1. Know your heat source. There are two types of heat sources to use when grilling: direct or indirect heat. Foods grilled over “direct heat” — when the heat source of lit burners or hot coals sits directly beneath the food — are typically fast-cooking foods like steak or asparagus. Foods grilled over “indirect heat” — when the heat source comes from off to the side of the food, whether it’s by turning off burners or banking hot coals to the other side — are slow-cooking foods like potatoes or brisket. Foods can be started over direct heat to develop a nicely charred exterior before being finished over indirect heat to ensure that the center is cooked through without burning the exterior.
2. Oil the grates with a brush to keep foods from sticking.
For fragile items like fish, brush both the grates and the food for extra nonstick insurance.
3. Leave the food alone until it lifts easily from the grill.
The easiest way to tell if it’s time to turn your food is by gently lifting it at one end — if it lifts easily, it’s done. If it sticks, leave it for a few more minutes before checking once more. A good rule of thumb to follow is to leave food to grill undisturbed on one side for a minute or two to allow grill marks to form.
4. Go beyond burgers.
Experiment with sweet foods like fruit (peaches and pineapples are ideal contenders; pat the surface dry, brush with olive oil and season with sugar or salt), pound cake or angel food cake. The sugars in sweets will caramelize for great grill marks.
5. Flare-ups are caused by drippings.
The shooting flames that erupt when grilling are typically the result of drippings catching on fire and burning off. The first step is to safely move the food out of the line of fire using tongs; this should remove the source of the drippings fueling the fire. If the flames don’t die down almost immediately, starve the flames of oxygen by covering the grill — the flare-up should then cease. Only as a last resort should the grill be doused with water or flour, as both will ruin the food.