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It doesn’t matter if it’s Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, or in the thick of a blizzard-plagued winter…Millions of meat lovers across North America are now venturing outdoors to grill succulent pork, beef, chicken, and other delicious types of animal flesh. Mmmmm! The following is a list of handy tips to ensure your grilling and BBQ successes.
BBQ and Grilling Tips and Tricks
1. Wash everything after handling raw meat, and don’t reuse the plate that you used for uncooked meat.
2. Have a spray bottle full of water nearby your grill in case of flare-ups.
3. Using charcoal briquettes for your grill’s heat? Then light the coals about 30 minutes before cooking. If you’re using lighter fluid, make sure the fire is completely out before slapping the meat on the grill, or else you’ll have the nasty fuel taste in your meat (believe me, I know this from experience). At this time, the charcoal should be mostly an ash-gray color with a little bit of glowing red underneath.
4. Using a BBQ smoker? Light the charcoal with a chimney starter. It’s relatively quick to get some hot coals going and you won’t have to fret about getting nasty lighter fluid fumes in your smoker.
5. If you’re a charcoal fan, first line the inside bottom of your cooker with a couple of sheets of aluminum foil before you put your briquettes in. This will give you a quicker and easier clean-up of the gray coals and ash once you’re done barbecuing. The only downside to this is that the opening holes in the bottom of your cooker will get covered up. So when you first light your fire, make sure it gets plenty of oxygen to stay lit longer, thereby giving you hotter and longer-lasting coals.
6. If using a smoker, minimize the number of times you open it. I know you’re anxious to see how the meat is doing, but opening it frequently will keep the smoker below the necessary heat levels. The old adage says, “if you’re looking, it ain’t cooking!”
7. Cooking chicken? If you intend to eat the skin, rub the outside with a little butter or oil and then lightly season it. It’ll give the chicken a nice, crispy, savory skin. Not eating the skin? Don’t season the outside, as it can’t penetrate the skin.
8. Although thick bands of fat may be undesirable, try to pick a steak with many small specks and tiny strands of fat in between the muscle tissue. At cooking time, these small bits of fat will melt (in a process called marbling) and make the meat juicier and tastier.
9. Leaner steak cuts will be a little tougher if cooked past medium.
10. Don’t leave the meat out at room temperature for longer than one hour. This will make bacteria grow at an exponential rate, plus it will make the meat less fresh. If you need to thaw out meat, do so overnight or all day in the refrigerator.
11. Don’t pierce your meat with a fork or prongs. The juices will escape, making the meat drier and less flavorful. Use a spatula or tongs to move and flip your food.
12. Get a dutch oven or a large pot (depending on the amount of stuff you grill) with a lid when transporting your cooked meats inside. It will help keep your barbecue moist, juicy, and warm until it’s time to chow down.
13. Quick and easy way to grill large vegetables such as potatoes and ears of corn: coat heavily in butter, sprinkle on some seasoned salt, wrap securely in aluminum foil, and throw it on the grill.
14. To reduce the amount of browning or blackening of meat, only apply barbecue or other tomato-based sauces containing sugars during the last 10 or so minutes of grilling.
15. Lots of people like steaks rare, but don’t do the same for your hamburger. More bacteria are present in ground beef, so cook until it’s well done and no pink is in the middle. If in doubt, grab a meat thermometer and make sure the temperature reaches no less than 160 degrees in the burger’s center.
16. Don’t rely solely on BBQ sauce to flavor your meat. Experiment with different types of marinades, seasonings, and rubs to give your food unique and delicious tastes.
17. Got a regular grill that cooks hot and fast but wants a little smoke flavoring? First, only line charcoals on the bottom of one side of the grill. Then, place some hickory or mesquite wood chips on top of the hot coals for extra flavoring. Place your meat on the side of the grill away from the coals (indirect heat), and keep the lid closed as much as possible. This will increase cooking times quite a bit, but it will be worth it. In fact, this added smokey taste may be so good you may even decide to forgo the barbecue sauce next time you do this.
18. Marinades tenderize meat (and addition to giving them some wild flavoring). If it all possible, marinate overnight; but if you can’t, try to give at least an hour of the meat soaking in the marinade sauce.
19. Don’t add any salt until the meat is cooked to prevent it from getting dry and tough, as the salt will draw away moisture.
20. Tired of the same-old BBQ sauce? Test out some new sauces you might have never thought of using, such as teriyaki, hot sauce, chipotle, Caribbean “jerk”-style sauce, and others. Add a little bourbon, rum, beer, or wine to your standby sauce. Mix in some honey, brown sugar, or paprika. Put in lemon juice, chopped onions, red peppers or chile peppers to perk things up.
21. Use these cooking times for grilled fish: Salmon fillets, 6 – 8 minutes per side; Salmon or halibut steaks, 5 minutes per side; Trout fillets, 4 minutes per side; Small whole fish, 7 minutes per side; and Large fish, 15 minutes per side. If your whole fish are stuffed, give it a few extra minutes per side.
Use these general cooking times for grilled chicken:
Breasts and wings, 15 – 20 minutes;
Thighs and legs, 30 minutes;
Chicken halves, 40 – 45 minutes;
Whole chicken, 75 – 90 minutes.
On individual chicken pieces, apply sauce and turn every 5 minutes. Whole birds, grill breast-side down and turn over after 45 minutes. Half birds, cook skin-side down for 5 minutes and then flip over and grill for the remaining amount of time. If you’re in doubt as to whether or not the chicken is done, the center of the meat should read 170 to 175 degrees F on your meat thermometer.
22. Keep your grill grate clean with a stiff wire brush or a piece of crumpled-up foil (with a subsequent wipe with a dry paper towel). When it’s time for cooking, grab the grate with an oven mitt and clean it after the grill heats up after starting your fire and also after you’re done the grilling. Dip a folded paper towel in oil and apply it to the bars of the grate. This is to ensure your meat won’t stick to the grill AND you’ll get awesome-looking grill marks.
23. Remember, it takes a bit of an adventurous spirit and a whole lotta trial and error before you get really good at barbecuing. Experiment with different kinds and cuts of meat, flavorings and seasonings, types of grills and smokers, and cooking methods. You just might stumble upon something you really like. Happy grilling!