Grilling is an excellent pastime with friends and family out in your yard. There is a wide range of grills available to make your grilling fun – from modest charcoal grills that will cost you a few dollars to the built-in gas grills that will cost more than $10,000. However, once you learn the art of grilling, the grill you are using will not matter.
Once you have an easy to assemble grill, you need to follow the basic rules of grilling to grill like a professional. These rules include:
- The grill grate needs to stay clean, so the food will not stick
- Ensure the grill heats up to the right temperature before you start grilling
- Keep a close eye on the food you are grilling
- Trim excess fat before grilling to prevent flare-ups
- Get the best grill tools for the grilling
- Do not oil the grill grate, instead, oil the food
- Avoid adding marinades or sugary sauces to your food to prevent burning
- Grill away from flammable fences, lighter fluids, or anything else that might catch fire
- Spice your food an hour before grilling for the spices to sink in
Start Grilling = Get the Temperature Right
The first step in grilling like a pro is to assess the temperature of the grill. When a grill is hit enough, it cooks food fast. Foods such as cuts of meat, steaks, kebabs, burgers, and chops will cook quickly on a very hot grill. However, when the temperature of the grill is very high, it means you have to keep a close eye on the food you are grilling.
While the high temperature will help you cook food fast, not all foods need a hot and fast grill. Vegetables, fruits, fish, and chicken need lower temperature to grill well. If you are using a charcoal grill, build a smaller fire for these foods. If you are using an electric or gas grill, control the temperature to medium heat using the dials on the grill. When you are grilling in the open using a charcoal grill, you need to hold out your hand above the grill grate and feel how long it takes to start feeling the heat. If it takes five seconds before your hand starts feeling the heat you cannot tolerate, that grill is right for chicken, fish, and vegetables.
Turning Grilled Food
You obviously need your grilled food to cook evenly. As such, you need to turn the food frequently. Some people believe that when grilling food you need not turn it a lot. However, you can take advantage of the grill grate space to avoid flare-ups. Even when you turn your food frequently, expect flare-ups if you are grilling high-fat steak.
Learn Indirect Grilling
Sometime when you are grilling large cuts of meat, the meat might burn on the outside but remain undercooked inside. In indirect cooking, the fire is on one side of the grill and the food on the opposite side. This way, the protein in the middle of large cuts will cook slowly before the outside burns. If you have a large gas grill, you can place your food in the middle of the grill grate and light the sides of the grill. If you have small charcoal, gas or electric grill, place your food on one side and light the other. You need to keep rotating your food for even cooking.
When grilling, keep the lid down to generate enough heat to cook the food evenly.
Know When Food is Cooked
Knowing when grilled food is ready is as important as knowing the temperature to use for different foods. On medium heat, most meat cuts take between 10 and 14 minutes to cook. Fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables take less time, about 7 minutes. If you are experienced in grilling, you will instinctively know when food is ready. You will need a meat thermometer to test the readiness of grilled meat.
How To Grill Common Food
Beef and Mutton
Beef and mutton need to be cooked briefly over high heat (searing) to produce the tantalizing outer crust with grill marks. Again, to ensure that the interior of the meat is cooked well without charring the outer layer, cook the meat under low heat. Searing needs to be done for two minutes for one-inch-thick cuts of meat and four minutes for thicker cuts. The cooking time for beef and mutton should include searing time. The cooking time for beef and mutton should be between 10 and 14 minutes with the letter being well done and the former being medium done for 1-inch strips.
Pork steaks and chops are better cooked over direct heat. However, large chops and cuts can be cooked over indirect heat to allow the middle to cook well. For roasts, cook them over indirect heat with the fat side up. Cook roasts to medium for great results. If you are grilling tenderloin, cook as you would steak starting with searing.
Poultry cooks fast. All poultry parts should be cooked over direct heat. For whole birds, cook over indirect heat and keep rotating for even cooking. Before grilling, ensure the whole bird is defrosted fully. If you need to add sauce, add it the last ten minutes of cooking for whole birds. Grilling parts of poultry such as breasts should take not more than 12 minutes.
Seafood needs more attention than other foods since fish will dry within a few minutes and shellfish turn from tender to chewy in a few minutes. For fish and shellfish, especially if you are grilling parts, use medium hot grills. For whole fish, use a low temperature and keep rotating. Shrimps, calamari, and scallops need to cook fast on hot grills. Treat tuna steaks as you would beef steaks; sear the steaks first and then grill over medium heat.
Hamburgers, kebabs, fruits, vegetables, sausages, and other foods that come already cooked, should be cooked for a short period. Turn them frequently to give them the char and flavor they need without burning. Most of these foods will be ready in seven minutes or less.
Written in association with J. Stevens