Grilling Guide for Beginners: What Newbies Need to Know

  • by Clint Cantwell
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The most popular person at every backyard cookout is the grillmaster. So you’ve decided it’s your calling. Good! The call of the flames, smoke, flavors, and parties is strong. But what next? No one becomes a pro overnight. That’s why we’ve prepped a grilling guide for beginners.

You’ve seen or heard horror stories of burned food, undercooked meat, and bad barbeques. But don’t worry — grilling is easy! It’s just heat and meat, two simple elements that play nicely together with only confidence and a little competence needed from you. Oh. And you’ll need something to grill. A super combo for novice grillmasters is our Grilling Starter Pack. Now let’s get to work!

Essential Grilling Guide for Beginners

Managing Heat: Gas Grills vs. Charcoal

Gas Grills

Most backyard propane grills have 2 or 3 burners with settings from LOW to HIGH. That’s the best part about gas grills – quick heat and customization. You might be tempted to turn the burners on and slap down the steaks. But DON’T! First you want hot grates: preheat your grill on high for 10 minutes or so before cooking anything.

Then, set up the gas grill equivalent of a three-zone fire. Here’s how:

  • Starting from the left, leave one or two burners on HIGH.
  • Set the middle burner or burners to MEDIUM.
  • Leave the other side on LOW.

This way, you have a place to sear and grill steaks and other high-heat items, a medium zone in the middle for chicken and fish, and a low-heat area for longer-cooking items like bratwurst.


Charcoal Grills

Using a charcoal grill is almost as easy, but a bit more manual. Whether you’re using traditional or lump (hardwood) charcoal, we recommend using a chimney starter — it’s a cheap and natural way to start charcoal without any lighter fluid.

Build a three-zone fire in your kettle grill with one full chimney of lit charcoal. Once all the coals are red and hot, pour them in to the lower area of your grill. Use a long, heat-proof tool mound them over to one side, putting most of the coals in 1/3 of the grill. Allow that mound to shallow out across the middle of the grill, and leave the other 1/3 of the grill without any coals at all.

Now you have a hot zone to sear and grill steaks and other high-heat items, a medium zone in the middle for chicken and fish, and a low-heat area for indirect cooking.


Cooking Times: It’s a Science

Next, make a schedule! Most popular grilling foods have fairly easy cooking guidelines. Basically, you’ll put the longer-cooking foods on first, on your low- and medium-heat areas. As those foods cook, you’ll add faster-cooking items like steaks and finish everything at just about the same time.

These guidelines are very general. See our detailed Steak Cooking Chart and Seafood Cooking Chart for complete cooking times on the most popular steaks and seafood.



  • 3 – 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness & doneness. It sounds obvious, but a King-Cut T-Bone takes longer than a Skirt Steak.
  • HIGH heat


Chicken Breasts

  • 10 – 15 minutes, depending on thickness



  • 8 – 10 minutes total


Fish Fillets

  • 5 – 10 minutes total
  • MEDIUM heat


Bratwurst & Sausage (fresh)

  • 20 – 25 minutes
  • LOW heat



  • Slice thick, coat with olive oil & seasoning
  • 8 – 10 minutes
  • MEDIUM heat


The Omaha Steaks Mobile App

Of course, if you want to do things the easy way, download the all-new Omaha Steaks App. The built-in all-in-one steak timer tool is a griller’s best friend. Here’s what you get with this FREE app:

Cook Timer

Cook steaks, seafood, roasts, or barbeque with custom timers that tell you what to do and when to do it. Just enter the size, desired doneness, and name of each item you’re cooking. The app will tell you when to flip each and when it’s done perfectly.


Cooking Guides & Recipes

The app is loaded with steak cooking guides, information on meat and meal preparation, and chef-tested recipes. Sort recipes by steak, seafood, poultry, appetizers, sauces and more.


Steaklover Rewards

The Omaha Steaks App is the easiest way to track and redeem your Omaha Steaks Steaklover Rewards. That means more gourmet Omaha Steaks food, FREE.

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Grilling Guide for Beginners: What Newbies Need to Know

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