Among other things, July is National Grilling month. You can see why – long days, amazing weather, and of course the Fourth of July. If you ask me, grilling is nothing short of an art form. You need practice, patience and most importantly having the right tools for the job. You can make due, but grilling is one of those things that when it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

Basic Tools

There are a few things that you’ll need no matter what kind of grill you are using:

  • Steel spatulaWhen it comes to grilling, you can expect higher heats that what you would get on a stovetop. This makes it important to have a steel spatula without any plastic coating, which could melt.
  • Grill brush: An often neglected part of grilling is keeping the grill clean. There’s nothing worse then opening up a grill only to find a crust of month old charred beef on it. So be a sport and make sure to clean off the grill when you finish.
  • Steel tongsSome things, like hot dogs, bratwurst, or vegetables, are difficult to get with a spatula
  • Food thermometerA grill is inherently less precise than an oven. It’s always a good idea to check meats you put on the grill before eating them.
  • Apron (optional)Preferably with a dad joke or pun written on it.

Finding a Grill

If you live on campus, you are not allowed to bring your own grill with you. However, charcoal grills open to all students are located throughout Perkins, Colony, University Commons, and near the Residence Halls. There are no restrictions on when you use them, just be courteous with noise levels and remember to clean off the grill when you finish.

If you are off campus, make sure to talk with your landlord or other housing representative about what you can and cannot have. A grill may already be provided. If you need to purchase one yourself, most hardware stores carry several models of grills.

Operating a Charcoal Grill

If you are used to a propane grill, it’s always a good idea to know how to use a charcoal grill. Charcoal grills are commonly used in parks and other public places. More importantly, these are the grills you will have access to on campus.

  1. Get the Materials

Your first step is to go out and get the stuff you need to actually light the grill. You’ll need several things.

  • a bag of charcoal
  • A long grill lighter
  • a poking stick
  • possibly lighter fluid (I say possibly need lighter fluid because you can buy easy-light pre treated charcoal

All these materials save the poking stick are available at Wegmans or the hardware store. The stick can come from the woods.

It’s always a good idea to have a bucket of water handy, just in case.

  2. Find your grill

Grills on campus are located near Grace Watson Hall and Res Hall B as well as in all RIT apartment complexes.

  3. Clean the grill

Take your grill brush or your steel spatula and THOROUGHLY scrape down the grate. You don’t need to operate on it and the heat will kill any and all germs, but crusty old meat is just nasty on its own.

  4. Add charcoal

You’re going to want a roughly pyramid-shaped mound of charcoal to start out. You will need to spread it out once it is lit.

  5. Light the charcoal

With pre-treated charcoal, all you need to do is drop in a match in and stand back. With untreated charcoal, you are going to want to liberally apply lighter fluid to the pile of charcoal, with particular focus on the center of the pile. From there, light the pile and stand back. The lighter fluid is extremely volatile, so it will burn vigorously.

If you can’t get the charcoal lit on the first try, reapply lighter fluid and repeat the process.

  6. Let the charcoal burn

The charcoal will burn like a campfire for some time once lit. This is normal, you just need to wait it out. You know the charcoal is ready when the flames die down and the coals glow red.

  7. Spread the charcoal

Take your poking stick and spread the charcoal evenly across the grill. This will ensure what you are cooking gets even heat.   

  8. Begin Grilling!

  9. Add more charcoal when necessary.

Once you have these basics down, you are ready to grill! Just find a recipe and grab some friends, and enjoy the summer!

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