At the most basic level, grilling means cooking food over a hot flame. There is a huge range of grills available, from a modest $20 charcoal grill to a built-in $15,000 gas grill, but the essentials never change. Once you learn the proper way, it doesn’t matter what type of grill you use.
Basic Grilling Guide – These basics will help you learn how to grill. Remember to always follow a few rules:
Keep your grill grate clean to prevent sticking.
Give yourself plenty of time to prepare and heat up the grill before cooking.
Always keep an eye on what you’re grilling.
Do not use spray bottles of water to control flare-ups, as this will only make the fire worse. Flare-ups are caused by too much fat and too much heat. Trim excess fat from any meat you plan to cook beforehand, and when you flip the meat, move it to a different part of the grill so as to spread out the fat drips.
Have the proper grill tools to do the job.
Oil the food, not the grill. Oil burns away at high temperatures so it is pointless to oil the cooking grate.
Spice your food at least an hour before you grill to allow the flavor to sink in.
Do not add sugary sauces or marinades to meat on the grill since this causes burning over open flame.
Place grilled food on a clean plate, specifically when cooking raw meat.
Keep your grill away from anything flammable like lighter fluid, fences, your house, etc.
How to Cook Meat and Vegetables on the Grill
A hot grill will yield a high temperature, cooking food hot and fast. For thin cuts of meat and smaller items like kebabs, steaks, chops, burgers, and hot dogs, turn up the heat and cook them quickly. The fast pace means you need to keep a close eye on the grill and more importantly, the food.
Hot and fast, however, isn’t the way to grill everything. Fish, chicken, vegetables, and fruit are better grilled at lower temperatures; aim for medium heat with these foods. For a gas grill this means reducing the temperature and for charcoal, it means building a smaller fire. You still need to watch these foods closely, but they generally take longer to cook at a lower temperature.
Temperature Guide for the Grill
With a gas grill, the temperature dials are a good indication of how high or low the heat is. If you have a charcoal grill, how do you really know how hot medium-high heat is? There is a method to gauge temperature using only your hand. Carefully hold your hand just above the cooking grate and start counting the seconds until you cannot tolerate the heat (it will feel like your skin will burn). The longer you can hold your hand above the fire, the lower the heat. This technique can be used for gas and charcoal grills. The guidelines to follow are:
5 Seconds = Low heat
4 Seconds = Medium heat
3 Seconds = Medium-high heat
2 Seconds = High heat
1 Second = Very high heat
Move Your Food Around the Grill A common grilling myth is that you shouldn’t turn grilled foods too frequently. Flip when you need to; you want even cooking. Move your foods around the grill and take advantage of the space to avoid flare-ups. However, don’t be alarmed since flare-ups are bound to happen, especially with high-fat foods like steak.
Cook Over Indirect Heat Certain foods benefit from being cooked away from the heat source, using indirect heat. This means having the fire on one side of the grill and the food on the other. It works well for large foods like whole chickens, beef roasts, racks of ribs, and any other poultry or meat that needs a lot of time to cook. Indirect grilling allows you to successfully cook through the middle of the protein before the outside burns. If you have a large grill with several burners, it is best to place food in the middle and light the burners on either side. If your gas grill is too small for this setup, place the food on one side and light the burner on the other. You will have to rotate the food to cook it evenly.
Know When It’s Done While there are general grilling time guidelines, knowing when food is done is a challenge. There are three laws of successful grilling:
Law 1: You can cook longer, but you can’t “uncook” food.
Law 2: Undercooked meats can kill you.
Law 3: Trust and verify. Experience is the best tool you have when cooking to a proper doneness, but a meat thermometer is necessary to make sure you have it right.
No matter the method, the goal of grilling is to enjoy yourself and cook delicious food. Take your time, set yourself up for success, and keep trying.