If you're giving Dad a break by taking over the barbecue responsibilities, use these grilling tips from Consumer Reports to keep the food from sticking to grates, minimize flare-ups, and make the holiday cookout a success.

Problem: Food Sticks to Grates

The fix: Fully preheat the grill; it could take 15 to 20 minutes. Before cooking, clean the grates with a stiff brush, then fold two paper towels into a tight pad, dip in a bowl of vegetable oil, and draw the pad across the grates using tongs. Then start cooking.

Problem: Flare-Ups

The fix: Don’t overcrowd the cooking surface, and keep a third or more of the surface empty. That way, if fatty foods such as salmon or rib-eye steaks flare up, you can move them to the cooler, nonflaming section.

Problem: Food Is Under- or Overcooked

The fix: Cooking with the lid open allows heat to escape and compromises roasting. Use high heat for searing thick cuts of meat, then lower to finish cooking. Check doneness with an instant-read thermometer, such as the $18 Polder Stable Read THM-379.

Problem: Burgers and Steaks Taste Dry and Bland

The fix: Just before cooking, season meat with salt, pepper, and any other seasonings you like. Do it too far in advance and it pulls liquid from the meat and you wind up with dry meat. Generously season one side of each burger—some of the seasoning drips off while cooking—then place that side down on grill. As the meat cooks season the top side before flipping to finish. Always brush on barbecue sauce near the end of cooking. This allows the meat to cook thoroughly without burning the sauce.

Problem: Smoked Flavor Doesn't Come Through

The fix: A dedicated smoker. Even with a smoker box, the results won’t be as good on a gas grill because smoke rushes out the grill vents, making it hard to get that authentic barbecue flavor.

Grill Shopping?

Start with our gas grill buying guide, then look at our gas grill Ratings to compare grills and check our brand reliability information. To find a gas barbecue grill in your price range read:

The Thrill of a Grill