Use these pro tips all summer long.

Recipe: Top-Shelf Chicken Under a Brick

The "top-shelf" in this recipe speaks to the crispy skin, superior flavor, and juiciness of the bird. It also refers to a fun technique: cooking potatoes in the heavy cast-iron skillet that's used as a weight on the chicken.

Hector Sanchez

Southerners have intimate relationships with their grills. While most of our nation’s citizens only engage with theirs for a few months of the years, we bust ours out of the garage as early as March and even cook our Thanksgiving turkeys on them. Perhaps that’s why we’ve developed some tricks to grilling that make it not seem like a special occasion cooking method, but a practical go-to way to not just party, but also get dinner on the table.

Here are five tricks that will turn your grill into your new favorite kitchen appliance.

Get a chimney starter. If you’re still buying lighter fluid or coals infused with it, you’re just imparting flavor and possible dicey after effects to your food. A chimney starter makes lighting regular charcoal and getting it to the temperature you want quick and easy.

Invest in an instant read thermometer. Even the most seasoned grillers sometimes have trouble gaging the doneness of chicken or pork chops on the grill. An instant read thermometer takes all the guesswork out of grilling and gives you consistent results every time.

WATCH: How To Light A Charcoal Grill

Use long tongs. Having a pair of extra long tongs makes safely retrieving meat from any unexpected flare ups a cinch. They also help when you need to maintain a healthy distance during high direct heat cooking. You can even use them to lift the grates off of the grill or move coals around.

Grill the unexpected. Whether it’s peach cobbler in a skillet or a wheel of brie, there is so much more than burgers and hot dogs you can cook on a grill. We have some ideas here, oh and here.

Make clean-up easy. If you continually open your grill lid only to find a bunch of charred on gunk around your grates before you start, make a commitment to clean your grill at the end of each session so you start fresh. The easiest way to clean your grates is while they’re still hot with a ball of aluminum foil pinched between your tongs. Just rub them up and down the grates, and all the leftover crust will disappear.

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