This weekend, we celebrate those who serve our country by firing up the grill and coming together for cookouts. Memorial Day is often the unofficial start of grilling season for weekend grillers throughout America. If you’re not ready to grill, or if you’ve never grilled before, I think it’s time you started.
This Memorial Day Weekend, open the grilling season with the rest of America.
Never grilled before? I’ve got your back.
While it’s true I love my BBQ accessories, I’ve often said the only thing you need to start grilling is an inexpensive kettle grill and a $5 bag of charcoal. I’m going to walk you through the essential equipment you’ll need to cook outside this weekend. We’ll talk the best grill that you can get at a store today, which charcoal you should grab, how your grill should be set up, and which grill tools you need to get started.
As a bonus, I’ll point you to some of my favorite quick and easy grill recipes so you can serve delicious food in honor of those who served our country.
Let’s get started!
Best Gas Grill
If charcoal isn’t your thing, and it isn’t for many users based on grill sales data, check out my blog about cooking with gas. After using countless gas grills, I recommend the Lynx lineup of gas grills. I was lucky enough to spend a couple days at their headquarters in Downey CA, to find out how they make these incredible cookers.
Grilling with a gas grill and a smoker box offers the benefit of wood-fired flavor without the hassle and clean up required from a charcoal grill. With proper burner set up, heat management is a breeze and two-zone cooking is not only possible, but easy to achieve.
Unlike many discount gas grills that eventually rust into a pile of rubble, the Lynx is constructed entirely of 304 stainless steel and comes with a hefty warranty to back it up. This means that you’re buying a grill that can be passed down, with your favorite set of tongs, from generation to generation. Lynx truly is the flagship of gas grills, and if you invest in one, you’ll own it for life.
Best Charcoal Grills
When looking for a great starter grill, you don’t have to break the bank. The best outdoor grills for beginners are inexpensive kettle grills that will allow you to get a feel for live-fire cooking. I recommend the granddaddy of kettle grills—the Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill. It’s a classic that has all the features anyone needs to go from grilling novice to burger master.
The Weber is the perfect getting-started grill. The ash cleanup is easy, the porcelain-enamel lid was designed to help you retain heat as you cook, and the dampers are easy to use and will help you control the heat. It’s an easy grill to master and one that will be in your family for years. Check out my blog on the importance of setting up two-zone heating and you’re pretty much ready to start up the grill.
The best part? Webers are everywhere. Go to Amazon, Home Depot, your local hardware store and you’re likely to find a Weber. Why? Because they’re one of the best grills on the market in the sub $100 range —versatile and sturdy.
Now that you’ve got the best BBQ grill for a beginner, it’s time to talk charcoal. There are many schools of thought when it comes to charcoal. Some advocate for hardwood lumps, others briquettes.
I’ll tell you that the most important choice isn’t lump or briquettes, it’s setting up your grill properly for two-zone heating with whatever fuel you decide upon. Still, there are some gold standards when it comes to both lump and briquette charcoal.
For briquettes, you can’t go wrong with a classic. Kingsford Charcoal has been a staple of backyard grills for decades. There’s a reason for that. It’s reliable with consistent heat and a quick start. This is a great beginner charcoal to work with.
If you’re looking for an all-natural fuel, then I would recommend Fogo Super Premium Hardwood Lump Charcoal. This hardwood lump charcoal burns long and retains heat. It also has a great wood smoke aroma that will draw crowds around the grill.
Both of these charcoals are an excellent way to start your Memorial Day cookout. Part of the fun of grilling is choosing what works best for you. So, feel free to experiment and pick the fuel that works best for you and your BBQ grill.
One thing I will insist upon, however, is skipping the lighter fluid unless you want your food to taste like incendiary chemicals. Instead, grab a charcoal chimney starter or a Looftlighter. Both are incredible at getting the coals going and both will spare your taste buds in the long run.
Essential Grilling Tools
You’ve got the grill, you’ve got the charcoal—now what?
Even a beginner griller needs a few accessories—nothing extravagant, but trust me, you don’t want to flip burgers by hand, it stings. For a basic, get-started-today grill tool, I would recommend OXO Tongs. A good, sturdy pair of tongs is one of the best tools any griller can have. You can flip your meats, reposition things on the grill, or snap at cookout guests who try to correct your grilling techniques. If you’re feeling extra fancy, consider getting a simple tool set, which includes tongs and a spatula. Both items will come in handy and won’t clutter up your work station. Also consider grabbing some heavy-duty foil that will help you with cleanup while cooking on the grill.
Another essential tool for grilling is an instant-read digital probe thermometer. These thermometers will let you monitor how done the meat is and whether it’s safe to serve. It’s also a great way to eliminate guesswork if you’re trying for medium rare burgers.
Finally, an essential tool for any griller is a reliable cookbook with great recipe ideas. I recommend the book written by this guy, I hear he’s pretty good. In all seriousness, Grill Seeker: Basic Training for Everyday Grilling was written for beginner grillers. It’s designed with quick, simple recipes that will keep you working on your grilling techniques through the week.
Quick and Easy Grilling Recipes
Now that we have a grill, the proper fuel, and the grill tools you’ll need, it’s time to get cooking. Set up your cookout with the essentials—some heavy duty paper plates, some paper towels for the mess, and lots of great food.
This Memorial Day, start your cookout career with the classics. Below I’ve suggested an appetizer, a classic main course, and a vegetable—have to keep it healthy—for you and you guests to devour.
Chicken Wings are a crowd pleaser at every cookout. While most deep-fry their wings, I’m going to advocate for a better technique—grilling.
Grilling your wings saves you on the mess of oil splatter, and preserves the crispy, saucy texture we all love. It’s a simple recipe, and I’m pretty sure it counts as healthy since we’re no longer frying them.
The best part about my wing recipe is the ability to customize. If you’re sensitive to spice, consider using a milder sauce. Have lots of daring friends? Find a sauce that will challenge taste buds. The sky’s the limit with this recipe, so get grilling.
A classic staple of cookouts, burgers are also one of the most mistreated of the grilling foods. This year, just say NO to hockey puck burgers. Cooking meat on the grill shouldn’t mean you’re cooking the flavor out.
This is where two-zone heating comes into play. No matter the patty, we’re going to cook it over indirect heat so we don’t serve up something that could be confused with a charcoal briquette. If you do this properly, you’ll go from grill novice to grill master in one cookout.
My butter burger recipe helps you seal in flavor and keep your patties juicy. If you’re really looking to impress, put a cast iron skillet on your grill that will allow these unbelievably decadent burgers to cook in their own juices.
Here at GrillSeeker, I always advocate for eating healthy. Well, eating vegetables coated with cheese…which is close enough. This is a classic street food dish that is loaded with flavor and simple to make.
The stars of the show here are the bright flavors and the decadent spread that melts into the corn on the cob. It’s a brilliant mixture of cheese, mayo, cilantro and cayenne that will have your taste buds singing. If you’ve never tried Mexican street corn, this is going to be a treat.
Though it’s a veggie, don’t confuse this with a side dish. Make more than you think you’ll need and watch it disappear.
Now that you’ve got all the tools, it’s time to start your cookout career. If you do host a Memorial Day cookout, let me know by tagging me on Instagram and joining the United by Flame community. Once you’ve got your grill, and a few more of my recipes under your belt, there’ll be no stopping you.