With Memorial Day around the corner a lot of us will find ourselves around a grill this weekend; here are some basic tips to have a happy & tasty grilling experience.
Clean your grill (while it’s hot), especially gas grills. Warm up the grill and prior to putting food on it buy a decent wire grill brush and just clean it good, yes its warm with the fire on but it cleans a lot easier than when it’s cold, food tastes better too.
Wait until the fire is hot until you put meat on it, if your grill has a thermometer that’s at least 400 degrees (about 5-10 minutes warm up time and make sure to let it heat up with the lid closed), if this is a charcoal grill its until the charcoal is white & ashy, that’s about 30-45 minutes.
Never use a fork to turn over or pick up meat, it pierces the meat and all the juices run out and no one likes dry meat. I keep both tongs and a spatula at the grill for moving meat.
Also if you grill chicken (or even burgers), rub the meat with a little olive oil before putting on the grill (and let that soak in for 15-20 minutes, add a little seasoning too), you’ll be amazed how it keeps the meat moist.
If you are using a charcoal grill, use good charcoal that doesn't burn like newspaper, my favorites are Kingsford (the flavored ones are really nice, especially the Hickory or Mesquite), also Stubbs and the Cowboy Charcoal which is a wood (and burns a little hotter), you’ll have a better fire which means better food.
You should tend to the BBQ at least every 3-5 minutes if not more. This doesn't mean you always have to open the top and flip meat but keep your eyes on it. If there’s not enough smoke or too much, it means something is going on and you do need to go in there. If you are doing hot dogs or burgers it does mean you need to make sure they don’t burn. There is nothing wrong (especially with ribs and chicken), to pull the food a little early and finish in the oven, it guarantees the food is cooked all the way through and not charred.
If you wish to put a little BBQ sauce on the food while it’s on the grill that’s okay but wait until the last couple of minutes of the grilling process. BBQ sauce is largely ketchup or molasses based and that’s a high sugar content which easily burns (and makes a mess on the grill grates), so get a nice silicon brush (they are cheap and available everywhere now), and lightly brush the sauce on shortly before the meat comes off the grill. For chicken it gives a great flavor and I do this myself, but just be careful.
If you decide to buy the pre packed, pre sauced and pre cooked baby back ribs at the store (and I admit I like the Tony Roma brand ribs myself), you can put those on a grill (especially a gas grill), they cook quick and there’s always a lot of sauce in the packet. So to get the full tasting experience follow the directions above with sauce, just brush it on in the last few minutes of the cooking process. There’s nothing wrong with those ribs, they are super convenient, tasty and right now a better bargain than the raw baby back ribs that are often over $ 10.00 a slab.
A tip I learned from my father in law (Thanks Marty), is to add moisture to your grilling by having a can of water on your grill (especially the gas grills) as you cook, and it’s so simple just use an empty pop or beer can (or any aluminum can), with about 2/3 full of water. It creates the steam that makes smoking so great and keeps your food from drying out.
If you use wood chips (and they are great for flavor), they need to soak at least 30 minutes prior to them going on the fire. If you have a gas grill you can use them in smoker box (available everywhere for under $ 10), and they really enhance the cooking flavor. If you are on a charcoal grill then they go on the fire but be aware on a hot fire once they create smoke they will burn and can flare up.
If you want to make amazing grilled sausage (especially brats), do a simple “beer bath”, just let the sausage marinate for about 30 minutes to an hour in an aluminum pan with at least a can of beer with a half a cup of chopped onions (for about 6 sausages), and then take them out of the bath and put it on the grill.
Once the BBQ is over never dump the coals out right way (for charcoal grills), close the dampers (vents), on the grill and let it burn out, it may take awhile (an hour or more), and if you have brought your grill to a park just let it cool as you eat and by the time you wrap up to go home you should be good. Same with the gas grills, just shut it down when you are done cooking and if you have to move it or put your cover on later (and I recommend all grills that sit outside be covered), you should be good after an hour.
Grilling on the holiday is a great tradition and a tasty way to feed your friends & family, its largely a trial by error technique (I’ve made more bad BBQ than I’d like to admit), but you learn as you go.
Happy BBQ & Memorial Day!
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