How to Grill like a Pro
With Memorial Day weekend almost here and summer getting closer and closer, Americans are getting ready to fire up the grill. While you can always eat out or order delivery, there's something special about buying food, and preparing it yourself alongside friends and family.
You don't have to be Iron Chef Michael Symon to create grilled, tasty masterpieces in the outdoors to keep your guests happy and the party going smooth.
Let us help you kick off the summer season with 7 tips to help you grill like a pro.
Give it flavor
To get the absolute best tasting food, marinate it beforehand with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or dry rub recipes with herbs and spices in a resealable plastic bag to let the food absorb the flavors.
Also, there are a number of sweet sauces you can create to coat your food including molasses and maple syrup-based glazes. Brush your salmon, chicken, veggies or fish just before taking it out of the grill, because sugar burns at around 265 degrees Fahrenheit.
Maple-Bourbon Glazed Salmon [BHG.com]
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup or maple-flavor syrup
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- 3 tablespoons bourbon whiskey or orange juice
- 4 4-5 ounces skinless salmon fillets
- Ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt (use kosher salt, if you have it)
- 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 bay leaf
- Optional ingredients--1 teaspoon of any or all of the following: garlic, chili, or onion powder, cumin, lemon zest, basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon
- 1 tablespoon(s) olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 clove(s) garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon(s) mustard powder
- 1 teaspoon(s) red-pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoon(s) light-brown sugar
- 2 cup(s) ketchup
- 1/3 cup(s) Worcestershire sauce
- 1/3 cup(s) cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon(s) molasses
- 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper
Grill more than just meat
We tend to only associate hamburgers and hot dogs with outdoor grilling. This summer, go the extra mile by making skewers, salads and more when slap on a few more of your favorites on the grill including:
- Chicken thighs or drumsticks
- German bratwurst
- Salmon filet
View Recipe: Cilantro lime Grilled Tofu
View Recipe: Grilled Corn, Poblano, and Black Bean Salad
View Recipe: Grilled Pound Cake with Espresso Chocolate Sauce
Have the toppings, condiments ready
The sauces, toppings, and condiments are one of the best parts of the cookout (especially when you don't have to wait for them after the food is ready). Depending on what you like or how much time you’re willing to put in, you can easily find great tasting toppings your local grocery store, or even make them from scratch.
We recommend using variety of the classics, and maybe some new ones to spice up the party:
Shredded Lettuce, cheddar cheese, bell peppers, Parmigiano-Reggiano, dill pickles, fried eggs, crispy onions, sliced lemon, black pepper, diced pancetta, spicy rhubarb chutney, relish, chimichurri herb sauce, sauerkraut, Applewood-smoked bacon, grilled tomatoes, Sriracha Sauce, Horseradish cream, Tomato Ketchup, or honey mustard.
All the Fixins’: Make Your Own Condiments
Know your grill (and how to use it)
Using a grill is an art, and using the perfect wood for smoking can make a world of a difference. With either a gas or charcoal grill, you can use brisquettes, chunks, or chips for smoking depending on the flavor you are looking for, for example:
- Applewood (sweet; good for poultry or pork)
- Mesquite (tangy; good for red meats or pork)
- Hickory (bold; good for red meats or lamb)
One of the biggest advantages of gas over a charcoal grill is convenience. The average person cannot tell the difference between hamburgers grilled on a gas grill or charcoal.
To cook the meats perfectly through, it’s best to leave one burner on high and the other on medium to prevent it from burning.
How to Smoke on a Gas Grill
Grilling with charcoal vs. a gas grill can give the meats a really nice look and taste. Bunch the coal (1 lb. of charcoal for every 1 lb. of meat) in the center creating a pyramid. Be careful with how much lighter fluid you use, it can give your food a burnt smell and taste.
When placing the food, sear it in the middle of the grill, then move it to the outer edge to keep it from charring too much.
Preparing the Grill
Using tongs, soak a paper towel with vegetable oil and wipe it onto the grill evenly. Doing this reduces the lean foods from sticking to the grill rack. Better yet, you’ll be able to seal the flavors of your steaks, and get perfect grill marks on it.
To preheat, turn on the gas grill 15-20 minutes prior to cooking; for the charcoal grill, you'll know it's ready when most of the coal had turned to an ash-gray color.
While slow-cooking any items, be patient and do not try to speed up the process. Once done, check to see if the meats are cooked thoroughly with a thermometer.
Keep a spray bottle with water handy in case of any flare-up, and make sure you have room on the grill to move the steaks or anything else away from the fire. If the fire builds up, turn off the burners with the lids open, and let the fire die off.
Try to use leaner cuts to cut down on saturated fats, and also to prevent flare-ups due to fat dripping on the grill.
Most importantly, do not leave the grill unattended while you run into the house or attempt to cut up some veggies.
To finish up, use a wire grill brush to scrub off the char when the grill is hot, keeping it clean and safe for next time.
Checking for 'doneness'
Stick a digital thermometer into the firmest part of the food to determine if your food is ready or not. It’s a simple way to find any undercooked meat and prevent foodborne illnesses.
“Cook until the thermometer shows an internal temperature of 160 degrees for ground beef, pork, veal and egg dishes; 145 degrees for beef, pork, veal and lamb steaks, chops and roasts; and 165 degrees for all poultry.” [Cleveland.com]
When done, let the meats sit and rest in foil for 5-10 minutes to let the juices lock and settle, and to get rid of any germs remaining.