7 Grilling Essentials Every Cook Should Know

The 4th of July and grilling go hand-in-hand in my family. From burgers to hot dogs to juicy corn on the cob, I plan on spending most of my 4th charring up my favorites. Head into this holiday with your best foot forward by brushing up on some of my grilling basics. Whether we’re talking vegetables or dry-aged steaks, you will be grilling everything like a pro.

Clean Your Grill

When your grill is hot and almost ready to grill, give it a thorough brushing with a metal bristled brush. This will give you optimal grill marks and flavor – no one wants last week’s BBQ chicken on their grilled peaches. Before putting your food on the grill, generously grease your grate with a neutral oil with a high smoke point, like canola or grapeseed. You can use a silicone grill brush or tightly roll up a clean kitchen towel and lightly coat in oil. Use your tongs to rub it on the grate, being careful not to let it catch on fire.


Choose Your Tools

Personally, I don’t believe in fancy grilling gadgets, but there are a few things that I always have on hand when I’m cooking outside: Wire bristled grill brush, long handled tongs, long handled spatula, a silicone grill brush (if I’m basting), a clean kitchen towel, a clean cutting board and a spray bottle filled with water in case of any flare-ups. If I’m grilling up a quality bone-in steak or just a few burgers, I will also bring my cast-iron skillet out to the grill. Set the skillet directly on the grate until it’s nice and hot, then grill your meat in the dry pan. The flat, even surface gives you a better char than the grate, but your food still gets that smoky grill flavor.


Heat Zones

Novice grillers tend to turn up all of the burners on the grill as high as they can go and cook everything on the highest heat. While the hot and fast method works for some foods (such as fruits or grilled squid). I will typically set up two heat “zones” for almost everything else. For thick bone-in pork chops, lamb and even burgers, I will grill them on the hot side until I get the desired grill marks, then move them over to the cool side to gently cook until perfectly tender on the inside. To set up heat zones on a charcoal grill, heat your coals until white hot, then carefully push them all to one side of the grill.


Keep the Grill Closed

We’re all tempted to open the grill and see how our burgers or grilled corn are coming along, but every time you open the lid you lose heat. Focus on timing your grilled foods and trust those times – only open up the lid when it’s time to flip or you think your food is done.


Don’t Press on Your Meat

Whatever you do, do not press on your meat – especially burgers – with a spatula while cooking. Many do this because they believe it helps them get a better sear, but what you are actually doing is pressing out all of the juices in your burger, making it dry and flavorless later. If you’re concerned about getting that perfect crust, try my trick in step #2.


Grill Vegetables Dry

To let the natural sugars in your vegetables char and develop flavor, grill them dry on your grill. By tossing vegetables with oil before grilling, you run the risk of the oil burning and giving your food a bitter, rancid flavor. Instead, drizzle them with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt after they come off the grill.


Let It Rest

This might be the most important, but often the hardest step to follow. We’re often inclined to cut into our grilled chicken or sausages the moment they come off the grill, but it’s essential to let your meat take a quick nap. When the meat comes off the grill the juices are all near the surface, but letting your meat rest for even 10 minutes gives those flavorful juices time to redistribute. Otherwise, they’ll all leak out the moment you slice into your food giving you tough, dry meat.


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