grind them as much as possible (ideally, into a fine powder) to reduce the chances of your injector clogging.


Heat the liquid, but don’t boil it - 

Heat your water or both (usually 2 cups of liquid is plenty) in a small saucepan over medium heat. But it’s very important not to let it boil, or even simmer. You just want it warm enough to easily dissolve the other ingredients. Allowing your injection mixture to boil can significantly change the flavor profile of certain ingredients.


Let the injection stand before using - 

After heating the liquid and mixing the ingredients, transfer it to a mixing bowl or tall glass. Then, put it in the fridge for several hours before you are ready to use it. Make sure to give it one last good stir right before you start injecting. Letting the injection stand before using it will ensure all of the ingredients are dissolved properly and thoroughly mixed.


Make sure all the ingredients are fully dissolved -

Be patient and make sure any powdered or paste-like ingredients are fully dissolved into the liquid before you start trying to inject your brisket. The last thing you want to do is clog your injector or shoot a chunk of concentrated flavor into just one spot of the meat.


You won’t need a ton of injection -

As a gauge for how much brisket injection you’ll need, you should have 1 ounce of liquid per 1 pound of meat. Remember, the meat/muscle is already close to 85% water, so it won’t take a lot of liquid injection.


Be careful with acidic injections - 

If you are using a brisket injection that contains apple juice, pineapple juice, vinegar, or another ingredient that has high acidity, do not let your brisket sit for longer than 3 hours after it is injected before you cook it. Doing so can over-tenderize the meat and you’ll end up with a soggy, mushy hunk of meat.


apple juice for brisket injection | brisket injection recipe


Simple Beef Brisket Injection Recipe

If you are looking for a place to start when it comes to how to make a brisket injection,  check out this simple, easy-to-make brisket injection recipe that perfectly complements the natural flavor of the meat with delicious umami:

  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Tsp Beef Base
  • 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Kosher Salt

Once you’ve tried a simple recipe like this, then you can make adjustments and additions of new flavors based on your taste. For example, adding ground thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf for an elevated savory profile. Or add brown sugar for a sweet and savory combo.


Use a Good Injection to Elevate Your Brisket Today!

Now that you’ve got a good idea on how to make a homemade brisket injection you can use, go ahead and grab your meat injector and get going. Using an injection will help you achieve that juicy, tender, and deliciously-flavored slow-smoked brisket that you are after.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different recipes and combinations of ingredients to find your favorite.

Do you have some more tips when it comes to making a homemade brisket injection? Did you recently try injecting a brisket for the first time? If so, leave a comment below and tell us about it. We want to hear from you!


Do you want to learn valuable insider tips and techniques, including how to make a great homemade brisket injection, straight from Champion Pitmasters and master meat-smoking? Then check out the tell-all online barbecue classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. To get the full inside look, grab your All-Access pass today!

Make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel for the latest videos packed full of insider info, tips, and barbecue competition news straight from the pros!

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!

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