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BBQ season has officially arrived and you’re ready to rumble! Just because you didn’t shell out the big bucks for a fancy grill doesn’t mean you can’t call yourself the ultimate grill master. Follow these tips and tricks and that $200 BBQ could make you the Gordon Ramsay of your backyard (hopefully without all the f* bombs):

Protect, then perfect (your cooking)

Sleet, snow and rain are not your barbecue’s friend! Treat it right and you’ll get more than a couple of years out of your inexpensive big box buy. Pitmaster, Danielle Dimovski (a.k.a. Diva Q and host of BBQ Crawl on the Travel Channel, Travel & Escape and Cottage Life) owns 42 barbecues ranging from $10 to $6,000. Her top tip? “Buy a good cover! It can make your BBQ last for season after season,” she says.

A clean grill is a happy grill

Commercial cleaners will work, but to avoid nasty toxins seeping into your steak (and save a few bucks) baking soda and vinegar are miracle workers. Spray a one-to-one solution of vinegar and water onto your dirty racks, leave to dry then wipe. For stubbornly stuck food, scrub with tightly crumpled tin foil. For the ultimate deep clean, mix one cup vinegar with half a cup of baking soda, pour onto rack, let sit overnight in a closed garbage bag then hose it down. Easy peasy.

Nice rack!

Now that your racks are spotless, you’ll want to keep ‘em that way. Create a non-stick layer on your budget barbie’s stainless steel rack by seasoning with high smoke point oils like canola or corn. Diva Q seasons ALL her barbecues (cheap and chic) with 100 per cent cotton cloths soaked in oil. Another great tip: Rubbing a halved onion over the rack will clean and add flavour to your next recipe.

Foil is your friend

This stuff is essential to all things grilled, so you’ll want buy it bulk. But don’t cheap out! Mincy foil will break apart at high temperatures so invest in the good stuff. Once you have this, life is your oyster. Literally. Shucked oysters cook up great when wrapped in the stuff. You can also use it to make veggie parcels, smoker pouches (foil-wrapped wood chips to augment flavour) and tent your meat to prevent drying.

Learn some tricks of the trade

No $4,000 machine is needed to make something finger lickin’ good. Fresh herbs on your grill or coals will infuse your cookout with some je ne sais quoi. Another amplifier? Cedar planks. Buy at them at hardware store (make sure they haven’t been chemically treated) and ask for them to be cut into 8” portions. Soak for a few hours, then use as a base for extra woodsy-infused salmon or shrimp. Diva Q spritzes lemon juice on fish, apple juice on pork and Worcestershire sauce on brisket using a dollar-store spray bottle. “These will improve the quality of your food and it doesn’t matter what you spent,” she says.

Hack that grill!

Make that cheap barbecue go the extra mile with a few well-planned hacks: Make your own charcoal chimney with an old coffee can or break out the muffin tins, “They’re the most versatile tool that people don’t think of. You can use them to shape hamburger patties, warm your sauces, even cook sliders on the grill,” says Diva Q. Feeling really ambitious? Create a built-in barbecue like this guy.

Happy grilling!