Gauge Your Fuel
To confirm that you've got enough fuel to last the afternoon—no propane gauge required—turn off the gas, disconnect the fuel tank, and tilt it slightly to its side. Pour a cup of boiling water against its side, then use your hand to find the area furthest up the canister that still feels cool to the touch. That's the propane level.
Related: 10 Best Grills Under $100
Get in the Zones
Fill half your grill with charcoal, while leaving the other half empty. Doing so creates two heating zones for grilling different types of meat all at once. The direct heat on the coal side sears pork chops, burgers, and hot dogs; the other side provides the indirect heat needed for low-and-slow cooking of larger cuts like pork loin, ribs, and beef brisket.
Heat Things Up
Keep Meats Juicy
Do meat and vegetables on your grill have a tendency to dry out? Hint: Wrap the burger or steak, chicken or vegetable in a sheet of aluminum foil, or position foil in a dome shape over the cooking food. Keep the grill closed until time's up, and you should find that the juices have stayed right where you want them.
Achieve Smokey Goodness
You can turn any gas grill into a smoker with one addition. Start by simply folding heavy-duty tin foil into an envelope. Fill it with either water-soaked wood chips (for meats with lengthier grilling times) or regular wood chips (which burn faster). Close up the pouch, poke holes in it, and place it between the grate and the top of the burner.
Empty Ashes Without the Mess
An ash collector is convenient, but emptying it can be a dusty, unpleasant undertaking. Here's a way to minimize mess. Once the grill has cooled, remove the ash collector and place it into an empty grocery bag. Pull the handles to close the bag tightly around the collector, then flip the thing over. Most of the ashes will fall into the bag; tap the pot against the ground to knock stragglers loose. Finally, remove the collector from the bag and put it back on the grill.
Save an hour of labor by cleaning the grill as soon you shut it down, not after your guests leave. Take half an onion and rub it back and forth over the still-warm grill grates. In lieu of an onion, use crumpled tinfoil. If the grill's too hot, hold your chosen "scrubber" with tongs.
To jumpstart your holiday season, check out Bob Vila's favorite affordable stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!