Grilling season is officially here, wafting its way into our hearts with the scent of lightly charred burgers, smoked meat and fresh corn on the cob. There’s no greater summer vibe than outdoor cooking, no matter what your chosen method. If it’s the grill you love most, however, we’ve got a few tips on how to make your next cook even better. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, here are a few things we’ve learned over our years of backyard barbecues and cookouts.
Watch your cook (and your fuel)
No matter what you’re cooking on that grill, remember you’re actively grilling. That means checking on the heat, ensuring nothing is burning, flipping items as needed and basically supervising things as your meal comes together. If you’re the type that tends to get distracted, set an alarm. Or, make an event out of it by grabbing a drink and announcing your intentions to stand by the grill for a half-an-hour or so.
Before you even fire up your grill, make sure you actually have enough fuel to get you through the cook. Otherwise, you may be having microwaved sausages for dinner instead. Many propane tanks are stamped with a tare weight so you know how much they should weigh when empty. Or, if you’re more of a visual person, fill up a cup of hot water from the tap and pour it down the side of your tank. Then, run your hand down the side and find the cool spot – the top of that cool spot should indicate the current fill level.
Always clean the grill
Do you clean your dishes after cooking in the kitchen? Okay maybe you have a helper to do that, but the point is you always want to work on a clean surface. Before oiling your grill, always give it a quick clean. Then, give it another clean after you’ve finished cooking and the grill has cooled off.
Use the right oil
A well-oiled grill is a non-negotiable key to grilling success. Depending on how hot your cook is, choose an oil that can withstand the heat. (For example, vegetable oil has a higher smoke point than olive oil.) By oiling your grill ahead of time, the things you’re actually grilling will be a lot less likely to stick.
Season and brine
When planning your grill, don’t forget to add marinade or brining time to your cook. Sure, you could quickly season your meat and throw it on for okay results, or you could take the time to brine or dry marinade your meat before popping it on the grill for amazing results.
Lots of people love saucy wings, chops and other finger-licking-good items. When you’re grilling though, the key is to not over-sauce at the start. Many sauces contain sugar, which will burn when placed on the grill. It’s best to brush warmed-up sauce on your meat after the cook.
Know your hot spots
Like a regular old burner, no two grills cook evenly in all places. Know where your grill is at its hottest and where it’s at its coolest in order to evenly cook (and potentially rotate) your food. Not sure how to tell? Try the old toast test – place pieces of bread across the grill and see which ones toast up the fastest (and the darkest).
Wait to flip
If you want to get those Instagram-worthy grill marks on your meat or veggies, don’t be so quick to flip. You want to time your cook so you’re only flipping items once. Not only will that ensure a more even cook, but it will help seal in all of that great grilled flavour as well.
Dimple those burgers
When you’re grilling burger patties, whether they’re meaty or veggie versions, remember to dimple the middle of each patty with your thumbprint before it goes onto the grill. That will help the burger hold its shape instead of swelling up as it cooks. Another pro trick? Pop an ice cube or frozen beef stock over that dimple as you grill your burger to ensure the juiciest patty yet.
Cooking up some kebobs? Be sure to soak any wooden skewers in advance or go au naturel for lighter items like tomatoes or seafood by using herbs with solid stems, like rosemary. For grilling purposes, it’s always easier to double skewer your items, however, so they don’t roll and flip on you during the actual grill.
Use a thermometer and rest your meat
There are many ways to tell if a piece of meat is done cooking – by smell, feel, look or even time. However, if you want perfect results every single time, invest in a meat thermometer. It’s the only scientific way to know your food is good to go (and safe to consume).
No matter what you’re cooking, always allow your meat some time to rest. This will allow the meat itself to reabsorb the juices. Just remember meat will continue to cook a few extra degrees after you remove it from the heat source, so be sure to account for that when taking the temperature.
Grill fish diagonally
Nothing beats grilled fish, but it can be a tricky thing to make. That’s because cooked fish flakes apart easily – especially on a grill. If you don’t have a special grill plate for fish, try grilling it diagonally so there’s more surface area to hold it together. Don’t forget to oil that grill super well first, of course.
Know when to close the lid
To open or close the barbecue lid? This is the question. As it turns out, the answer depends on what you’re cooking. If you’re working with thin cuts of meat or you want to regulate the temperature a little more precisely, leave the lid open. If you’re looking for a more intense heat that will cook thicker cuts of meat more quickly, close the lid in order to create that oven-like heat you need.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
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