As a cook I find that one of the best ways to learn new techniques and improve my own creations is to take classes from other “experts” in the field. Recently I took a class on BBQ Rubs, Sauces, and Marinades and learned a little bit about how to properly use a grill (both gas a propane) as well as how important usage of proper types of heat is.
In this post I’m going to share the main take-away points that I learned that can help every single person who owns, or uses a grill, to prepare juicy, tender meat that doesn’t have a charred exterior.
Before you throw that shrimp on the barbi….
Here are 7 Tips for Grilling Success:
1. Always preheat your grill to at least 400-500° F.
Tired of meat that sticks and turns your masterpiece into a mess? Heating up your grill to a high enough temperature before placing anything (meat, veggies, fruit) on it will keep foods from sticking.
2. Scrub the grill grates and wipe clean with an oiled cloth (optimally, do this both while your grill is heating up, and at the end of each grilling session).
Keeping those grill grates clean and oiled is another step towards perfect hamburger patties that won’t stick or fall through the grates.
3. Marinate, brine, or salt the meat prior to cooking with Kosher salt.
On weeknights, or when we’re all starving after a big day at the river, I want to be able to turn on the grill and throw whatever I want on it and have it done in a matter of minutes. That’s why I’m a HUGE fan of Kosher salt. Take those pork chops out 15 minutes before cooking, sprinkle with a generous amount of Kosher salt on both sides, let sit while the grill heats up, and voila, you’ll have juicy pork chops that will have everyone thinking that you spent the day massaging and marinating!
That being said, marinades help to achieve really flavorful meat that can be totally worth the effort.
4. Purchase an Instant Read Thermometer and don’t be afraid to use it frequently!
If you want to see me have a temper tantrum, then all you have to do is watch me spend hard earned money on a nice cut of meat or piece of fish, take the time to make a fabulous sauce or marinade, and then overcook the thing. Seriously, I’m grinding my teeth just thinking about it!
The good news is that ever since I purchased an instant read thermometer this rarely happens. I also have one that you can keep in the meat and a timer goes off when it reaches the temperature I set. I hear that these are really meant for smokers and you have to replace the cord frequently when using with a grill, so I generally use my instant read thermometer for the grill. Here’s the thermometer that the chef instructing the class was using.
Keep in mind that the best method to tell when fish is done is to just babysit it a bit and when the flesh pulls apart and looks almost done in the middle, pull it and let it sit for a few minutes.
5. Know what Dual Zone Cooking is, and prepare your grill accordingly.
“The key to good barbeque, or any meat for that matter, is the right combination of searing and indirect heat.”
Dual Zone Cooking simply means that there are two types of heat, Direct and Indirect. Let’s define both:
Direct Heat- Over the flame or hot coals. When applied to an indoor cooking method, this would mean under a broiler, or using a heavy duty (cast iron or stainless steel) pan over med-high heat.
Indirect Heat- Away from the flame, or over gray coals. In an indoor application, this would mean using an oven that was between 200-300° F.
Basically what all of this means is that when looking at your grill, it is important to identify the areas where direct heat can be applied and then where the item being cooked can be moved to achieve indirect heat cooking. If you have a rectangular, propane grill then you might decide to have one side set to high heat and the other set to medium low. If you have a round charcoal grill, you may identify the very center as the “hot” zone and the edges as the lower heat area.
For example, if I am cooking chicken thighs, I will place them over direct heat, skin side down, to achieve a nice crisp exterior, and then turn over and move to indirect heat to finish the cooking process. This allows the ever-important sear (not char) to happen, and then the interior to cook without seizing up and turning into a piece of rubber.
6. Save sauces for the end.
We’ve all seen a lovely piece of chicken deftly turned into a piece of charcoal. The culprit is often a home chef that applies a sugary sauce (BBQ, teriyaki, etc) too soon. Sugar burns, and it burns fast, so if your sauce has sugar of any type, then brush it on lightly towards the end of cooking (when you’re using indirect heat), and then sauce more heavily once you take it off the heat.
7. Use a squeeze bottle for flare-up’s
I think this was my favorite tip that I learned. We all know that charred meat is carcinogenic (cancer causing) and should not be eaten. So, when that juicy burger or steak goes on the grill and the flame inevitably flares-up, simply take a squeeze bottle full of water, and put out those flames (NOT over the meat please!).
What is your best grilling tip? Please share below in the comments section.
To Your Health!