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Grilling tips: Beef, Chicken, Pork, Fish

Updated on September 14, 2016

With summer finally arriving may of us are looking forward to getting out the grill and having a great meal. But some of us have terrible memories of burned, crispy, and dry meats. If you are interested in improving your grilling technique then this article will provide a few tips that should help you.

General Tips

  • Be safe! Check your grill to make sure its in good condition with no debris or blocked burners. If you have a gas grill check the tank to make sure its secured properly and than you have enough gas to finish grilling.
  • Make sure to properly preheat the grill. If your grill has a built in thermometer then use it, if not, buy one.
  • Get a temperature probe, these are handy little things that take the guess work out of grilling. They often come with a chart that shows to what temperature the meat needs to be cooked for rare, medium rare etc. This can be great when you are grilling for a crowd and have lots of different requests.
  • This tip goes for all meats, but most commonly its done with burgers. Do not press the meat! We've all seen it when someone flips the burger and immediately presses down on it with the spatula, this is a big no-no. All this does is press out the juices that were inside the burger, and pretty much guarantees you will have dry flavorless burgers.
  • Do not pierce the meat with a fork or knife, this will only let the juices out. Use a spatula or tongs that are made of metal, the plastic ones tend to melt since you have them over an open flame.
  • Spray the grill surface with non stick spray or brush on a coat of oil to help prevent sticking. The oil will also heat up and give you better grill marks
  • Apply seasonings liberally, doesn't matter what seasoning you like, anything from salt and pepper to fancy family secret combinations, just apply it liberally.
  • Smoke and wood chips can add great flavors to meats, for the regular guy most grocery stores will have liquid smoke that you can use. Many places that sell grills also sell wood chips. Make sure you only use wood chips that are for grilling.
  • If you are brushing on a sugar based sauce, such as BBQ sauce, only put it on near the end of grilling since the sugar will easily burn over a grill and give you a burned taste.

Direct Heat vs Indirect Heat

Direct heat means you have the food direct, or a few inches off of the heat source. This is good for burgers, hot dogs, and thin steaks. Indirect heat means you cook the food with the food on one side and the heat source on the other side and closing the lid. You can do this by turning off half the burners or moving the charcoal to once side. This method is used for cooking thicker cuts of meat usually greater than 1 inch thick. Many master grillers use a combination, first using very hot direct heat to sear the outside of the meat and then using indirect heat to slowly cook the inside. This combination creates the grill marks and seals in the juices while not burning the outside to a crisp.

Beef

Burgers shrink up when you cook them so make your patties extra wide and press down in the middle with your thumb so that the middle is about half as thick as the rest of the patty. Since the meat shrinks inward when you cook it, the middle will expand vertically. So the wide patties and the dent in the middle will help your burgers look nice and level when they are done.

When cooking a steak it should have a ring of fat that goes all around it, which helps seal in the flavor. But the fat shrinks much more than the meat does so often your steak will curl. To prevent this before grilling cut vents through the fat every inch.

Chicken

Chicken breast can often be very different in thickness from on side to the other. The best thing to do is pound them out to be as even as possible, this will help with over-cooking or under-cooking different parts of the chicken. Since chicken is a much leaner meat then beef it tends to dry out much faster than beef. To help with this you can marinade the chicken first to add moisture or you could coat the chicken with light oil before grilling. Also make sure you are using medium heat because high heat will dry out the chicken.

Pork

Pork is one of the easiest meats to dry out. Therefore it is important to get thick cuts of pork at least 1 inch thick. Also you need to marinate the chops for 1 to 2 hour before grilling, and brush on oil right before you put them on the grill. Pork benefits greatly from a combination of direct then indirect heat for the best results.

Fish

Fish tends to be the stickiest meat, meaning that it will easy stick to your grill and only come off in pieces. In order to help with this many people will fore-go the grill marks and cook fish wrapped in foil. But even then you need to spray the foil with non-stick spray. The foil technique has benefits though since you can add things to the fish in the foil to enhance the flavor such as lemon juice, or marinades. Fish is considered done when its no longer translucent anywhere, but if you are still unsure then use your temperature probe.

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