10 Grilling Tips For Summer
These ten grilling tips will help you churn out fantastic grilled delights for any occasion!
With grilling season being the favorite time of the year for many people, ESPECIALLY me, (I’m so “giddy” right now. Actually, I grill all year long. Rain, hail, sleet or snow) I thought I’d get some of my favorite grilling tips up here for you guys as the season fast approaches.
These are just tips, not my “world Famous” (to me anyway) secrets.
For me there’s NOTHING quite like the perfectly grilled ANYTHING. A nice big, fat, steak. How about the perfect rack of baby-back ribs. Whatever you’re cooking we all know that grilling brings out the flavor in foods like nothing else. Especially meat.
That slightly charred or wood flavoring really pumps up the experience. Not only is grilling delicious, but it’s also fun and relaxing as hell.
If you’re like me you probably do the grilling at the family Bar-B-Que. At parties. Camping or just cause you feel like it. Unlike cooking on the stove, there’s something very special about grilling food.
Everyone has their own special style or way that they grill. Some grill with “flair” while others grill “methodically.”
Proper grilling is just as complex as cooking any other kind of dish. Some people think you just throw a slab of meat on a grill and “shazaam!” Instant deliciousness. IN the real world however, there’s quite a lot thought and prepping that goes into the perfectly grilled meal.
Well here are some tips to help you achieve that perfect, mouth watering grilled food experience:
1. Start With High Quality Meats
Not everyone can afford the best meats out there but you need to come as close to it as you can. If you use poor quality meat it’s very hard to make the meat taste great. You’re in for a lot more work with poor quality meat. It won’t hold your flavors as well. It won’t be soft meat and most times it will be downright “chewy.” While high quality meat is more expensive, it makes a BIG difference in the end product.
Buy your meats from a good butcher instead of packaged meat. Packaged meat traps in moisture due to the packaging itself, and that changes the meat’s texture. When buying beef, buy certified Black Angus or USDA Prime. When buying other meats look for grass fed and free range. Trust me, it makes a difference.
This process will help you get that “bark” that every pitmaster covets.
You should arrange your grill with more hot coals on one side than the other. How much depends on the size of your grill. The object is to have one part of your grill hot and the other side “cooler.” Like I said you can have more on one side or you can arrange them in the center of the grill leaving the outsides being cooler.
In layman’s terms: You Should have an area of your grill that’s blazing hot and another area that’s a little cooler so that food placed there cooks slower.
Now start by searing your food first in the hottest area. This process “locks” in the seasonings and the juices. Sealing in your flavor. It helps develop the outer “crisp” or “bark” of crunchy juicy flavor.
Now be careful. This is just a “searing.” You DO NOT want to actually cook your food on this high heat as it will burn up quickly. You just want to sear your meats on the highest heat portion of the grill FIRST, and then move the meat to the cooler portion of the grill to let it slowly cook the inside of your meat.
3. A Myriad Of Ways To Flavor
Just like everyone has their own way of grilling, everyone has their own way of seasoning. There are a ton of different ways that you can add flavor to your grilled meats and food. The best way to get the best flavor throughout your meat is to marinate it overnight.
Most marinades are acidic in nature and this in turn causes the flavor of the marinade to really sink down into the meat saturating it with flavor. There are literally hundreds of marinades that you can use from store bought to home made, the choice is yours.
You also have a choice to use dry or wet rubs. This is soley based on your preference. These “rubs” are a blend of pre-packaged herbs and spices designed to add flavor to meat. Start by tenderizing the meat. Using your hands, “massage” the rub into the meat thoroughly being sure to cover the entire piece of meat. You’ll want to do this about 2-4 hours before grilling to let the flavors really sink in.
The longer the meat marinades the better.
The simplist flavoring is to just brush on a glaze such as honey. Now, you won’t be winning any contest, but there’s nothing wrong with honey glazed pork or chicken wings. Glazing is just a simple and quick way to make great tasting without a lot of time spent prepping.
You can also glaze after marinating. Just make sure that you put sweet glazes on near the end of your cook time as it can burn more easily so be sure and keep an eye on it.
4. Don’t Inundate Yourself With Tools
We’ve all seen those “12 Grilling Tools In one Package” offers at WalMart or Home Depot right….
Leave ’em behind. You don’t need them. All of those extra tools will just take up space you don’t have, waste your money, and just get in the way.
If you’ve ever watched a BBQ competition, you don’t see anyone using all of that stuff. You only need a few tools to make your Grilling fantastic.
1- A GOOD Grill Brush.
You noticed I said A GOOD Brush right. Since this is what you will use to apply your glazes you want one that doesn’t get brittle over time. Don’t try to use the wrong utensils such as a paint brush. (I’ve made this mistake in the past)
2- A high Quality Spatula Or Two
Once again you will want quality here as well. The spatula should be made of metal for obvious reasons. It should also have a very thin edge to make it easier to slide under foods.
*Tip: Having two spatulas makes it easier to “press down” on foods and flip at the same time although you really only need one.
One of the most important tools in your BBQ arsenal will be your tongs. They are the primary tool of choice. No respectable pitmaster would be caught dead without his/her tongs. They are great for picking up basically everything. Get yourself both a short pair for more control, and a long pair for more distance from the fire.
Anytime you’re grilling any type of food, please make sure that you think of food saftey first. Picture this: You had a great Bar-B-Que. The meal was excellent….until it ends with food poisoning.
There are three things you want to do:
1- Avoid Cross Contamination
If your spatula or tongs touch raw or rare meat, (yes, even if it’s rare) make sure that you hold it over the fire for about 15-20 seconds to make sure that you kill any and all bacteria.
Avoid touching raw meats and and then touching other foods or anything else such as plates, spoons, ect.
2- Keep your grill away from anything flammable. This ones a no brainer but since there are hundreds of grill fires every year I’m adding it.
3- Have a fire extinguisher nearby anytime you’re grilling.
6. Is The Fire Hot Enough?
This is for people who can’t put a thermometer on their grill. For those of you who can, it will be the best $8-15 that you can spend. Grills unlike stoves do not have a temperature setting that you can just set it to. You will have to judge when it’s hot enough or too hot.
So how do you know when your grill is ready to go? Just reach into the fire and grab a piece of charcoal. If it burns your hand, it’s too hot. JUST KIDDING! I wanted to see if you were still with me. (although it’s not that far off)
The easiest method is the “Mississippi Test.” (I’m serious this time. And no this test won’t tell you if you’re a redneck. lol) Hold your hand over the grill grate (about 4-5 inches) and start counting from “One Mississippi,” “Two Mississippi”…If you can hold your hand there for more than “Four Mississippi’s” than the fire isn’t hot enough.
Now on the other hand, if you can’t even get close enough count to “One Mississippi,” then the grill is probably too hot.
7. Use Different Woods to Add Smoke
It isn’t the actual grilling itself that gives meat that nice smokey grilled taste we all love. It’s the wood. The wood smoke actually. If you want to get that rich smokey flavor simply throw in a few chunks of your favorite wood. Such as oak, hickory, apple, ect. Don’t worry, after you’ve cooked with a few different types, you’ll quickly choose a favorite.
You can use wood chips for faster cooking foods like boneless chicken breast, seafood, ect. Wood chips also come in a variety of flavors and burn fairly quickly (about 10 min.) and shouldn’t really be used for longer cooking items such as ribs, (beef or pork) whole chickens, ect.
White Cedar and Golden Birch woods are great choices for seafood’s like grilled salmon. For chicken, Sugar Maple and Wild Apple are both good choices. Atlantic Olive, Mountain Mesquite and Black Cherry are good choices for beef and other kinds of dense meats like pork ribs or lamb chops.
A good choice for your more denser meats such as beef, lamb, and pork are mesquite, (used liberally since it has a very strong flavor. You don’t want to “overwhelm” the meat with the taste of mesquite). Black Cherry (or any cherry) and Atlantic Olive. Don’t be afraid to play around and experiment. Your supposed to be having fun doing this right?
8. Clean Your Grill Right Away
I’ve been guilty of this myself: waiting to clean your grill. Come on, who wants to take time from your guest or party and go clean the grill? That’s fun right. If you clean nothing else that day, do yourself a favor and take the time to clean your grill.
The best and easiest time to clean the grill is while it’s still hot. Fats harden the longer they sit. Especially after the grill has cooled down. Pieces of food get stuck to the grill and are later very difficult to scrape off. Bugs start to feed and grow on the grill leading to all kinds of health problems for you.
9. Resist The Urge To Keep Checking On Your Food
Don’t continually check your food as this releases the valuable heat that’s in the grill. Don’t constantly flip the meat over to see the other side. Don’t poke and prod the meat to check it every five minutes either as this releases very valuable juices and flavor.
The juices, glazes and marinade are what help to create that outer “crust” or “bark” as we in the know call it. If you stab at the meat to much you will disperse those seasonings thereby losing flavor in your meat. If you’re grilling from a recipe watch the temperature of the grill and only flip your meats when the recipe tells you to.
Otherwise, you should wait to see grill marks on one side before flipping.
10. Remove Meat Before It’s 100% Cooked
This is one of if not the most important tip here so please don’t forget it:
There are different ways to check for done-ness. For steaks, use your finger to poke the surface of the meat. The more firm it feels the more done the steak is. For medium rare the way I like them, make a fist. Now see how the soft part on the outside by your thumb feels. Thats how your steak should feel.
To check chicken take a skewer and poke through the center of the chicken and if it goes through easily and the juice is clear, it’s done. For most seafood the fish should be completely opaque.
I hope these tips help you have some great bar-b-ques and grilling times.