Ahh Summer. The time for road trips, vacations, and of course, grilling outdoors with the family. Southern California has always been blessed with some of the best weather in the nation for grilling adventures, so we thought we should ask some of the barbecue experts here around the station to give us their best tips, tricks, and secrets to grilling the perfect dish.
Whether you prefer red meat, fish, or, a delicious vegetarian kebab, we've outlined the best ways to make the most of 2018's grilling season!
Let us know what your secret is in the comments below!
Pre-heat and clean your grill
First thing you want to do is clean that barbecue up. Even if you've invested some big money in a fancy new grill, you should build the biggest fire you can and let it rage for an hour or so. By doing that, you can seal up metal pores as well as get rid of any remains or by-products from the manufacturing process like oil, grease or even metal shavings.
This is also a good move if you haven't used your barbecue in awhile and there's a layer of grease or mold on the inside of the unit. If you don't have your BBQ brush on hand, crumple up a large sheet of aluminum foil in a ball and use tongs as a handle. Use the ball of foil to scrub the grill and it'll be clean in no time.
Add a layer of aluminum foil to the bottom of the grill before you put your briquettes in to help clean things up once you're finished cooking and the fire is out.
Don't use a gas grill
With all apologies to Mr. Hank Hill, - don't use propane to grill your food. Unless time or rules are a factor, experts agree, you'll have a far better grilling experience if you use charcoal, wood chips, or split logs. Chefs say the smoke is an ingredient in itself and is the very best way to bring out the nuances of flavor in your dish.
To add onto this, if you're using lighter fluid to get your fire started, then make sure there's no fire left before placing the meat on the grill. You want to look for when the charcoal appears a mostly ash-gray color with just a little bit of glowing red underneath. If you still see fire going, then there's probably still some lighter fluid that hasn't had a chance to burn away yet.
Avoid cross-contamination and make sure your meat is cooked thoroughly
You wouldn't want to eat at a restaurant that had a poor food safety record and your kitchen should be no different. Keep these simple rules from the USDA in mind when handling different cuts of meat and vegetables to avoid cross contamination and making people sick.
- Use separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods. Wash your hands before and after handling raw foods.
- Never place cooked food on a place that had raw meat on it before (without washing).
- Refrigerate foods while marinating them
- Never baste your dish with the marinating liquid. Make extra marinade just for basting, or boil it first.
Get a meat thermometer to make sure the proteins you're cooking have reached a good internal temperature.
Marinate your meat
Using marinade or a dry rub can dramatically increase or change the flavor of your dish. Using a marinade can also help inhibit the formation of potentially carcinogenic HCAs (heterocyclic amines) which for while grilling "muscle meats" such as chicken, beef and fish.
Marinades also tenderize meats, so if it's possible, marinade them overnight. If not, try and give your protein at least an hour to soak in the marinade.
Experiment with different marinades and meats too! Don't just rely on the sauce to flavor the meat. There's a variety of dry rubs and marinades that can drastically change how your experience the meal.
To reduce the amount of browning or blackening of meat, only apply barbecue or other tomato-based sauce containing sugars during the last few minutes of grilling.
Melt cheese perfectly on your burger every single time
If you have a hankering for cheeseburgers and want to get the perfect melt on your meat, use this great tip that comes to us courtesy of Neil Saavedra, the @ForkReporter! (This tip works only if you have a flat grill working to cook things up).
Once you're ready to add the cheese to your (nearly) cooked hamburger patty, splash some water onto the grill next to the meat and cover with a metal dome for a few seconds. Remove and voila - a picture perfect cheeseburger!
Soak your wooden skewers
Are kebabs your thing? Then make sure you soak your wooden skewers in cold water for at least 30 minutes before you use them to prevent them from burning up.
Fancy pants cooks who have metal skewers should wipe those down with a paper towel dipped in olive or vegetable oil to prevent the food from sticking to them.
If it's a never-ending kabab party in your house, get ahead of your soaking skewers routine by doing a big batch all at once. Drain them and then stick 'em in the freezer for you to use as needed.
Cooking fish on a grill is easier than you think!
The first step is to preheat your grill on high. Besides helping caramelize your fish and provide those lovely looking grill marks, it'll also lessen the amount of time the protein is on the grill, giving it less opportunity to dry out. Preheating also prevents the worst part of trying to grill fish - sticking.
Next step is to make sure your grill plates are as clean as they can get. Use a stainless steel brush to remove all the debris that may be left over from your last cook out.
Bring your fish to room temperature by allowing it to sit for five to ten minutes. Use a generous amount of oil and seasoning before putting the fish on the grill. If you're looking to sear the flesh side first, coat it in oil, and then place it flesh side down on the grill. Once it's ready, the fish will naturally release itself from the grill.
The general rule of thumb when cooking fish is to allow eight to ten minutes per inch of fish. That is, if you have a one-inch cut of salmon, you'll want to grill each side three to four minutes. But always check your recipe depending on how you want your dish to come out.