Girlfriend’s Guide to Grilling From

Don’t be afraid of taking control of the grill. You might burn a few meals at first, and maybe a few fingers, too – but I know with a little practice, you’ll be donning the “Grill Master” aprons in no time. Here’s a few tips from to help you grill the most perfectly cooked outdoor meals this summer.

1. BBQ vs. Grilling: Many of us often say we’re having a “BBQ” when what we mean is we are “grilling.” The difference is simple; BBQ requires low heat, smoke, and slow cooking, whereas grilling is all about high heat (above 500 degrees) and speed. The tips I’ll share with you have to do with grilling exclusively; so if any of you have some amazing BBQ knowledge, please share!

2. Clean your grates, every stinking time. I know, it sucks. Once you down those delicious burgers and maybe a Skinnygirl® Margarita or two, the last thing you want to do is scrub the charred-on gunk off your grill grates, but trust me, it’s important. Overtime, that gunk will become a permanent fixture and make your food stick as well as encourage nasty rust to grow. Usually, hot water and a sponge are good enough, but if not, oven cleaner and gloves work wonders. Once you’re done cleaning, oil the grate lightly with a paper towel before putting it back. This is how I cover my own ass when I forget to oil the grates before I turn on the grill the next time.

3. If using charcoal, buy the self-lighting coals. Do not, I repeat, do not pour lighter fluid all over your charcoals to get them to light. That stuff will end up flavoring your food in the most disturbing way. Also, learn the pyramid trick. Stack your coals in a rough-triangle in the center of your grill, and light them from the bottom. Allow the coals to turn white before you spread them around the grill. This will ensure you have enough heat to properly cook, and the coals won’t suddenly burn out. If you use gas, make sure your tank is always filled. I find those nifty propane gauges to be really helpful.

4. Be creative. Nearly everything you can cook in the kitchen, even things you don’t think you can cook, can go on the grill. Iceberg lettuce wedges are awesome when they are seared on the grill quickly before serving them with crumbled bacon and thick buttermilk ranch dressing. Avocados halved and grilled on the cut side add a smoky intensity to guacamole. Sweet potatoes are rich and caramel-like when grilled.

Making salsa? Try to grill the tomatoes, onions and peppers first. Your tongue will high-five you. I’ve even grilled raw pizza dough! It works. And it’s good. What crazy things have you grilled that turned out fantastic? I bet the list is endless.

Read the rest of Bryanne Salazar‘s tips for grilling on