ESSENTIAL GRILLING TIPS TO KICK OFF THE SUMMER!
With the weather finally starting to warm up and the days getting longer, I can't wait to clean off my back porch and get my grill set up! There’s nothing better than a little summer get-together with fresh salads, cocktails and grilled meats or fish. I put together a few tips to help guide you through an easy grilling season...
CHARCOAL VS. GAS
This is the debate that sparks up at every BBQ get-together! There aren't any real health differences cooking with either one, so it really just comes down to taste and preference. Charcoal will give you more of a richer, smokier flavor whereas gas is a lot faster and a little less expensive to maintain.
I am partial to charcoal - the smoky flavor you get is so incredible, and for me, being close to the cooking process (thinking about heat and being intuitive about done-ness) is something I just love. To start a charcoal grill, use a chimney, which makes it super easy to get the coals hot and ready to use. Place paper or starter briquets on the underside of the chimney and then fill with charcoal. Light the paper/briquets and let the coals catch fire, which should take around 20-25 minutes. Dump out the charcoals into the grill when they have turned an ashy gray. I'm not much for lighter fluid, so this is my favorite way.
MAINTAINING YOUR GRILL
You want to oil the cold grates prior to grilling with a rag or paper towel. This is basically the same as maintaining your cast iron pans at home - seasoning the grates will help to make the grill non-stick.
Also, always preheat the grill, and clean the grill while it is still hot before and after cooking. The grill should be so hot that you can't keep your hand above it for more than 2 seconds.
READY TO GRILL
A few points:
(1) Always let your meat come up to room temperature before grilling for a good 20-30 minutes. This makes sure that your meat will cook evenly on the grill.
(2) Season with spices or marinade overnight for the best flavor, but even a quick grill rub right before cooking makes for great flavor. If you're using a marinade, make sure to pat the meat dry before cooking.
(3) Save the basting of sauces towards the end of cooking so that they don’t burn the foods. Most basting sauces contain brown sugar, tomato sauce, soy and other sugary ingredients that will char the meat before it is finished cooking.
(4) Tongs and spatulas are the best tools to use when handling meat; never a grill fork as it releases all those good juices when you pierce the meat to turn.
LET'S GET COOKIN'!
The hardest thing to do while cooking? Don’t touch the meat! Let it sear and get those beautiful grill marks. The meat will let you know when it is ready to be turned. If you pick up the meat too early, it will stick to the grates. After cooking, let the meat rest (about 5-15 minutes). This way the juices will re-distribute. If you cut into it right away, all the juices will flow out leaving you with a dry cut of meat.
Using a meat thermometer is helpful, especially if you're grilling poultry. I actually judge by the touch when I'm grilling red meat. Use the skin on your hand between your thumb and your pointer finger as a guide. The first pinch between the two fingers is soft and spongy – rare, ¼” back is a little spongy but springs back – medium, ½” back is firmer – well done.
GREAT GRILL ACCESSORIES
Salt blocks are made from Himalayan salt, and they impart a subtle saltiness to foods and can be used directly on the grill.
Grill baskets are great for those foods that fall through the grates like asparagus, shrimp, onions etc…I love this one because I'm always cooking for a group and it's on the larger size.
Pizza stones are amazing for making fresh pizza at home. You can even stop by your local pizza place and ask to buy dough if you don’t have time to make your own. This is actually what I own, and it works on the grill and in the oven. What I love about this one is that you can cut directly on it making serving up that grilled pizza all the easier.
Cedar planks & alder wood are amazing for grilling fish. Not only do they keep the delicate fish from falling through the grates, they also infuse the fish with a rich, smokey flavor depending on the type of wood. If you can find alder wood, the flavor is amazing!