Food for Thought – A Few Basic Rules for Successful Grilling

I’m a griller. I’m not an expert griller, I’m not a fancy griller, but I’m nothing if not prolific. I grill all yearâÂ?¦snow, pouring rain, freezing temps, heat, bugsâÂ?¦nothing keeps me away from the grill. In the summer, I often grill more than once a day – in my opinion, one of the great advantages of working from home is the ability to make a grilled lunch. The other night, I baked some chicken for dinner for my girlfriend and myselfâÂ?¦and it just feltâÂ?¦wrong somehow. It was also the first time I’d used my oven in several months.

Not being a fancy or condescending griller, I won’t go on some rant about which type of grilling is right or wrong. If you like to use charcoal, use charcoal. If you like a gas grill, use a gas grill. I read somewhere that only a very small amount of the population can even tell the difference in the flavor of the final product. Like most things people try to make a holy war out of, it’s really not a big deal.

Personally, I use a Weber Genesis Silver gas grill with all stainless steal burners and grates, and it’s probably one of the top five purchases of my entire life. I like a gas grill because I grill so often, it’s nice to have something that’s “always on”. I can fire up the grill to make one burger or a couple dogs for lunch, in no time at all. If you use charcoal, thoughâÂ?¦one requestâÂ?¦DO NOT use lighter fluid! If you’re going through the extra effort of using charcoal for the flavor, make sure the flavor you’re adding is that from the charcoal, not the taste of gasoline from the lighter fluid.

Anyway, without further delay, let’s talk about a few important things to think about before you light your grill and put flame to food!

A Few Basic Rules

I want to throw out a couple real basic rules you should know when you start grilling.

Keep it Clean: You grill food not just to cook it, but to add flavor. Now, you want the delicious taste that fire can bring to food, or do you want the flavor of the burnt, nasty remains of whatever you cooked last to be infused into your meal? Keep your grill surface clean, and cooking will be easier, food will taste better, and you’ll be a happier griller. I usually turn the grill on high when I start it, and leave the cover on for 5-10 minutes or until the grill has sat between 500 and 600 degrees for a bit. This dries out whatever crud is on the grill. Then take a stiff wire brush and scrub the grill surface before you start cooking. It only takes a few minutes, and it’s well worth the time and effort.

Grab, Don’t Stab: Grilling with a fork is like eating soup with a fork – you can do it, but it’s a bad idea. Use tongs or a spatula to flip food on the grill. Every time you stab into a piece of food, especially meat, with a fork, you’re making holes for juices to escape. So, use tongsâÂ?¦and grab, don’t stab.

Flip as seldom as possible: One thing rookie grillers make is that they’re TOO attentiveâÂ?¦constantly flipping and poking at the food they’re cooking. That cool sizzling sound you hear when you flip the food you’re cooking? That’s juices and flavor escaping. And never press your food down on the grill (people often do this with burgers), that forces more juice and flavor out. One of the beauties of grilling is that you can cook food while locking in a lot of moisture and flavor, don’t counteract that by being too aggressive. If you need to keep your hands busy while standing at the grill, grab an icy cold beverage or some chips. Or learn to juggleâÂ?¦whateverâÂ?¦just don’t stab and flip your food!

Hot and Cold Spots: Like an old house in winter or anything cooked in the microwave (yuck!), all gas grills have hot and cold spots. That’s just the way it is, whether it’s a $500 Weber or a $59 bargain buy. Learn them on your grill, and use them to your advantage when cooking foods that cook at different speeds or temperatures, or to cook foods to different levels of doneness. This is part of grilling that’s more an art than a science, but it’s also not hard. Experiment and you’ll get the hang of it.

Once you’re aware of the few basics above, you’re ready to start grilling! Good luck and happy grilling!

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