Grilling 101: A Student’s Guide to Becoming a Grill Master

The rich, smoky flavor of grilled meats and vegetables is something most people love about summertime. And, with warm weather right around the corner, grilling season is quickly approaching.

As a college student, you may find yourself inexperienced when it comes to cooking on a grill or you may simply be without one – because let’s face it, how many people brought their grill to college with them?

For these reasons, home-grilled meals could be considered a luxury right about now. However, we’re taking this opportunity to teach you the basics, so that when you are craving barbecue, you will be prepared.

Choosing a Grill

First things first, you need a grill, and you need to know how to work it.

There are a few different types, however Grand Central recommends a gas grill rather than a charcoal grill for first-time grillers. Charcoal can be tricky to light and cleaning the ashes after each use yield more clean up, so a gas grill is easier to start. Not to mention, a gas grill takes much less time to preheat than a charcoal grill.

The only trade-off with a gas grill is less of an authentic, smoky flavor. However, a helpful hint is to add wood chip boxes to enhance the lost flavor.

Grilling Tips

Now that you have an idea of what you’re working with, here are a couple simple do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

  • DO oil the grates of your grill before you start. There’s nothing worse than leaving those perfect grilled lines on your food stuck on the grill.
  • DO practice safety measures when grilling. Make sure your grill is placed in an open area where it won’t be in the way. This is especially important to think about if you live in an apartment complex.
  • DO flip your meat only once or twice. Grilling is a process that requires the smoky chamber to be left alone to do its job. Leave the lid closed as long as possible, only flipping your meat a few times. Also, you want those beautiful grilled lines.
  • DON’T  try grilling un-thawed meat. For proper cooking and safety precautions, always make sure you allow time to thaw your meat before you grill it.
  • DON’T squeeze, poke or slice your meat while it is on the grill. This will allow those delicious juices to escape, and you could end up with dry meat.
  • DON’T baste your meat with the same brush that you marinated it with. This can cause cross-contamination of raw meat juices.

Cooking Meat

Every different cut and type of meat requires a different cooking time on the grill. Here are go-to times for each type of meat.

You should also be aware however, that levels of heat vary as well. You should always double check before you start to grill, so your meat cooks to its full potential.

  • Boneless steaks: 12-18 minutes for medium rare
  • Bone-in steaks: 11-18 for medium rare
  • Beef patties: 10-16 minutes, flip once
  • Chicken breasts: 8-12 minutes or until juices run clear
  • Chicken legs: 20-30 minutes, flipping every 5-7 minutes
  • Chicken wings: 16-18 minutes, or until juices run clear
  • Pork chops: 12-16 minutes, until only slightly pink center
  • Hot dogs: 4-6 minutes, if precooked
  • Sausage: if uncooked, cook in a skillet until they are almost done then put the on the grill for 8-12 minutes
  • Fish fillet: 4-6 minutes per 1/2-inch of thickness. Turn once.
  • Fish steaks: 4-6 minutes per 1/2- inch of thickness. Turn once.
  • Shrimp: 5-7 minutes, until pink and springy.

Grilling Vocabulary

Any master of the grill can tell you there is a certain art and patience that goes into grilling; it takes a lot of time and practice to learn the ropes. For any first time griller, it may be intimidating, but don’t go in blind.

Here are some basic grilling vocabulary that will help you get a head start on the game and on your way to being a pro in no time.

  • Marinate: To soak a meat in seasonings and juices prior to cooking. Marinades add flavor to your meats.
  • Baste: To brush your meat with sauce or juices while it is cooking. This helps add moisture as well as flavor.
  • Rub: Concentrated flavor in the form of dry or wet herbs that is rubbed onto meat before it is cooked.
  • Direct grilling: Placing your food directly over the full source of heat.
  • Indirect grilling: A method of grilling where the food is placed far above the heat and left to cook in the hot smoky environment, rather than by the flames. This process takes longer than direct grilling.
  • Sear: Using high temperatures and direct heat to lock in the flavor and juices while simultaneously crisping the outside of meat.

Now you should have a basic understanding to get started, your place is going to be the new favorite among your friends. Because seriously, who can pass up an amazing grilled meal?

Here is a delicious recipe to get you started.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken and Vegetables in a Foil Packet

Serving size: 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 35 minutes


  • 8 large aluminum foil sheets
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts (4 ounces each)
  • ½ cup of any barbecue sauce
  • 1 sliced zucchini
  • 8 asparagus spears
  • 1 yellow, red or green pepper cut into strips
  • Salt and pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Preheat your grill to a medium-high heat.
  2. To make one foil pack, use two sheets of aluminum foil each.
  3. Place each piece of chicken onto separate stacked sheets of foil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush each chicken breast with 1-2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce.
  5. Arrange vegetables around the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Fold the sides of the foil packet over the chicken until it is completely covered. Make a seal with the foil.
  7. Place your foil packets onto the grill and cook for 20-25 minutes, turning once. When the chicken is done it should temp at 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
  8. Take the packets off the grill and allow them to rest for a minute before serving. Enjoy!