Summer is the ideal time to fire up the grill and enjoy your meal outdoors. Whether you're a grill master or a beginner, these five essential tips will help you achieve the perfect result every time.

1. Nail the Basics

Start with the basics: a quality grill and essential tools. Whether you prefer the convenience of a gas grill or the smoky flavor of charcoal, make sure your grill is in good condition. Invest in a sturdy set of grilling tools, including long-handled tongs, a spatula, a grill brush for cleaning, and a meat thermometer to ensure your food is cooked perfectly.

2. Budget for Best Cuts

The key to perfect grilled meats is choosing the right cuts. Opt for well-marbled steaks like ribeye or T-bone. Pork chops, chicken thighs, and drumsticks are also great options. Don’t forget seafood—shrimp, salmon, and scallops are other great choices for grilling. Fresh, high-quality ingredients will always give you the best results.

3. Master Marinating

Enhance the flavor of your dishes with marinades and rubs. A simple marinade of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and herbs can drastically improve the taste of chicken or fish. For red meats, try a marinade with soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and brown sugar. Dry rubs made with a mix of spices like paprika, cumin, and brown sugar create a great crust on ribs and pork shoulders. Allow your meats to marinate for at least an hour, or overnight for more flavor.

4. Grill Your Sides

Grilled vegetables and fruits can add color and variety to your meals. Toss vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and corn in olive oil, salt, and pepper before grilling. For a sweet option, grill fruits like pineapple, peaches, and watermelon. Grilled fruits are also perfect as a light, refreshing summer dessert substitute.

5. Keep It Safe

Be smart about safety when grilling. Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to control flare-ups, and never leave the grill unattended. Use a meat thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to a safe internal temperature: 145°F for beef, pork, and fish, and 165°F for poultry. Clean your grill regularly to prevent buildup of grease and food particles that can cause flare-ups.

Cover Photo by Rafael Hoyos Weht