50 Tips for Effortless Grilling
It's an Artform
The Art of Grilling
Ah, the summertime. Few things are more distinct than the smell of fresh cut grass and the smell of a grill preparing delicacies when one is reminded of summer. This year, the clear skies and warm temperatures make for perfect grilling conditions. While grilling can be a joy, it can also be an unpleasant experience when approached from the wrong angle. Therefore, I am assembling this amazing list of 50 tips which will keep you grilling effortlessly and hassle free all summer long.
This hub will cover everything you need to know about grilling, from grill preparation to grilling vegetables, and everything in between. So sit back, relax, and learn a few tips that are sure impress your friends' and family's eyes and taste buds.
Ten Tips for Preparing Your Grill
Whether you use a classic charcoal grill, or prefer the clean burning ease of a gas powered grill, these tips will ensure that your grill is perfectly prepared to heat and cook your food properly.
- Clean as much of the gunk off of the grill as you can before it is hot. Some people debate this step, but a grill is not meant to be seasoned like an iron skillet is, and too much soot and buildup can cause a mess, a fire, or a disgusting taste in your food. Be sure to clean out the film that develops up under the lid of the grill, the burnt up leftovers from your last grilling experience, the valves that connect to propane, or the old charcoals and ash if you use a charcoal grill. This step is the most important one that must be taken to ensure the safety of you, your home, and your friends and family - as well as preserve the great taste in the food you cook. Therefore, it is at the top of this list.
- To clean the grates on any grill, heat the grill with the lid closed until the inside temperature reaches 500 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, a good way to know when the grill is hot enough is to hold your hand two inches above the grates of the grill, and count how long you can keep it there until it becomes too uncomfortable. When the time it takes is less than 2-3 seconds, the grill is hot enough. Use a wire brush with a long handle and some water to clean off old, burnt on messes. This method is just as easy, as well as safer, than using the multitude of cleaners and chemicals to do the job. Alternatively, you can remove the grates and clean them with soapy water and a scraper, such as a putty knife, without heating the grill - but this will take much longer.
- If you are using a charcoal grill, add just enough charcoal to cover the bottom of the grill until there is an even, flat surface of charcoal. In this case, overuse of charcoal is not necessary, and will not help heat the grill any faster. You should clean out the charcoal briquettes before every use of a charcoal grill, and by using fewer charcoals per grilling, you will ultimately get more out of every bag you buy. If you are not going to use the entire grilling surface, add enough charcoal to extend two inches in each direction around the cooking surface to ensure an even heat.
- If you are using a gas grill, make sure to turn off the valve after each use. It is also important to replace last year's propane tank with a new one because of the risk of your lines being cracked, or the tank being rusted. Better safe than sorry in this case.
- When grilling on a propane grill, make sure the burners are clear of burnt food and not jammed. If only some of the burners ignite when you turn the grill on, shut them off immediately, as well as the propane valve, and examine the issue after the grill has cooled off. There is nothing worse than a sudden explosion of fire, heat, and odor from built up gas exploding out of a burner.
- When you are absolutely certain that your grill is clean, safe, and ready to use, it is time to preheat it. You must preheat your grill before every use to evenly cook food. Again, preheat the grill until it is between 400-500 degrees F.
- If you are using a charcoal grill, light your charcoals with a match or a specially made grilling lighter. It is hard to directly hold a common cigarette lighter near the charcoals, and being too close to the briquettes can cause some nasty burns.
- If you are going to be cooking with flavor woods on your charcoal grill, such as mesquite or hickory, make sure they are clean and dry. Wet wood can explode because of the pressure that builds up in it. Similarly, never use a soft wood, such as pine, to cook with because it will not burn evenly.
- When you are igniting a gas burning grill, whether with a match, lighter, or self igniting spark switch, always ignite the grill with the hood open. The gas can build up under the hood, and potentially cause an explosion.
- Finally, after the grill is preheated, you must oil the grates. This step is absolutely crucial whether you use a charcoal or gas burning grill. You can use canned non-stick spray, such as Pam, or you can brush olive oil or a similar cooking oil with a stiff wire brush over the grates. This step will prevent your food from sticking to the grill, and it also pre-treats the metal grates so that the "pores" in the metal are exposed to wet and cold (comparatively) substances, and close up before your food touches them.
Okay, so your grill is ready to go. That wasn't too difficult. Now, its on to the fun stuff - preparing your food with the grill.
Don't Close The Lid When Lighting a Gas Grill
Get Your Grill On!
Ten Tips For Grilling Fish
Your grill is hot, clean, and ready to cook. This section is for the fans of grilled fish, and teaches how to grill this delicate meat without burning it, as well as learning how to know if it is cooked all the way through. If you don't like fish, skip to the next sections!
- Whether you are grilling a whole fish, or simple fish filets, the proper cooking time is five minutes on each side per inch thick (measured at the thickest point) over a medium-high (not medium or high, the level between that) heat.
- If your fish filets are thicker than one inch at the thickest point, cut a mark down to the middle of the filet at the thickest point before cooking, which can be checked during cooking with a meat thermometer or with the old classic - your eyes - to ensure it is thoroughly cooked.
- Rub olive oil or similar cooking oil over the fish before cooking to keep the moisture in the fish.
- If you are worried about the fish falling apart during cooking, have lemon juice handy to brush over the fish. This will keep the fish moist and intact, as well as imparting a delicious flavor. Brush the fish as often as the juice dries or if the fish is starting to break apart.
- If you are going to use aluminum foil to cook your fish with, because you are worried about the fish breaking apart and falling between the grates, make sure you spray the inside surface of the foil with non-stick cooking spray first. I guarantee that the foil will stick to your fish if you cook it even one minute too long, which means you won't even be able to unwrap the fish until it has cooled enough to touch, and the food might be unsafe to eat.
- You can also use a grill basket, which can be purchased at hardware stores or wherever grilling accessories are sold, to cook your fish in. This takes a lot of the hassle out of cleaning up the grill before your next cooking adventure, and helps the fish cook evenly. Again, make sure you oil the grill basket before use, or use a non-stick cooking spray.
- Because fish dries out very fast, it is recommended that you do not add salt to the fish before cooking. While it is customary to "season" food with salt, this step should be saved until after the fish is done, and then seasoned to taste. Salt will dry out meat very fast - this is how meat is preserved and jerky is made, if you don't believe me.
- If you think your fish is finished, but you don't have a meat thermometer, check the color and texture of the meat. Fish is finished cooking when the meat is no longer glossy, and the color is no longer translucent (clear-ish).
- If you own a meat thermometer, fish is finished cooking when the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat is 155 degrees, F.
- Best results with filets and generally all fish (unless over 3 inches thick) is achieved with direct heat, which means cooking your food right above the heat source. Indirect heat is when the rest of the grill is heated around the part you cooking over.
Delicious. These steps will make it so you never burn another piece of fish again, and they will also ensure you never poison your friends and family with uncooked food as well. Congratulations, you now know everything you need to know to impress your loved ones with your mastery of culinary skills - at least when it comes to fish. Get creative with marinades, dry rubs, and side dishes and you will be a famous grill master in no time.
Ten Tips for Grilling Beef
Steak and Hamburgers! An American summer classic. Undoubtedly, this is the most common use for grills during the summer, and results in happy stomachs of children and adults alike. Unless you are like many unprepared grill chefs - then it results in meatball burgers and two choices for steak - bloody or burnt. These tips will help you learn everything you need to know to have a burger named after you. We call 'em "Tyler Burgers" around here, and they are in high demand.
- Hamburgers should be cooked for about five minutes on each side, flipping the hamburger once, over direct high heat. This is for raw hamburgers that are about one inch thick, and the cooking time can vary less or more if the burgers are precooked/thinner, or thicker, respectively.
- Steaks should be cooked for between seven and 13 minutes on each side, over direct medium high heat, depending on the thickness of the meat. Strip steaks will usually require a little less cooking time than a rib eye would.
- The best results for properly cooking a steak are as follows: Sear the steaks over direct high heat for about two minutes on each side, then continue cooking over indirect heat for around one hour to an hour and a half. While this may be a little more inconvenient for your hungry belly, it will keep the steak from being burnt, and lock in the juices as well.
- When preparing hamburger patties to be grilled, it is best to make an indentation in the middle of the patty with your thumb, and then place the patties in the refrigerator for about an hour before you intend to grill. These simple tips help prevent your hamburger patties from shrinking into little meatballs - a very common grilling mistake!
- When seasoning your steaks before preparation, avoid the common mistake of "tenderizing" your steaks with a fork. The reason a meat mallet works well is because it does not puncture the beef tissue. If you stab the meat with a fork numerous times, it will create holes for juices to flow out of. Please proceed to stab your steaks if you really like crispy, dry, burnt up meat.
- It is difficult to make a decision by eye about the "doneness" of beef (i.e. rare, medium rare, etc) by merely looking at it unless you have some culinary training. The use of a meat thermometer is crucial here. Beef is raw when seared, rare when 140 degrees F, medium rare at 145 degrees F, medium at 160 degrees F, medium well at 165 degrees F, and well done at 170 degrees F. This is, of course, measured in the center of the thickest point in the meat. Anything below 140 degrees F can be dangerous to consume (e. coli becomes a risk), and anything above 170 degrees F almost guarantees "burnt to a crisp" meat. Hey, some people still order their steaks both ways.
- Hamburgers should always be cooked until they are medium well or more. Because of the physical properties of hamburger meat, it is difficult to gauge whether or not the meat is safe, unless it is extremely lean, at lesser temperatures.
- When you mix up your hamburger meat, mix it in a large bowl with the seasoning and ingredients, instead of topping the hamburger patties with seasoning. The grill will burn the seasoning, leaving you with a layer of burnt salt which makes the meat difficult to judge for the level of "doneness."
- If you decide to cook your steak properly over indirect heat, it should be cooked about five inches away from the heat source, give or take depending on the size of your grill.
- Slashing the fat around your steaks every inch or so, vertically along the cut of meat, will prevent your steaks from curling up, and it will also allow the fat's juices to properly drain out of the meat.
Incredible! You can make steaks at home that put expensive steakhouses to shame. Your hamburgers will beat McDonald's anytime. Hopefully, you learned something new about grilling hamburgers and steaks. If you didn't learn anything new, you're either a Chef, or you're a liar! Wait, what about ribs and roasts? I didn't forget - grilled roast is overrated and should be saved for an oven, and grilling beef ribs is actually best done in a barbecue pit, but the cooking times are the same as pork ribs, which are covered in the next section!
Five Tips for Grilling Pork
Only five tips this time?! I have already covered a lot of stuff that is redundant by now when it comes to meat, so the tips for grilling pork, as well as the next section, grilling chicken, will only have five tips. You have already learned the basics! Grilled pork tenderloin, grilled pork chops, and grilled ribs are delicious, easy to make, and they are the "other white meat," so they must be good for you on some level! These tips will help you create these timeless classics like the pros.
- Pork Chops should be cooked for around five minutes on each side, flipping once, over high direct heat. This number will drop if your pork chops are thinner than one inch, and it will raise about two minutes more per side if your chops are slightly thicker. Ribs should be cooked for around 45 minutes over indirect heat, flipping once or by not flipping and cooking bone side down. Pork tenderloins are tricky: cook your tenderloin for approximately 20 minutes per side, making the assumption that the tenderloin has four sides, flipping 1/4 turn four times, over indirect high heat. Pork tenderloins have a tendency to cook unevenly, burning on one side, while still being uncooked on another side.
- Pork cannot be served any less than "medium," which occurs when the internal temperature of the meat at the thickest point is at least 145 degrees F. Pork is well done at 160 degrees F, and still retains a lot of its flavor and juices when it is well done. Pork is not safe to eat if it is less than medium, so make sure it is completely cooked before serving.
- Pork should be rubbed with a little bit of oil or marinaded before cooking to seal in the moisture. Dry pork is disgusting pork, and pork easily dries out if you skip this step. Try to use a marinade in place of a dry rub when you are grilling pork.
- To properly cook pork over indirect heat, place the meat about four inches away from the heat source. Pork can be a little tricky to keep juicy and tender, so four inches away from the heat source is ideal, along with the proper temperature and cooking time.
- As with steak, pork is best when it is seared on both sides, which locks the inside juices in, and then heated thoroughly with indirect heat until at least medium.
Amazing! Who knew it could be so easy to create classics like pork chops and baby back ribs right in your own back yard, without burning the house down in the process? I did, and now you do! Lets move on to grilling chicken, finishing up the steps required for grilling meats.
Five Tips for Grilling Chicken
Grilled chicken is, in my opinion, the best way to prepare chicken. It might not be as salty or as texture rich as fried chicken, but the flavor combinations are endless. There's barbecue sauce, marinades, dry rubs, rosemary chicken, lemon chicken, etc. However, undercooked chicken may be the most commonly mis-prepared meat, and it can also be the most deadly. Here are the steps you should take to create delicious, perfect poultry on your grill.
- Chicken should be grilled above medium, direct heat. Chicken is notorious for easily drying out, so take your time and grill it over a cooler flame to get the best results. Now, here is something a little trickier: Chicken breasts, the largest cuts of meat on a chicken, should be cooked over medium direct heat for about seven minutes per side. Chicken legs, one of the smallest cuts of meat on a chicken, should be cooked for about 20 minutes per side over the same settings. Strange, I know, but it has to do with meat density, and dark thick meat requires more time to cook.
- If you are grilling chicken breasts, even boneless ones, it is best to cut them in half so they will be thinner and more even thickness throughout the breast. This helps the cut cook quicker, and also results in even cooking throughout the breast.
- It is best to cook chicken with the skin intact. While skinless chicken is far healthier for you, a skinless chicken will also dry out a whole lot easier. If you prefer to eat skinless chicken, remove the skin after cooking. The skin will help lock in juices, flavors, and heat. If you follow this step, marinade your chicken underneath the skin so that the flavors can penetrate the meat properly.
- Chicken, like most other meat, should be coated with a cooking grade oil before grilling, to lock in the moisture and prevent dryness. Do not stab your chicken with a fork to allow seasoning and marinades to penetrate the meat, because it will dry out more during cooking. Instead, marinade or dry rub your chicken 24 hours before grilling, and the flavors will seep into the meat naturally.
- Chicken is finished cooking when it is at least 160 degrees F internally, but because of the risk of salmonella, it is recommended that chicken is cooked until the internal temperature of the thickest spot on the meat reaches 180 degrees F.
Scrumptious! So far, that's 40 tips on grilling that should have you well on your way to being a backyard cooking guru. With the meats covered, it's time I conclude this educational hub with 10 more tips on grilling non-meats, for side dishes, or the vegetarians at heart. Besides, grilled veggies are, simply, delicious.
Ten Tips For Grilling Vegetables
You are a master of grilling meat now. So what better way of rounding out your diet of grilled flesh than with grilled vegetables. Or, if you're a vegetarian or vegan, you can round out your diet of vegetables with grilled corn and peppers. Either way, grilled vegetables taste great, are easy to cook, and almost everyone loves them. Here are ten more tips, to round out this series, to be a supreme grilling ninja master.
- Vegetables should always be grilled over a medium heat. Since vegetables may contain high amounts of water, they might shrink and dry out over higher heat. It is best to grill over direct heat, and should only take a few minutes to completely cook most vegetables.
- Vegetables are done cooking when they are browned with grill marks, and are tender enough to easily pierce with a fork.
- It is extremely important to allow vegetables to cool off after grilling and before eating. Since vegetables, such as peppers or corn (okay, it's debatable whether peppers or corn are actually vegetables, but lets just call them that since they are the most commonly grilled) contain high amounts of water that build up pressure while cooking, the sudden burst from a bite can cause serious burns.
- Vegetables should always be rubbed with cooking oil before they are grilled. Since vegetables easily stick to grills, it is important to coat them with oil to avoid destroying them.
- Dense vegetables, such as potatoes or radishes, are best grilled when they are precooked in water, because they can easily dry out, and take a very long time to grill properly.
- Most vegetables can be completely cooked in less than 10 minutes over medium direct heat, flipping only once.
- Corn should not be wrapped in foil to be grilled. To cook corn while it is still in the husk, peel back the husks slightly and coat the corn with some butter before replacing the husks. Corn in the husk needs to be turned frequently, and takes approximately 20 minutes to cook, flipping frequently. It is finished when steam begins to pour out of the husk. Corn that is out of the husk (shucked) may take slightly less time to cook, but also needs to be flipped frequently. Shucked corn is finished cooking when the kernels (even white sweet corn) has turned golden yellow or brown.
- You can prevent most vegetables from shriveling and drying up by soaking them in ice cold water for about an hour before grilling. The vegetables will absorb more liquid than they already hold, and when the water steams out during the grilling process, more of the original juices will be left in the vegetables.
- If you are going to cook your vegetables on skewers, such as kabobs, you must soak wooden skewers for at least half an hour before grilling, or the skewers may catch fire or disintegrate. This is especially common with bamboo skewers, so be careful to make sure the skewers have been soaked properly. It is heartbreaking to look at perfectly cooked veggie kabobs, try to pick them up, and watch your beautiful vegetables fall right into the fire.
- Plain grilled vegetables are good, but seasoned ones are even better. Try sweet and sour dry rubs or marinades on your vegetables before grilling for an interesting change of pace.
Satisfaction! You have just completed your grill training, and have the skills to become a great grill master. Now, go outside, fire up that grill, and put these tips to great use
Enjoy Your Backyard Kitchen
These tips should help you thoroughly enjoy the art and delight of grilling without the common hassles and dilemmas of destroying expensive food. There is something magical about cooking food over an open fire, the way our primitive ancestors must have, and the way we remember cooking when camping. Grilling is a delight that should be favored over other methods of cooking when the weather is just right, and there is no reason that anyone should face anxiety when confronted with this opportunity. Thanks for taking the time to read these tips, and I hope they were helpful to you!