Grilling is a huge part of my summer. I love to invite friends over, fire up the grill and enjoy the long evenings together. Even on weeknights, grilling makes casual entertaining — or even a family dinner — so simple. Cooking on a grill is just as easy as on a stovetop, and there’s so little cleanup that I have time to relax after dinner.
But — there’s always a “but,” isn’t there? — when the inspiration hits, I don’t want to have to scrub the grill or hunt up the right ingredients or tools. I just want to fire it up and cook. And that takes just a little bit of prep work at the beginning of the summer.
Here’s what you can do to be ready to grill at a moment’s notice.
Get your grill ready
When your grill is ready to go, you’re only about 30 minutes away from a great summer dinner.
- Keep it somewhere convenient and safe. You’re less likely to grill if you have to dig it out of the shed or garage every time you want it. But be sure to place your grill well away from anything flammable, your house and deck railings included, and out from under any overhanging branches.
- Keep it clean. At the beginning of the season, give your grill rack a good scrub and empty out any ashes or other debris. Make a habit of doing a little bit of cleanup after you cook so your grill is ready to go the next time. (A dirty grill can add an off flavor to foods and it can be dangerous!)
- Keep an extra propane tank or an extra bag of charcoal around. Murphy’s Law says you’ll run out just when your burger craving gets particularly strong. If you have a charcoal grill, get a simple chimney, which makes it easier to light and your coals ready to grill faster.
Get your tools ready
Try to keep everything you need in one convenient place. Here’s what I like to have on hand.
- Apron. I use a long apron with a bib so my clothes are covered and no grease gets on them.
- Spray bottle. Keep one filled with water by your charcoal grill. This is handy if you have a small flare-up of the fire on the grill. Sometimes when I grill hamburgers, fat will drip onto the coals. A quick squirt of water puts the fire out. (Remember, don’t use a spray bottle on gas grills!)
- Mitts. Use fire-resistant oven mitts or welder’s gloves. Mitts protect your arm from the heat.
- Basting brush. Look for one with a long handle and either silicone bristles, which are best with high heat, or brushes with natural bristles.
- Spatulas. Keep two long-handled, flat, metal spatulas on hand for flipping chops, burgers and fillets.
- Long-handled tongs. Keep two handy: one to rearrange the coals, the other to move the meat around.
- Grill brush. A clean grill is a safe grill!
- Foil. Heavy-duty aluminum foil comes in handy in so many ways: to make a last-minute drip pan, to protect parts of the meat that are in danger of scorching, and to tent meat while it’s resting after you take it off the grill.
- Skewers. Look for long, metal skewers with easy-to-grasp handles to thread small chunks of meat and vegetables. If you use wooden skewers, be sure to soak them in water for at least half an hour.
- Grill basket. A basket is great for grilling delicate fish or small vegetables that could otherwise fall through the grates.
Get your ingredients ready
You’ve got the obvious — ground meat, hot dogs and bratwurst — but here’s what else you should have on your summer shopping list so you’re always ready to grill.
- Buns. Burger and hot dog buns keep well in the freezer.
- Tortillas. Quesadillas taste even better when made on the grill.
- Condiments. You’ve got the usual — ketchup, mustard and relish — but do you have barbecue sauce, mayonnaise and pickles? What about giardiniera, pesto, sriracha, kimchi and hoisin sauce—all of which can transform an ordinary burger. Stock up now and most condiments will keep in your refrigerator for the whole summer.
- Grillable veggies. Why not cook your meat and vegetables at the same time? Zucchini, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers and eggplant are all natural candidates for grilling.
- Pre-baked pizza crust. Pizza is almost as easy to make on the grill as it is in the oven.
- Land O Lakes® Deli American and 4 Cheese Italian Blend. Nothing melts better on a burger or a hot dog. Or grilled chicken, or grilled pizza or quesadillas. You get the idea.
Italian Turkey Burgers
Grilled Vegetable Salad
With easy dinners like that, it’s summertime and the living really is easy.