Grill tips that we can all follow
By Gail Kearns
Summer is here. It’s grilling season! Fearless women everywhere are dusting off their barbecues and getting their grill on. We all know that cooking food over an open fire is one of life’s greatest joys. And, yes, another is eating the perfectly grilled steak, a rack of ribs, or a piece salmon once it’s done to perfection.
And grilling isn’t just men’s territory either. More and more women are getting out the charcoal, entering grill contests, chili cook-offs, and judging outdoor cooking competitions. Check out the recently launched bushcooking.com, and you’ll see plenty of mouthwatering recipes.
Indeed, sometimes the simplest pleasures are the greatest enjoyments. So, to get your grill season started right, here are a few tips about the basics and some techniques to master, whether you’re a beginner or a veteran, using either a gas or charcoal grill.
- Get yourself a chimney starter. Forget the lighter fluid or even the match-light coals. The chimney starter works like a charm. No more gas-flavored hamburgers.
- Let those coals get gray before putting your food on the grill. It may take some patience if you’ve got a crowd of hungry people to feed, but if you start cooking before your coals are ready you may not get the results you desire. If you’re using a gas grill make sure you preheat the grates sufficiently (10 minutes or so) before cooking, otherwise your food will stick to the metal. Not good!
- Don’t forget to clean your grill grates. Burnt-on layers of food also contribute to the sticky factor when preparing food on the grill. But don’t bother cleaning it when you’ve got hungry mouths to feed or at the end of the evening when the grill has already cooled down. If you use your grill regularly, clean it up the next time you fire it up!
- Try cooking with indirect heat. This means setting up the coals on one side of the grill and leaving the other side empty. If using a gas grill, light the burners on one side and leave the other side off or on very low heat. You’ll have much more control over cooking when you can move your food items from one side to the other. Sear meat and veggies on the hot side then move them to other side for gentler cooking. This is especially useful during flare-ups! For easier clean up, you can also place a drip pan in the center of the banked coals.
- Use a grill basket for fish and small foods that could easily slip through the barbecue grates. For veggies use perforated pans.
- Don’t keep opening the lid! This again is where patience comes in handy. “Is it done yet!” is not a good mantra. If you’re cooking on a gas grill, opening the lid will make it cooler. If you’re cooking on a charcoal grill, opening the lid will make it hotter. Some outdoor chefs like to flip their burgers and meat several times to get those lovely looking charred grill marks. That’s okay as long as you know that opening and closing the lid is adding inconsistencies to your cooking temp.
- Use those vents on your grill to control heat. It’s all about adjusting the flow of oxygen, which in turn adjusts the heat inside your grill. The venting system is crucial to how long the coals will last and the amount of heat it provides.
- Add barbecue sauce toward the end of cooking your chicken or ribs, or any other fare for that matter. You’ll get just as much flavor without the risk of burning your food to a crisp or giving it a bitterness that will turn up the noses of your foodie girlfriends.
- A good tip for spareribs: Don’t forget to remove the membrane from the bone side of the slab. If left on, it can shrink and cause uneven cooking.
- When caramelizing onions for your burgers, place a cast iron pan directly on the barbecue grate over considerable heat. Stir onions frequently for 30 to 45 minutes until a deep golden color. You’ll need a lot of onions because they shrink down a lot, but it’s so worth it!
- Use a thermometer to tell when the meat is done. Sounds simple, but too many people cut open a piece of chicken or meat to see if it’s done or they poke it with their fingers to test it.
- Let meat rest off the grill for a few minutes before serving. If you want serve it really sizzling, you can put it back on the grill for 30 seconds each side. Ta-da!
Hope you enjoyed these grill tips. Here’s to your success in becoming an authentic grillmeister in the great outdoors!