Barbequing basics: A guide for grilling newbies

As a way to get myself -- and hopefully my fellow barbequing newbies -- more comfortable with the BBQ, I’ve assembled this handy guide for the uninitiated.


While I love to cook and bake, and feel completely comfortable with any kitchen appliance or tool you can name, the barbeque has always made me a bit nervous. The gas, the flames, the possibility of singed eyebrows…

But this year, I’m determined to conquer my fears because I absolutely adore grilled food — is there anything better than barbequed sausages, burgers, corn on the cob, or a great steak? The hubby bought a Big Green Egg last year, and the food that’s come off of it has been incredibly delicious. Plus the smell of charcoal is absolutely addicting. Needless to say, I want to get in on the action!

So as a way to get myself — and hopefully all you fellow barbequing newbies out there — more comfortable with the BBQ, I’ve assembled this handy guide for the uninitiated. Let’s get our grill on!

Gas or charcoal:

There are proponents for both, with those on the charcoal side saying you can’t beat the smoky flavour that comes from cooking over coals, and those on the gas side arguing the convenience factor (quick and easy to light, heats up fast) trumps everything else. It’s really your preference.

Direct vs. indirect cooking:

Direct cooking is ideal for food that doesn’t take too long to cook – think steaks, burgers, chicken breasts and veggies. On a gas BBQ, preheat it to high, place food on grill, then turn to temperature recipe suggests. Close grill, and only lift to turn food. For a charcoal BBQ, charcoal should be evenly spread out. Preheat, then put food on the grill. Keep lid closed, aside from turning food.

Indirect cooking is great for food that takes longer to cook – whole chickens, ribs, roasts, etc. The heat circulates around the inside, evenly cooking the food. On a gas BBQ, start by preheating on high. Place the food in the center and turn off the burner directly underneath it, and lower the burners on the side to the temperature specified in the recipe. Consider using a drip pan to catch meat juices. On a charcoal bbq, move coals to either side. Place food in the center, and put a drip pan underneath.

How to light your grill:

For gas BBQ: Open the lid. Turn on the gas from the propane tank. Turn on one of the burners, then press the ignition button. If you don’t have one, or it no longer works, use a long match or BBQ lighter to ignite the burner. Once it’s lit, turn on the other burners. Heat on high to help burn off any remaining food and/or grease. Then turn burners back down to desired temperature before cooking.

For charcoal BBQ: We’re keen on all-natural ways to start the charcoal grill – as opposed to lighter fluid, which tends to be filled with chemicals and can transfer that flavour to your food. Look for all-natural starters, or use a chimney starter. Put a few pieces of crumpled newspaper in the bottom, fill the chimney with charcoal, and then light the newspaper. Remove the grill grate and place the chimney in the grill. Be sure to clear out leftover ash, and any other material blocking airflow. The bottom vent should be open to allow oxygen in. Once the charcoal is good and hot, use oven mitts to pour the charcoal from the chimney into the grill.

Cleaning the grill:

Clean your grill each time you use it – heat the grill and use a wire brush to scrape the grates. For stubborn bits, soak your grill racks in a soap and water solution then scrub with a sponge or cloth. Before cooking , mist your grill with a fine spray of cooking oil to help prevent your food from sticking. Make sure the grill is cold when you mist it – you don’t want flare-ups! For more on how to clean your BBQ, click here.

Get grilling! Here are a few great recipes for BBQing amateurs

Hamburgers – try this delicious two-ingredient version!

Grilled tri-tip steak

Chicken breasts – these delicious ones have fresh Greek flavours of lemon, garlic and oregano.

Grilled sirloin kebobs

Grilled shrimp salad

Once you’re comfortable with the basics, you’re ready to try something more advanced: 

Smoked chicken and sweet corn BBQ pizza

Classic pork back ribs

Cedar-planked nachos

And find tons more recipes, tips, and advice in our Cityline.ca Grill Guide!

Join the conversation

What do you think?

0 comments

Please read our commenting policies

Hide the conversation