Learning the grilling techniques of BBQ masters doesn’t have to be an epic quest that takes you to the ends of the earth. In fact, most of the knowledge is at your fingertips (or your meat claws) today. You just need the right tools and some willingness to experiment!
If you’re searching for delicious smoking and grilling techniques to crush that BBQ competition or wow your friends at the tailgate, you’ve come to the right place. Up ahead, we’ve got eight tips that will help you step up your grill game.
Before you get started, remember: The BBQ community is known for passionate people who disagree on basically everything except their love of smoked meat. Some pitmasters might have a different take on some of these tips. Our recommendation is to get behind the grill, try them out and learn what works for you!
1. Spritz meat while it’s on the smoker to help build up bark.
Many pitmasters spend years perfecting their techniques for getting that crispy and flavorful “bark” crust that makes meats like brisket and pork butt so delicious. However, a simple BBQ spray bottle is actually one of your most important tools when it comes to bark-making.
Fill your spray bottle with an equal mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Some pitmasters swear by additional ingredients like beef stock, mustard or even hot sauce, but ACV and water is a good place to start.
Now, make sure that you’ve applied plenty of your favorite rub to the meat. This is a great opportunity to let the Grilla All-Purpose Rub work its magic, but our Grilla Beef Rub is an excellent choice, too. The spices in the rub are essential for creating your bark, so don’t be shy about laying it on thick.
Once the meat goes in the smoker, take your spritzing mixture and spritz it approximately once an hour. This keeps the meat moist, which helps build up a pleasantly firm bark texture and keep it from drying out. Spritzing also attracts smoke to the meat, giving it that delicious smoky flavor BBQ enthusiasts love.
We also recommend the Grilla Grills spritzer bottle for anyone who’s serious about creating the perfect bark. Our spray bottle is made to give you an even and dependable spray on your meat masterpiece. Plus, the stainless steel body construction is road-tough for tailgates and competitions, so it’ll keep going long after cheap plastic spray bottles have stopped working.
In search of the perfect bark? Read our guide to BBQ bark for more!
2. Wrap your meat in aluminum foil to seal in heat and moisture.
Aluminum foil has multiple uses in grilling, but the “Texas crutch” is one of the most common. That’s pitmaster slang for wrapping your meat in aluminum foil to help regulate temperature and moisture. It’s most important for low and slow cooking of thick cuts like brisket and pork butt.
Pitmasters love this technique because it helps get meat through a “stall,” which can be one of the most challenging points of the smoking process. In a stall, the internal temperature of the meat stops rising before it hits the ideal range. This happens because as the heat evaporates the water inside the meat, evaporative cooling simultaneously cools it down.
If you don’t want to potentially wait hours to ride out a stall, a well-timed Texas crutch lets you get the meat back on track and up to temperature. The aluminum foil keeps the meat’s moisture and heat contained, which brings up its internal temperature and cooks it more quickly.
Here’s how to do it: When your meat hits around 150º-160º on the meat thermometer and won’t go higher, take the meat off the smoker. Wrap it in two or more layers of foil. Make sure that every part is covered and that it forms a tight seal around the meat.
Put your meat back on the grill and check it regularly with a meat thermometer. Before long, the internal temperature should be climbing again. Once the meat is at the right temp, you can either remove the foil or leave it on for a while to help it cook faster. Don’t leave the foil on for the whole cook, though. It will make the texture of your meat mushy and prevent bark from developing.
3. Use meat claws to quickly and easily shred meat to the perfect consistency.
Dreading the prospect of shredding that whole Boston butt by hand? When you’ve got a great pair of meat claws, the whole process is a breeze, and the results are awesome. And yes, it’s pretty darn fun, too!
Many pitmasters start out pulling meat with forks, but there’s a reason that the pros typically use meat claws. Even when you’ve gotten your meat to that perfect tender texture, shredding with forks is still hard work that can tire your hands out quickly. Plus, the results from fork shredding are often disappointingly inconsistent because you’re using a tool that’s not quite up to the job.
High quality stainless steel meat claws from Grilla Grills are perfect for shredding it up. We designed them to give an incredible texture every time, whether you’re shredding pork, chicken or something else. The heavy duty nylon grips stay cool and keep your hands comfortable. With a nice sharp set of claws, you’ll be prepared to rule the BBQ jungle.
4. Use a high quality meat thermometer to tell when meat is at just the right temperature.
Even experienced BBQ chefs use thermometers to check meat temperatures. Why? Because no matter how good you think you are at judging meat temperature, using a thermometer is the only way to get it right every time.
For one thing, a meat thermometer will help you keep your family and your guests safe by making sure that foods like chicken and ground beef get to the minimum safe temperature. They’re also ideal when you’re cooking something like steak, where a few degrees can make a difference in getting your ideal medium rare.
A meat thermometer is also a must-have tool for monitoring your meat during smoking. Among its many other uses, a thermometer is crucial for detecting when your internal temps have stalled. The sooner you’re aware of hitting a stall, the sooner you can address it with methods like the Texas crutch (see tip #2).
The Grilla Grills meat thermometer is the perfect tool for beginners and experts alike. Its auto-rotating digital display is easy to read no matter the angle, and its magnetic design makes it easy to keep handy when you need it. From a perfect medium rare to a just-right brisket, a great meat thermometer makes it all so much easier.
5. Use a diffuser to set up multiple cooking zones on your charcoal grill.
Multi-zone cooking is a classic grilling technique for charcoal and gas grills that lets you cook at multiple temperatures on the same grill. The basic idea is to create two temperature zones: a hotter direct heat zone and a cooler indirect heat zone.
Moving food from one zone to another is an excellent method for techniques like searing, where you need high heat for a short amount of time. It also allows you to cook foods that require different cooking temperatures simultaneously. Suddenly, you’re cooking the meat for your entree and the veggies for your side at the same time!
On a gas grill like the Grilla Primate, it’s as simple as leaving one or more burners turned off. In a charcoal grill, you’ll place all of your coals on one side of the grill, leaving the other side empty. The area with a flame will be your direct heat zone, while the other zone will provide indirect heat.
However, the simplest way to set up cooking zones in your charcoal grill is to use a ceramic diffuser, like our Kong ceramic split diffuser. The stainless steel rack and two-part ceramic diffuser are built to fit perfectly into a ceramic grill. Use both sections and enjoy the slower, gentler cooking of indirect heat. Or, put just one in so you can cook with both direct and indirect heat at the same time!
6. Choose the right type of wood pellets for your BBQ recipe.
Any seasoned pitmaster will tell you that cooking with different types of wood will give your BBQ different flavors. The secret is knowing which woods pair best with which foods!
Our guide to wood pellets is the perfect place to get up to speed on the basics. Beef, for example, tends to be tastiest when cooked over hardier woods like hickory or pecan. Seafood, on the other hand, needs a wood like cherry to give it a more subtle flavor. And if you’re looking for a more intense taste, the eye-opening zap of mesquite might be just your style!
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a lumberjack to find just the right wood for the BBQ flavor you want. Grilla Grills’ premium wood pellets are made from all natural hardwood, with no chemical binders or additives. Choose from six different options, including hickory, apple, mesquite and our all-purpose Grilla Competition Blend.
7. Monitor your grill temperature from anywhere with a WiFi pellet grill.
Expertise is all about knowing how to make hard things easy, which is why pro pitmasters love WiFi pellet grills like the Grilla Silverbac. These smart grills allow you to monitor temperature from our Alpha Connect app and even remotely adjust it.
That’s right – no more standing over the grill while everybody else is watching the game or hanging out! Since pellet grills burn fuel at a consistent, controlled rate, it’s easy to monitor the temperature through a digital sensor. That sensor is linked to your Alpha Connect app, which can also start and stop the grill or adjust the temperature remotely.
It’s perfect for cooking on a cold day when you’d rather not be outside, or for any time when you’d rather be doing something other than watching the grill. Plus, all new Grilla pellet grill models now include Alpha Connect! If you’ve been looking for an easier way to cook delicious BBQ recipes, a WiFi pellet grill is an excellent choice.
8. Keep carryover cooking in mind when cooking thicker cuts.
When you’re cooking a thick cut of meat, it’s easy to overshoot the temperature even if you take the meat out the minute it hits the right temp. That’s because of a phenomenon called carryover cooking.
In a thick cut like a chuck roast, heat takes some time to work its way from the exterior to the center. That means the meat continues to cook for several minutes even after you’ve taken it off the grill. To control carryover cooking, the secret is to remove these cuts from the heat source while the temperature is slightly below where you want it.
Carryover cooking will always vary by temperature and cut. Our rule of thumb is to remove your meat from the heat source when it’s around five degrees below the desired temperature at plate time. Note that carryover cooking is mainly a concern with thick meats like steaks and roasts. It’s much less noticeable cooking with thin cuts.
See our guide to carryover cooking to learn more!
Still hungry for another helping of pro grilling techniques? There’s plenty more on our Grilla Grills blog, where you can learn everything from mastering the Texas crutch to seasoning your grill. Plus, we’ve got a mouth-watering selection of BBQ recipes available. Or, browse our full selection of Grilla Grills to find out why we really are the 800-pound gorilla of pellet smokers!