Boost Your BBQ IQ: 14 Juicy Tidbits About America's Favorite Pastime

Want to know how to make the perfect burger every time? Should you keep the lid on or off while grilling? HGTV Magazine has all the answers and more.

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July 01, 2019

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Grill Lid: On or Off?

For both gas and charcoal grills, leave the lid on for thick food, as that allows trapped heat to cook it on all sides, but remove the lid for thinner items, says Jeff Savell, a professor of meat science at Texas A&M University.

Did You Know?

Seventy percent of American grill owners fire up year-round. (Source: Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association)

The Dos and Don’ts: Make an Amazing Burger Every Time

Sure, you can make the perfect patty! Take it from Myron Mixon, a chef and four-time world barbecue champion:

  • Do: Use a medium flame; too hot and the outside will char before the inside cooks.
  • Don’t: Add cheese too soon or some will melt right off the sides. Apply slices a minute before pulling the burgers off the grill.
  • Do: Make a shallow thumbprint in the center of each patty to prevent them from puffing up while cooking.
  • Don’t: Slice patties open to check for doneness or press down on them—you’ll lose the juices that keep the meat tender.
  • Do: Get ground beef with an 80% lean to 20% fat ratio. Leaner blends are less flavorful.

Say It With Us: Bar·Be·Cue ('Bär-Bi-Kyü)

The word is believed to have originated with 17th-century Spanish explorers in the Caribbean, who encountered natives drying meat and fish on a wood rack called a barbacoa.

Temp Check

You can’t tell if an item you’re barbecuing is fully cooked just by looking, says the FDA. Test its thickest part with a grill thermometer. Aim for 160°F for burgers and ground pork, and 165°F for chicken. (Pictured: ThermoPop thermometer in blue)

Buy It: ThermoWorks, $34

5 Things You Wouldn’t Think to Grill

Here’s some tasty ideas from Tuffy Stone, a 2018 inductee to the Barbecue Hall of Fame, and Rick Browne, author of 1,001 Best Grilling Recipes:

  1. Peaches and plums: Cut in half, discard the pits (and the skin, for the peaches), toss with canola oil, then grill cut side down for 3 to 5 minutes.
  2. Pound cake: Two-inch-thick slices grilled to a golden brown are delish topped with ice cream.
  3. Lemons and oranges: Slice in half, grill cut side down for about 5 minutes to caramelize, and squeeze over salads or into cocktails.
  4. Romaine lettuce: Cut in half lengthwise, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and char for 3 minutes on each side to upgrade a Caesar salad.
  5. Avocados: Halve, toss the pits, brush with olive oil, drizzle with honey, then grill cut side down for 2 to 3 minutes.

Meet the Grill That Costs More Than Your Car

Made with marine-grade stainless steel, the Kalamazoo Hybrid Fire Grill With Side Burner can cook with charcoal, gas and wood; has 1,012 square inches of grilling surface; and, for searing ultra-crispy steak, can top temps of 1,000°F. (The TLC you put into cooking on any grill: priceless.)

Your New Favorite Rub

This Mediterranean-inspired rub was created for HGTV Magazine by cookbook author Steven Raichlen. Just combine the ingredients in a bowl, then pat on chicken, pork or fish. Pro tip: Seal the rub in an airtight container and the mix will stay fresh for three months.


1 tablespoon each

  • Coarse sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried basil

1 teaspoon each

  • Granulated garlic
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Ground cumin

Award-Winning BBQ Sauces You Need

Secret cookout ingredient: any of these National Barbecue & Grilling Association 2019 champions. (Pictured from left to right: Historic BBQ Original Sauce, Pitty Que Spicy BBQ Sauce, Eroc's Raspberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce)

What’s the Difference Between Spareribs and Baby Back Ribs?

Spareribs come from the lower ribs, above the belly of the pig, while baby back ribs come from the pig’s loin, or upper ribs. Both normally have the same number of ribs per rack, but spareribs are six to eight inches long, while baby backs are three to four inches (hence the name) and usually leaner.

Setting Records

Five-hundred-and-sixty-four: It’s the world record for the most people grilling simultaneously. It happened at a Budweiser event in St. Louis, MO, in June 2018. On the grates: burgers.

The Easy Way to Clean a Grill

After scrubbing off crud with a grill brush, dish detergent and warm water, dry grates with a paper towel, then coat them lightly with canola oil to prevent rust.

How to Instantly Tell if Your Gas Tank Is Running Low

The GasWatch propane tank level indicator is a large plastic ring that sits under a tank and basically acts like a scale; a display shows you the percentage of gas that’s left.

Buy It: Amazon, $30

A BBQ Sandwich With 97 Years of Cred

Opened in Memphis in 1922, Leonard’s Pit Barbecue started with one sandwich created by founder Leonard Heuberger: pulled or chopped pork shoulder, mild BBQ sauce and coleslaw on a bun. Cost: a cool 5 cents. Today the Mr. Leonard sells for $4.95. Elvis was a fan!

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