I often say that the heart of grilling lies in grilling techniques. What separates the master grillers from the masses is that the experts understand how to manage their grill. Sure, recipes are important, but techniques matter most. Thus here are my ten essentials for better grilling. Follow these tips and you will become a true BBQ master.
1. Lighter Fluid: No Way!
There is no reason you should use lighter fluid anymore. It's a liquid product that evaporates, and who wants that and its foul chemical fumes under their food? Chimney starters and paraffin cubes are much cleaner and much more effective.
2. Preheat the Grill
Preheating your grill with the lid closed for 10 to 15 minutes prepares the cooking grate. With all the coals glowing red, or all the gas burners on high, the temperature under the lid should reach 500?F. The heat loosens any bits and pieces of food hanging onto the grate, making it easy to brush them off. Preheating your grill also helps prevent food from sticking to the grate and get the grate hot enough to sear properly.
3. Keep it Clean
When bits of food have stuck to your stainless steel or porcelain-enameled cooking grate, and the grate is hot, clean it with a stainless steel brush. This step is not only for cleanliness. It also prevents your food from sticking. Note: Use a steel brush if you have a cast-iron cooking grate.
4. Oil the Food, Not the Grate
Oil prevents food from sticking. It adds flavor and moisture, too. Lightly brushing or spraying the food with oil works better than brushing the grate. You won't waste oil and you will avoid a potentially dangerous situation.
5. Know When to Be Direct
Direct heat (when the fire is directly below the food) is best for relatively small, tender pieces of food that cook in 20 minutes or less. Indirect heat (when the fire is on either side of the food) is best for larger, tougher foods that require more than 20 minutes of cooking.
6. Keep the Air Flowing
A charcoal fire needs air. The lid should be closed as much as possible, but keep the vents on the lid and below the charcoal grate open. Remove the ashes on the bottom of the grill regularly to prevent them from blocking the vents. A gas fire needs air, too, which it gets from openings below the grill.
7. Put a Lid on It
For four important reasons, the lid should be closed as much as possible.
1. It keeps the grates hot enough to sear the food.
2. It speeds up the cooking time and prevents the food from drying out.
3. It traps the smokiness that develops when fat and juices vaporize in the grill.
4. It prevents flare-ups by limiting oxygen.
8. Caramelization is Key
One of biggest reasons for the popularity of grilled food is its seared taste. To develop this taste for maximum effect, use the right level of heat and resist the temptation to turn food often. Your patience will allow for caramelization, or browning. That creates literally hundreds of flavors and aromas. As a general rule, turn food only once.
9. Tame the Flame
Flare-ups happen, which is good because they sear the surface of what you are grilling. But too many flare-ups can burn your food. Keep the lid on as much as possible. This limits the amount of oxygen inside the grill, which will help extinguish any flare-ups. If the flames are getting out of control, move the food over indirect heat temporarily, until they die down. Then move the food back.
10. Watch the Time and Temperature
If you are grilling in a colder climate or in a higher altitude, the cooking times will be longer. If the wind is blowing hard, it will lower a gas grill's temperature and raise a charcoal grill's temperature. Grilling is an art and a science. Pay attention to both.