Summer is almost here and that means it’s time to warm up the grill. With the help of Steven Raichlen, host of television’s Barbecue University and author of many books on barbecuing, we have gathered ten easy tips to achieve success on the grill this summer. With your newly learned skills you will be able to delight crowds or juts a few friends. Either way, you will be a master of the grill and everyone will be coming to you for advice.
By Mallory Davis
1. Grill over wood vs. charcoal or gas
The debate around grilling has always been about charcoal vs. gas, but the real winner here is wood. Wood is the only one out of the three that provides and adds real flavor to the food as it cooks. Plus, wood fire grills have been around for thousands of years and the first foods were barbecued on wood. One downside of this technique is the wood burns quicker than briquettes so you often need to keep a close eye on your fire. Also, there is a recent trend as top chefs are now replacing traditional kitchen setups with custom wood-burning grills. Of those cooks, Tim Love in Forth Worth, Texas and the owner of Woodshed Smokehouse says he has now devoted himself to the religion of wood and fire.
2. Keep your cool!
There’s a common barbecue myth out there that says the meat you are going to cook has to be at room temperature to do so. But guess what, it can be cold! It has been proven that there is no appreciable difference in cooking time between a thawed piece of meat and a cool piece from the fridge. For example, restaurants and steak houses alike keep their meat refrigerated until a customer has ordered that particular meat for their meal. They do this out of convenience and food safety which makes it a pretty good excuse for you to do the same.
3. Line that meat up
Align your meat in the grill in perfect, orderly fashion. This helps so you remember the time order of when you put each piece of meat over the flames and when it’s time to turn the meat over. Also, it makes you look very professional and orderly at the grill and isn’t that what we’re all striving for?
4. Flip only once
Ever wonder how when you order a steak in a restaurant it has those perfectly placed grill marks? Well, now you will be able to produce food with exactly the same precision as those restaurants. The trick is to not constantly be lifting up the piece of food to check and see if a certain side is done cooking. Rotate the steak or other food just 90 degrees after a couple minutes of grilling. This way you will create what is the signature look of master grillmanship.
5. Season first
Another grilling myth is that if you season the meat with salt and pepper before you grill the spices will bleed the natural juices right out of the meat. This is not true and in fact does the opposite. Salt especially helps to form a tasty and savory crust on the meat as it cooks on the grill. And the more the better—sprinkle a generous amount of salt and pepper on the meat beforehand.
6. Take extra care of the grate
This is a rule all barbecue cooks follow and respect; it’s their mantra. Keeping the grill hot, clean, and well oiled will always ensure delicious cooked foods. Following the mantra will prevent foods from sticking and help to achieve tip #4 of creating beautiful grill marks. It’s very simple, quick, and easy and goes like this: scrub the hot grate with a wire brush before grilling, then rub it with oil with a paper towel, and finally at the end of your grilling, scrub the grate again. Follow this tip and you will be one step ahead of the curve.
7. Grill your vegetables
If you haven’t already cooked your veggies on the grill and experienced the wonderful flavors they offer, then you are missing out! Grilling the veggies not only intensifies the vegetable’s natural flavors, but also brings out their sweetness that you may not have expected. This is because the dry heat from the barbecue that is used to cook the tender veggies. Make sure to grill watery veggies such as bell peppers and onions directly over coals. More starchy veggies like eggplant should be placed as far away and indirectly to the coals possible. This will ensure their maximum tastiness!
8. Grip it, don’t stab it
Repeat this saying in your head as you are handling the grilled meat and you will be saving most, if not all, of the natural juices. Always use tongs! Using a knife or a fork will poke holes in the meat and allow all the precious juices to pour out while tongs will keep them securely in the meat.
9. Just know when it’s done
To avoid poking holes in the meat to see if the meat is tender enough or ready, memorize the rules below:
-Soft and squishy-=rare
-Firm and springy=well-done
Use an instant-read thermometer for larger cuts of meat (avoid touching the bones).
10. Let it rest for awhile
After you have reached your desired meat tenderness, let it relax on the grill for a few minutes. This is because as the meat cooks, its muscle fibers contract and drive the juices to the center of it. If you eat it right away it is going to taste dry and not as good as it could be if you wait awhile. This way it lets the muscle fibers reabsorb the juices and in turn become a juicy and flavorful cut.
Whatever you decide to grill, make sure to follow this helpful tips for success. You will also impress all of your friends and teach them your newly learned barbecue master skill. Have fun out there!
Originally Published: June 4, 2014