by Kate Heyhoe
Top Ten Tips & Techniques
- Rule of thumb: For smoking foods, cook low and slow—at a low temperature for a long period of time, covered. For grilling thinner pieces of meat, cook at high temperature and fast: grill on one side, then flip and cook the other side, directly over the coals. If the pieces are thick, remove them to an area where they get indirect heat (not directly over the coals), so as to allow the inside to cook completely; partially cover to retain the heat. Most seasoned BBQ chefs rely on indirect cooking for the perfect piece of meat.
- Apply sugar-based sauces at the end of cooking to keep from burning. Most traditional barbecue sauces contain sugar, corn syrup or tomato sauce, all of which burn quickly. To keep foods from sticking, lightly coat the cold grill with oil before heating, or use a vegetable spray. It also helps to lightly coat the food surface with oil before cooking, just don't let any excess grease cause flare-ups.
- Fire up the grill in advance: charcoal needs time to become red hot, with a thin white ash coating. Gas grills also need preheating time: up to 15 minutes with the burners on high and the lid down.
- Cut the fat—avoid flare ups: use a drip pan and move foods away from the fiery area. Remove as much fat as possible before cooking and use lean grounds of hamburger or other ground meats.
- Practice makes perfect: each type of grill cooks foods differently, and each type of food needs different attention. If you're planning a barbecue party, start practicing a few weekends in advance to hone down your grilling technique. Try a chicken dish one day, a beef or pork one the next, and include vegetables on the grill too.
- Marinating adds flavor and tenderizes foods—use an acid-based marinade that contains vinegar, lemon juice or other citrus juice. If you wish to use the marinating juices as a dipping sauce, be sure to cook them completely in a saucepan to avoid cross-contamination from any raw meat bacteria.
- Allow food to come to room temperature before grilling, but don't let it sit unrefrigerated longer than 20-30 minutes, lest you run the risk of food contamination.
- Use an instant-read meat thermometer to determine if your food is cooked inside. There's nothing worse than overcooked, dried-out barbecue, or undercooked charred-on-the outside-raw-on-the-inside chicken.
- Grilling is easiest and best with proper tools—for both cooking and safety. Make sure you have a checklist of equipment and that all pieces are set out and accessible by the grill. This includes, oven mitts, tongs, basting brush, etc.
- Timing is everything: Don't make the grilled foods wait for the rest of the meal or the party. Once it's cooked perfectly, it's time to eat. Get your side dishes together, your table set and make sure your guests have their drinks replenished—and don't forget: you'll need plenty of napkins!
For more grilling tips, marinades and recipes,
visit Summer Grilling Recipes
Copyright © 2007, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
Modified June 2007