Guide to Mess-Free Grilling and Other Tips for the Laid-Back Chef

Grilling was not meant to be a perfectly organized experience. But you can avoid the pitfalls of barbecue sauce on the patio and make your guests happy at the same time with these quick and effortless mess-free grilling tips.

  • Throwaway basting tool: Use a lettuce leaf as a great disposable baster for the barbecue.
  • Mess-free marinade: Pour your marinade into a plastic bag, slip the meat inside and turn the bag periodically so that both sides are steeped in the liquid.
  • Flame tamer: Keep a water pistol handy. Another trick is to save squeezable ketchup bottles and fill them with water for the same purpose.
  • Tip for the chef: Want to keep those burgers from falling apart when you put them on the grill? Try chilling them after you shape them. If you?re in a hurry, you can simply dip them in flour, which will also do the trick.
  • Rare or medium: Accommodate everyone's burger tastes without driving yourself crazy. Stick a small piece of ice in the middle of burgers you want more rare, then cook all the burgers for the same length of time.
  • Veggies on the grill: Mesh racks that are sold to cook fish on the barbecue are also the perfect holders for putting slices of onions, mushrooms and other vegetables over the flame.
  • Service stations: Keep hot foods hot at the barbecue by lining a foam cooler with foil. You can put cooked meat, corn on the cob and/or baked potatoes inside. An excellent way to keep side dishes nice and cold is to fill a child?s small wading pool with ice and press your serving bowls down into it.
  • Quick storage fix: Don't have a place to stow the long-handled fork and tongs while you barbecue? Buy S-shaped metal hooks from the hardware store to slip over the edge of the grill.
  • Be kind to your hands: Rub a little petroleum jelly or liquid soap over your fingers and nails before you do messy work with the barbecue. Your hands will be easier to clean afterwards.
  • Speedy cleanup: Cover the rack of the grill with foil, shiny side down, when coals are hot (or turn the grill to high). In about 15 minutes, dirt will flake off. Then rinse the grill clean. Or try this technique: Put newspapers in a tub of water when you start the charcoal. As soon as you remove meat from the grill, put several layers of wet newspaper on top, close the lid and let the hot coals steam-clean the grill for you. Remove the newspaper when the grill is cool.
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