Your neglected grill may have been gathering dust throughout the cruel winter, but it’s finally time to light up the charcoal or fill the propane tank and let the grilling season commence! Whether you’re grilling a simple weeknight meal for one or hosting an epic backyard bash, these five basic tips will help ensure that your food is grilled perfectly every time.
- Preheat your Grill
This one takes some patience, but preheating your grill for at least 15 minutes will drastically improve the quality of your food. If you’re using gas, light the burners and close the lid to preheat. If you’re a charcoal fan, you need to let the coals almost fully ash over, and then add the cooking grate and preheat. The food will be less likely to stick to the grates, you’ll achieve better sear marks, and it will cook more evenly.
- Clean Your Grill Grates
Dirty grates can derail your grilling session before it even begins. Caked-on food causes sticking, increases the risk of flare-ups, and imparts a burnt flavor to your food. Once your grill has preheated, use a grill brush – or if you don’t have one, some balled-up aluminum foil and tongs – and scrape the stuck-on bits until clean. Finally, use a cloth and a small amount oil to rub down the clean grates to reduce the chance of sticking.
- Use a Digital Instant-Read Thermometer
When it comes to grilling meat, cooking the food to the proper temperature is the biggest key to success. The high heat of the grill can turn meat from succulent and juicy to scorched and dry in minutes. Use a digital instant-read thermometer to know exactly when your food is cooked to a safe temperature, and you’ll never have to worry about overcooking your grilled feast!
- Learn the Differences Between Direct and Indirect Cooking
Not all founds bound for the grill are created equal. For instance, a small steak or kabob can be cooked quickly over high heat to achieve a nice sear and maintain an interior that is cooked to medium. Conversely, a whole chicken or large roast cooked directly over high heat will burn on the outside before the inside reaches the desired level of doneness. Mitigate this problem by employing different levels of heat depending upon your needs. For a small, quick-cooking item, cook directly over a high gas flame or a single layer of charcoal. When you need to cook something more slowly, place the food away from the area where the flame is lit or pile up the charcoal into one section and cook on the opposite side.
- Don’t Forget About the Vegetables
While a succulent piece of grilled meat is almost always a showstopper, don’t forget that grilling can infuse vegetables with incredible flavor. Imparting some charred flavor on an otherwise bland zucchini makes for a delicious side. Grilled corn-on-the-cob is also a summertime staple, and even marinated tofu can be great fodder for the grilling enthusiast.