Summer is a time for vacations, ice-cold drinks, and most importantly: grilling. Few things are better than gathering your favorite group of friends outdoors and indulging in some seriously savory eats.
If you’re new to the grilling world, or simply want to up your game, you may be looking for tips on how to improve your grilling skills. To make this a little easier, we’ve assembled some super easy grilling tips to get you ready for the best holiday bbq yet in the sweltering heat of summer.
Decide Between Gas and Charcoal
This is the decision that all rookie grillers are faced with. Both gas and charcoal have their ups and downs, in terms of cost, flavour, and convenience of use. The truth is, there is no answer as to which one is better, it really depends on who you ask. The answer that you reach will be all about convenience and versatility from your perspective.
For people who are invested in the environment, the gas grill is a clear winner. These grills emit less soot and carbon monoxide, giving them a greener footprint. Charcoal lovers will argue, though, that gas grills just can’t compete with the rich, smoky taste that charcoal grills can provide.
No matter which type of grill you end up choosing, be sure to do plenty of research on how to use the one you’ve chosen. Charcoal skills don’t necessarily translate over to gas grills, so be sure that you know what you’re doing before you dive in.
One of the biggest mistakes rookie grillers can make is to slap their food on a cold grill. Not only does this waste time waiting for the grill to heat up, but it’s also not good for the food either. Putting food onto a cold grill can increase the risk of bacteria transfer to the meat as it sits out raw. It also increases the risk of sticking to the grill, especially for meats.
You can easily prevent this, though, by preheating your grill for about 15 to 25 minutes before introducing the food. You can easily do this and go back to food prep so that the grill will be preheated by the time you’re ready to cook. Of course, the temperature that you need will depend on the food that’s being cooked, so be sure to check your temperature before you begin cooking.
You’ll know if your grill is properly preheated because the food will sear on contact, which will keep it moist and prevent it from sticking.
Anyone who has ever used a grill knows that by the end of the afternoon all of the racks are covered in burnt on debris from food. This can leave a nasty taste in your food the next time you use the grill, so properly cleaning the racks in between uses in important. The best way to do this is with a long, wire brush after the grill has preheated. Preheating can soften some of that burnt-on gunk, making it easier to scrape off with your grill brush.
Once your grill racks are clean, give them a quick oiling down with vegetable oil, or another oil that has a high smoke point. This will prevent lean foods from sticking to the racks, which can be a real pain. Simply use an oil-soaked paper towel to wipe down the racks, using your grilling tongs. Doesn’t use any sort of spray oil, though, as this can cause flames when the oil is sprayed into the racks.
Invest in a Cooking Thermometer
Another major rookie mistake is overcooking your food because you weren’t sure when to take it off the grill. You think that you can eyeball it, but this is a huge risk. You could either overcook your food and make it dry, or take it off too early and make someone sick.
The best way to avoid these problems is by investing in a quality cooking thermometer. Depending on what your cooking, different meats and veggies have different temperatures that they must reach internally before they’re safe to eat. Simply stick your thermometer in and check the internal temperature as needed, and you’ll always end up with perfectly cooked meals!
Let it Rest
Once your food is almost cooked, take it off direct heat to prevent overcooking. Taking it off just before it’s done will allow for the carry-over cooking that occurs even after an item is no longer on heat. The food will continue to cook slightly due to the amount of heat that’s inside the item.
Whether you’re grilling meat or a vegetarian alternative like seitan, the goal is to keep it moist and delicious. Allow these items to rest for a few minutes before you begin slicing them. If you begin cutting into them right after they come off the heat, those delicious juices will run out, leaving your food dry. Giving the meat or other items a few minutes allows those juices and marinades to properly soak in, leaving your food tasting amazing.
When you use grilling techniques like this, you’ll blow your friends and family away at your next cookout!