9 Reasons Why Grilling Is the Best Way to Cook
Chances are good that you already have one sitting on your patio or in your backyard: 70% of all households own a grill, per recent market research. Chances are also good that you’re a bit intimidated by that hunk of metal. It’s a large piece of equipment with gas lines, igniters, grease trays, flames, and… Wow, is it getting hot in here? Relax. Grilling is actually one of the easiest ways to cook healthy, delicious meals, snacks, and more. Let the experts take it away.
1. Grilling doesn't require much skill—or specialty gear
Think of your grill as an extension of your kitchen, explains David Faulkner, director of culinary innovation and management at the Fulham Group, a consumer products manufacturer. Were you whipping up chef-quality meals when you first started cooking? Probably not. So don’t get discouraged if you aren’t immediately at Level 10, BBQ Pitmaster. Part of the battle is learning the basics—and having the right tools.
A few tips to get you started:
- Invest in extra-long tongs. You can absolutely use the stainless steel tongs and spatulas you already own, but grilling versions tend to be longer so you can stand farther from the heat. They can also help you make use of every inch of grill space without worrying about burning your wrists as you reach into the back corner to flip a veggie skewer.
- Be mindful of cross contamination. The grill isn’t a magical place where bacteria doesn’t exist, Faulkner says. Be careful not to use the same tools when handling raw and cooked meat. To make things easier, Cuisinart’s Grilling Prep and Serve Trays are color-coded so you can designate one for raw meat and the other for cooked meat.
- Always use a meat thermometer. This is especially important when grilling chicken, but you should use it with all types of meat. Checking the internal temp is the only way to ensure something is completely cooked (for poultry and pork) or at a specific level of doneness (for beef and steak). Grab a classic dial thermometer, or upgrade to a digital version, like this one from Escali, which has a built-in timer.
2. You can grill almost anything
No, really, we mean anything from fruit to lasagna. Grilling goes way beyond steaks and hot dogs, explains Leslie Fink, M.S., R.D., WW nutritionist and recipe editor and a registered dietitian. You can make an entire meal (or day’s worth of meals) solely on the grill.
Faulkner recommends starting with veggies. “It’s a great way to learn about grill temperature and how it affects doneness,” he says. And if you’re still finding your way around the flames, you’ll probably feel slightly better about burning a $3 head of broccoli instead of a $30 New York strip steak.
Check out the WW Year-Round Grilling cookbook for over 100 recipes, including sides, skewers, pizzas, pastas, and desserts. You don’t need extra tools beyond the basics, but you may want to add a cast-iron skillet and a glazed pizza stone to your setup down the line. Cast-iron skillets are great for making casseroles, and you can actually scramble eggs, cook fish fillets, or bake cookies on a pizza stone on the grill, Fink says. Simply place the skillet or stone on the heated grates and treat your grill like a range.
3. Grilling adds flavor—without needing much fat or oil
Don’t get us wrong; we love a seared stove-to-oven steak. But some recipes call for lots of butter or oil, both of which can put a dent in your Points® Budget. When it comes to grilling, you can use very little oil and still get that distinct grilled taste. “It’s one of the fastest and easiest ways to infuse food with tons of flavor—without needing to use those higher-PersonalPoints™ ingredients,” explains Sherry Rujikarn, WW food director.
How? Those grill marks aren’t just for show: The charring and flame-cooking impart a naturally smoky flavor. And while veggies will also get that extra depth of flavor, the high heat simultaneously caramelizes them to bring out sweeter notes. Lean on spices and marinades to amp things up even more. Stick with the classic salt-and-pepper combo or try one of the new WW Grilling Seasonings, available in maple glaze, sesame garlic, and balsamic and roasted onion.
4. It’s safe
You may have heard chatter that grilling can increase cancer risks. But unless you’re turning your burgers into completely charred hockey pucks—i.e., not the way most of us are using the grill—you likely don't have to worry.
Here’s the deal: When meat is cooked over high heat for long periods of time, two potentially harmful chemicals form. (FYI, this doesn't occur with veggies or other plant-based foods.) Current research shows eating moderate amounts of grilled fish, meat, and poultry that are properly cooked may not pose a cancer risk. The key here is the charring: To prevent it, trim excess fat before cooking, and remove charred bits when the meat is done.
Research also suggests marinating meat before cooking can help prevent one of the chemicals from forming. Try a lemon-herb or soy-ginger marinade next time you fire up the grill. (You can find full recipes for both in our Year-Round Grilling cookbook or the WW app!) You can use any ol’ bowl, reusable storage container, or freezer bag for marinating, but if you want to take things up a notch, upgrade to the Cuisinart Marinade and Grilling Basket Set.
5. You’ll have fewer things to clean
There’s a reason we dedicated an entire cookbook to one-pot and one-pan recipes: No one has ever asked for more dishes to wash. When you grill, you’ll have to only empty the grease trap and clean the grates. And that doesn’t take too much time—simply use a grill brush to scrub off any leftover food bits.
While it’s best to clean your grill as soon as you finish cooking (the heat from the still-warm grates helps loosen any debris), we know that’s not always realistic. “It's totally fine to leave your grill dirty and then give it a good scrub the next time you use it, after it's preheated,” Rujikarn says. Just don’t neglect it entirely. How tidy your grill is directly affects how well it performs, she explains. A clean grill prevents sticking and any off-flavors, so you won't end up with grilled pineapple that tastes like steak.
Faulkner recommends doing a deep clean at least twice a year. “Clean your grill just like you clean your kitchen,” he says. Not only does it help your grill perform better and prevent grease fires, but it also protects your investment so you can continue to enjoy making every delicious grilled dish.
6. You can grill once and eat all week
Did you know you can use your grill as a meal-prep tool? Just like grilling makes everyday cooking easier, it does the same for batch-cooking.
Here’s how: Anyone who’s ever meal-prepped knows that cooking multiple dishes and servings requires a little extra planning. You have to think about which oven temperature each recipe calls for, how many pots and pans and what cookware you’ll be using, and just how much counter space you have to actually prep it all. Taking everything to the grill simplifies the process. “You can season or marinate proteins, veggies, and potatoes in the same dish and then place them on different parts of the grill to cook simultaneously,” Fink explains. Larger grills may have separate temperature controls, or you can set up direct- or indirect-heat zones. (Just make sure everything is properly cooked to kill off any bacteria.)
And don’t feel like you’ll be eating the same grilled food for the next five days. Consider this: Grilled corn turns into a corn salsa; grilled tomatoes transform into a refreshing tomato chowder; grilled chicken becomes quesadillas; or grilled peppers top fish or go into a sandwich spread. Find these recipes and more in the WW app.
7. Grilling is the perfect solution to sweltering summer nights
We’re pretty sure the last thing you want to do on an already-hot day is heat up your stove or oven and stand around stirring. That’s why we love the grill. “Relegating the fire to the outside means your kitchen stays cool,” Rujikarn says. Plus, grilling is a mostly hands-off way to cook.
What’s more, it can sometimes be faster. Sure, your grill does need time to heat up (about 10 to 15 minutes). But once it does, proteins—like burgers, hot dogs, seafood, and thin chicken cutlets—can cook in less than 10 minutes, Rujikarn explains. Even when you’re making something that takes a little longer, like bone-in chicken or a thick steak, you don’t have to babysit it. Toss it on the grill, flip once or twice, and use that time to get a jump on cleanup or just sit in front of the fan.
8. It makes hosting more enjoyable
WW Members Julie L., Kate A., and Olivia S.
Excited to have friends and family over only to find yourself stuck in the kitchen for most of the night? Cue strong desire to order takeout. Not everyone has an open-concept floor plan, and unless you’re planning to do some major home reno, grilling is a nice compromise. Strategically set your guests up near the grill so you can tend to the food and still be part of the action.
“My best advice for new grillers is to find your sweet spot,” Faulkner says. Just like you may have a signature dish that you bring to every party, learn how to cook a few grilling recipes really well. Then lean on those whenever you entertain. This can help you stay calm and confident in front of the grill—and not worry about any mishaps while 10 people are waiting for their food.
9. You get to cook outside
WW Member Zackory K.
This one might seem obvious, but hear us out: We’ve been collectively cooped up for the past two years, and grilling offers a welcome change of scenery (even if it's just the backyard). Being able to hear birds chirping, feel the breeze, and maybe even watch your kids play in the yard can make cooking seem like less of a chore and more of an activity.
Depending on where you live, you might also get to spend some time in nature. Research shows a dose of greenery can have a positive effect on overall mood and health—and the benefits aren’t limited to the warmer summer months. So if you’re feeling brave and ready to bundle up, don’t be afraid to get your grill on year-round.