Use marinades to tenderize tougher (less expensive) pieces of meat, and use dry rubs add flavor to meat that is already tender. To reduce flare-ups, trim excess fat from chops and steaks to no more than 1/4 inch. Grilling with the lid on also reduces flare-ups while cooking food faster and more evenly.
Move meat around on the grill with a spatula, not a barbecue fork. Poking meat will cause the juices to escape. And resist the urge to press down with your spatula—especially when cooking hamburgers. They won't cook any faster and you'll squeeze out the flavorful juices.
Use grilling times only as a guide. Keep an instant-read thermometer handy to check for doneness. There are variables like the thickness of the food you are cooking, whether the food is cold or at room temperature when it goes on the grill, and even the weather. Allow more time at high altitudes or on windy or cold days.
Brush sauces and glazes that contain sweeteners on the food during the last 15 minutes or so of grilling to avoid burning.
Use clean tongs and spatulas to remove cooked food from the grill and never place cooked food on the same platter you used to carry uncooked food to the grill.
If cooking cuts of meat, make sure the surface is dry before putting it on the hot grill. You want it to sear, not steam.
Most vegetables can be cooked on a grill, with the general rule of thumb being to grill them quickly and over direct medium to medium-high heat. Marinate or toss vegetables with seasonings and oil before cooking to boost flavor and prevent sticking to the grill grate.
Some larger vegetables like eggplant, zucchini and summer squash, large carrots, and sweet and white potatoes can be cut into uniform lengthwise slices about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick to increase the surface area exposed to the grill. Cut onions and bell peppers into wedges and place directly on the grate or thread onto skewers.
Wooden skewers can be found in most supermarkets in the housewares aisle. Don't be tempted to skip soaking them in water. They will catch on fire! If you have metal skewers they'll work too.
Thoroughly oil the grill grate before placing the salmon on it to avoid the skin sticking to the grate.Be cautious. I hate to sound like the fire police, but these tips will save you a lot of discomfort, misadventure and possibly money:
Place the grill several feet away from the side of your house, deck floor and railing. (Take this from a woman who almost burned out the canvas awnings of a neighbor's house.)
Never grill in the garage or on a covered patio or porch with a deep overhang.
Make sure the grill is stable and sits on a flat surface. Keep an eye on little ones, roll up your sleeves, and save that chic but billowing little number for another time.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of "The Splendid Table," including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, three Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009) from Women in Communication and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.