The Ultimate Guide to Grilling

These are all the tips, hacks, and recipes you need to know to make the perfect grilled or inihaw dish!
food on grill

It’s hard not to love good grilled food. The char on the meat (or vegetable), the smoky aroma, and the beautifully caramelized marinade come together to make that perfect bite. It’s both a cooking method and an experience: something that reminds you of summers and beach trips and great times with friends and family. 

There is a lot more to grilling than just slapping on some BBQ on a charcoal grill, and knowing the basics helps set the foundation of deliciously grilled food that’s charred on the outside yet juicy and soft on the inside. A lot of factors can affect the final product, and knowing how to tweak these factors — from picking the right grill and the right meat or veggie, to seasoning and grilling your ingredients — can really make a big difference.

What Is Grilling?

Grilling is a method of cooking that involves cooking food over direct, radiant heat, usually over charcoal, open flames, or an electric heat source. This method of cooking allows meats, veggies, and sometimes even food to cook faster, and it also subjects them through a process called the Maillard reaction. The Maillard reaction is the reason why grilled food has that distinct smoky, roast aroma: when food goes over 155 °C or 310 °F (for reference, grilling often means food gets heated up to, or sometimes even beyond 260 °C or 500 °F), it caramelizes the surface of the food and causes a lot of chemical reactions that make the food taste and smell better.

Grilling Is Also A Social Activity

Grilling is not only simple cooking method; the act of grilling can also be a social experience that brings people together! In the Philippines, it’s common to have grilled food when we go to the beach; after all, who can resist a nice juicy slab of inihaw na liempo dipped in suka’t toyo after a whole morning of island hopping and swimming in the sea? Inihaw or grilled dishes have a special place in the Filipino palate, as many of our beloved merienda or snacks are grilled food, too: the Pinoy pork barbecue is a prime example. In most cases, inihaw dishes are grilled and consumed in a social setting, whether it be shared on a beach, or enjoyed with friends from a street vendor.

The Benefits of Grilling

Aside from imparting a delicious aroma and flavor to food, grilling actually has some health benefits! Grilling can make food more nutritious as the high heat levels involed in cooking the food can release vitamins and minerals; this is something that other cooking methods like frying or boiling might not be able to achieve as food is subjected to lower heat in these methods. Grilling is also a great way to reduce calorie and fat intake, as you don’t need a lot of fat to grill!

Table of Contents

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Different Grilling Methods

Direct Grilling

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Grilling over direct heat is a method that involves placing food directly over the heat source. It’s perfect for quickly cooking smaller, tender cuts of meat, such as barbecues, steaks, burgers, and kebabs.


Indirect Grilling

Photo by: Adobe Stock

Indirect grilling utilizes the heat source on one side of the grill while placing the food on the other side. It’s ideal for larger cuts of meat that require longer cooking times, ensuring even heat distribution and preventing flare-ups. For example, this is perfect for grilling whole or half chickens, bigger cuts of steak, or whole pieces of fish.


Photo by: Adobe Stock

Smoking involves slow-cooking food over low, indirect heat, typically using wood chips or pellets to infuse a distinctive smoky flavor. It’s perfect for creating succulent and flavorful dishes, such as smoked ribs, brisket, or even vegetables.


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Choosing The Right Grill

Different Kinds of Grills 

left to right: charcoal grill, gas grill, electric grill
Photos by Canva
  • Charcoal Grills: Charcoal grills are one of the oldest, most traditional ways to grill food. They impart a traditional charm and smoky flavor to your ingredients, and they’re affordable, too. However, you need to plan ahead when you’re using a charcoal grill, as charcoal tends to take a while to heat up. Charcoal grills also need close attention, as managing the heat requires you to stay with the grill and fan the flame to keep it hot (or spray water when it gets too hot).
  • Gas Grills: Gas grills offer quick heating, temperature control, and easy cleanup! They’re very convenient to use and provide a more consistent heat for even cooking. While you lose that distinct charred taste from the charcoal, those who are new to grilling might find gas grills easier to use and manage.
  • Electric Grills: Electric grills let you bring the grilling indoors or to places where open flames aren’t allowed. They’re compact, easy to use, and perfect for apartment dwellers! While they lack the authentic smoky flavor, they make up for it in convenience and versatility.

Factors to Consider When Buying A Grill

  • Budget: Determine how much you’re willing to invest in a grill. Remember, higher-priced models often offer more durability, advanced features, and better temperature control.
  • Fuel: Decide between charcoal, gas, or electric based on your desired flavor, convenience, and portability. Each fuel type has its pros and cons, so choose what aligns with your grilling style.
  • Location: Assess the available space for your grill, whether it’s a balcony, backyard, or kitchen countertop. Consider the grill’s size and mobility to find the right fit.

Tips And Tricks To Grilling Food

left: marinade, right: dry rub

1 Learn when to use dry rubs, and when to use marinades.

Aside from their solid and liquid states, these two methods of flavoring grilled food each have their pros and cons. For example, depending on what you put in your marinade, they can tenderize meats and can also be left overnight. Meanwhile dry rubs tend to create crunchier, more caramelized crusts, and can be applied in as little as 20 minutes before grilling! Here’s a handy guide to the differences between dry rubs and marinades.


2 Choose the right meat cuts for grilling.

Not all meats are created equal: some meat cuts are better for grilling than others! We’ve got recommendations on the best meat cuts to use for barbecues, which will be helpful to any chicken, pork, and beef lovers. 

3 Don’t limit yourself to just meat — try grilling fish and veggies, too.

Some of the best food to be put on the grill are fish and seafood: they not only gain those beautiful grill marks and that charred aroma; with the right seafood grilling method, they taste fresh, juicy, and you don’t get any of the fishy taste! Vegetables are also great on the grill — they become smoky and sweet, and we guarantee even the pickiest eater won’t be able to resist trying a bite!

Sawsawans or dipping sauces are commonly served with simply grilled food. Here are ideas on what to serve on the side of that inihaw feast.

4 Don’t forget to serve dips or sawsawan.

Making dips, sauces, or sawsawan can be as simple as simmering down the leftover marinade and serving it as a sauce. But it can also be a fully separate thing: making dips isn’t difficult, and we’ve got a list here of different sawsawan you can make + suggestions on which recipes to pair them with!

5 Always, always put safety first.

Grilling is meant to be fun, and that’s all going to go out the window (if you’re indoors, at least) if someone gets injured while you’re cooking up your food. Before you fire up the grill, make sure to read up on the methods and preparations you need to make. Here are some great articles to get you started:

Ready to Get Your Grill On? Check Out These Grilled Food Recipes:

Grilled Chicken Recipes

Chicken can be a tricky meat to grill: overcooking can lead to dry meat, especially when you’re using the white meat, which have relatively less fat than red. However, with the right marinades and proper cooking times, making flavorful and juicy grilled chicken recipes are as simple as 1-2-3.

Grilled Pork Recipes

One of the reasons why grilled pork recipes are so good is because the meats used in these recipes are usually layered with fat. And you don’t need to feel guilty, too, as you don’t need to add more oil to make a deliciously tender and flavorful inihaw na baboy dish!


Grilled Beef Recipes

A good cut of beef can be a little on the expensive side, but don’t fret: there are cheaper cuts you can use to make grilled beef recipes, too! From steak recipes to beef barbecues, even those who are new to the kitchen will find that grilling beef isn’t as intimidating as it seems.


Grilled Fish & Seafood Recipes

Grilling fish and seafood gives these umami-filled ingredients a smoky, earthy flavor. It’s the best that land and sea has to offer! These grilled seafood recipes are best paired with rice, so make sure to make extra because you’ll be craving for more than one serving.


Grilled Vegetable Recipes

What do vegetables have any business doing on a grill, you say? Well, everything! Grilled vegetables are so underrated; not only are the super delicious and healthy; they make your grilled food spread that much more colorful, too.
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