9 Grilling Hacks Every Outdoor Cook Needs

Grilling: everybody thinks they can do it; few can actually master it. For such an otherwise simple cooking technique, there are plenty of pitfalls involved for even the most experienced chefs.

Luckily for all of us, all you need to make it better is a good hack— and today we’ve got NINE. Check out our best tips and tricks for taking your grilling experience to the next level.

Propane Measurement Hack

There’s nothing worse than going to light up a gas grill for a fun and tasty barbecue, then realizing you’re actually running low on or completely out of propane. Never have that problem again with this handy hack!

All you need? Hot water. You can check a propane tank to see how much is left inside by pouring the hot water onto the tank. Then, use your hand to check to see the point where the tank goes from being hot to being cool to the touch. The point where the tank is cool marks the level of the remaining propane level.

Why does this trick work? Because the areas of the tank with the propane absorb the heat of the water, thus leaving it cool to the touch. The areas without propane have nothing to absorb the heat, so they stay warm!

In-a-Pinch Fire Starters

Unless you’re a super-experienced Eagle Scout or Gold-Award-winning Girl Scout – or even if you are one – chances are you’ve had trouble a time or two (or ten) getting a fire started. Luckily, there are some unusual and helpful starters you can use to give your lumps of charcoal a boost, and most of them? They’re hiding amongst your provisions.


Yup, first up, we’re talking about Doritos®! Those popular orange chips are incredibly flammable. Just shake some out on top of the charcoal and light ’em up. You’ll have a roaring fire in no time.

If you’re not a regular buyer of Doritos®, don’t worry! This hack works with most chips, and we know people who’ve used everything from Lays® to Fritos® to Pringles®. And if you think it’s a waste of perfectly good chips, just think of this trick as a way of repurposing the ones that have gone stale.

Egg Carton

Not much of a chips person in the first place? Then instead of raiding your pantry, raid your recycling bin and grab those egg cartons! They’re about to be turned into wicks.

Cut off a section of the egg carton and place it atop the coals, then drizzle it with a little bit of vegetable oil. All you have to do next is light a match and start your fire.

If you like, you can also place pieces of charcoal into each egg opening to help speed up the process and get your fire going even faster.

Paper Bag

And what if you don’t eat eggs, either? Then grab one of those old paper grocery bags you’re hoarding. (Trust us, all of us have at least one under the sink or hiding in our kitchens somewhere.)

This tricks works almost identically to the egg carton. Just tear off a piece of the bag and drizzle it with oil, then crumple it in your hands a bit to coat it. Place it in your grill, then place a few pieces of coal on top before lighting the bag. Easy!

Cooking in the Embers

One of the biggest grilling frustrations? Actually making room to grill everything you’re craving. Luckily, there’s a simple fix for this one, and it works especially well if you’re grilling up some potatoes!

In order to maximize the cooking area when you have a small grill, you can cook both on the grate and under the grate. (Who knew?!) You can wrap a potato in foil and place it in the bottom of the grill where the charcoal is burning. Then you can grill on the grate and cook potatoes at the same time. Genius!

Chopstick Skewers

You know that skewers are some of the best, safest and easiest ways to cook pretty much anything on the grill. But what do you do when a craving strikes and you’re out of the wooden sticks? Don’t head to the store; just open the junk drawer!

Specifically, grab those chopsticks that came with your last takeout order. All you have to do is sharpen the tips with a pencil sharpener, and then you can use them as skewers!

Two tips: the chopsticks are on the thick side, so you will want to use foods that are not prone to splitting, like meat, peppers, onions, and zucchini. And as always, if you plan to use the skewers over an open fire, you should soak them in water first to keep them from catching fire as you cook.

Grill Cleaning

The only downside to grilling is, obviously, trying to clean the grill afterward and get rid of all that blackened, baked-on char and grease. Luckily, we have two tricks that make it SO much easier.

First, grab a leftover onion half. Just stick a fork in the root end on an onion halve and use the cut side to clean the grill grate.

Another option? Some foil— like, say, the stuff you wrapped around your embers-cooked potato! Ball it up, then just use a pair of tongs to hold the foil while you clean the grate with it.

Gas Grill Smoker

We love the convenience of cooking on a gas grill, but we definitely miss the flavor you can get from wood chips. If you agree, you’ll be glad to know you don’t have to miss out that wood smoke flavor anymore, because we’ve got a hack to fix it!

The answer? Foil! You take a piece of foil, fill it with soaked wood chips, and fold the foil into a packet. You poke some holes in the foil packet to give the smoke a way out, and then place the foil packet on the fire damper of your gas grill and allow the chips the heat until they begin to smoke.

When using this to smoke food, you will want to close the lid of the grill so the smoke does not just dissipate into the air. Any food you cook there will benefit from that wood smoke flavor.

Nonstick Lemon Slice

No matter what grill you use, stuck food can be a big problem. Thankfully, there’s an easy AND delicious way to prevent it: lemon slices! Just cook your food on top of a layer of sliced lemon. (Fish is an especially good option!) If your grill is clean when you start cooking, you can then use those grilled lemon slices to serve with your fish or whatever else you’re serving up.