Rising temperatures and sunshine-filled days make the summer months ideal for an outdoor BBQ. It simply doesn’t get much better than inviting friends and family over to relax outdoors, pouring some refreshing beverages, and catching up while you fire up the grill in true grill-master fashion. Yet, not all of us perform well when the pressure (or grill) heats up. In fact, some of us might be weary of firing up the grill with friends, because we just don’t really know what we are doing – How long do I cook the burger? How do I tell if it’s done?
To help you with the skills and “know-withal” to stay cool and collected as you entertain, we’ve compiled some of the juiciest grill secrets found around the web, and amongst our grilling tools, to help you navigate a long summer of grilling ahead. With July 4th celebrations rapidly approaching, make sure to pin and share these tips with friends.
1) Choose the Best BBQ (for you!)
Choosing the grill that suits your needs and preferences takes into account several factors. Your outdoor space and design style will inform the size and overall look of the grill you purchase.
Apartment and city dwellers might find great value in a small electric grill that uses heated plates powered by electricity, instead of fire, to cook – making it ideal for buildings with fire regulations. Homeowners with a backyard or large patio may enjoy a large built-in gas grill that can be made into its own “cook’s corner” like this Shea SoCal home at located at Cortesa at Esencia.
Besides grill size and look, the hot debate in grill types often burns down to the source of the heat – gas versus charcoal. A large stainless-steel gas grill can turn an outdoor space into an impressive entertaining area, and is ideal for people who are looking for ease of use (or who are a little impatient), since it takes longer for coals to heat up, when compared to gas. While gas grills might be known to be eco-friendly and efficient, many folks also believe it’s tough to beat the genuine flavor and high-heat searing capabilities of a charcoal grill. Some smaller housing developments or HOAs may have restrictions on the use of charcoal grills, so be sure to check before you go out and purchase one.
Pin this infographic to help you decide out which grill type is best for you.
2) Prepare your Grill
You’ve decided on your grill type and now it’s almost time to start cooking. Like most things in life, preparation goes a long way, and grilling is no exception. Create your backyard BBQ menu to help you plan the cooking order and placement for various food items, as well as make marinades – like this grilled chicken recipe from Add A Pinch — in advance.
Before even turning on the grill, check your fuel source to make sure you have enough to last you the entire meal or party. Organize all of your food, marinades and cooking supplies beforehand and position them at arm’s length at your prep station. It’s much easier to deal with flare-ups (when fat from the food source drips and catches on fire) or other grilling mishaps if you have everything close.
Now, it’s time to turn up the heat! Give your grill plenty time to get nice and hot for the best results. To remember these tips, pin this grill prep checklist.
3.) Get Grilling!
Grilling is about experimenting with timing and temperature. Sounds simple enough, right? But finding the perfect combination for all the different types of food – not to mention different cuts and weights – makes this duo that produces so much deliciousness, difficult to pull off. Even if you are an experienced grill master, it’s tough to memorize the cooking times and temperatures of different foods. Check out the Grill Master infographic from Lifehacker, to learn how to properly cook popularly grilled food items. Pin it for your next BBQ!
Low, medium or high heat?
In general, larger and thicker foods like beef brisket, prime rib or baked potatoes, (1 inch +) need more time to fully cook through to the center. Turning up the heat before it travels to the center results in uncooked, multi-temperature foods with potentially burnt outsides. Thicker foods tend to do better on low-heat over a longer period of time. High heat is used for less thick foods and gives grilled food the distinct roast aroma, flavor and texture called the Maillard reaction. Most foods do well in medium to medium-high heat allowing the food to fully cook through, but providing the caramelized texture we know and crave.
Indirect vs. Direct Heat
Foods cooked over direct heat are placed directly over the heat source and typically require fewer than 20 minutes to cook. Direct heat usually works best for sturdy proteins like beef and patties, which can withstand the heat of flames, without charring or falling apart.
Indirect heat is used for food that requires longer cooking times, or is more likely to fall apart if directly exposed to the flames. Chicken, fish, or less sturdy vegetables like scallions and artichoke hearts are good examples of food that can be cooked using indirect heat. The food is placed between the heat sources, instead of directly above them, using reflected heat like a convection oven instead of the direct flame. Don’t forget to always check the internal temperatures of meats against the FDA’s minimum cooking temperatures to make sure your food is safe to eat.
4.) Sharpen your Skills, Grill Master
Now that we’ve covered foundations of temperature and timing, there are still a few grill master tricks to learn before your next backyard BBQ. These six tips will help ensure that your food is full of juiciness and flavor, and will impress your guests with your insider knowledge. Pin them so you don’t forget!
Often, one of the hardest aspects of grilling is being able to tell if your food is fully cooked. This question can be answered by checking the internal temperature of the food. You can do this by using a thermometer (watch how) or with the touch test.
For the touch test, all you will need are your hands. Rare or raw meat feels soft and spongy, while medium springs back a bit when pressed, and well-done feels firm. Check out this guide from Simply Recipes which shows you how to compare the feeling of the meat to the fleshy part of your palm to gauge how well the meat is cooked.
We’ve covered grill type and prep and grilling temps, times and tips – ready to get grilling? Pin these ideas so you are ready this July 4th, and for any other backyard BBQs this summer.