Cooking raw meat over an open flame is positively primal. And if your gal happens to be a carnivore, it couldn’t be easier to whip her up a gourmet hamburger or seasoned steak.
There is nothing like outdoor cooking-- drinking a beer while the sun blazes down… meat, seafood and veggies sizzling on the grill. Just follow the simple tips below and I guarantee you’ll get the respect you so deserve—at least from your second best friend!
Let’s clear something up. Lots of people use the terms ‘barbecuing’ and ‘grilling’ interchangeably, but they are actually two very different techniques. ‘Barbecuing’ is slow cooking a tough cut of meat over low heat. In contrast, ‘grilling’ uses high heat to cook food quickly. However barbecuing is done on a grill, and that’s probably how the confusion originated.
1) Small is OK
If you already have a grill, proceed to step 2. But if you’re currently in the market for one, keep in mind that the grills which add flavor to your food use charcoal or wood as fuel. Many of us have propane gas grills and that’s fine too. Propane grills fire up instantly and can be easier to clean.
If you live in tight quarters, let’s say an apartment building in an urban dwelling with a balcony, then I would suggest getting a small grill called a hibachi. It’s a great product to get when cooking for 1-4 people because it’s cheap and portable. If you don’t have a huge outdoor space, I recommend looking into the hibachi world.
2) Prep Your Meat
Always begin by prepping your meat. Marinate your fish, chicken, etc. When cooking steak, start by seasoning it with salt and pepper. This will aid in creating a crust and locking in flavor.
3) Everything in its Place
Before you start your grill, it’s a good idea to have all of your ingredients ready to go. If you’re using a natural fuel grill you’ll have a little more time to gather your ingredients and cooking utensils but if you’re using a gas grill, make sure you have everything handy before turning on the flame.
4) No Artificial Starters
Never use lighter fluid to start your grill. Two simple ways to fire it up include using a chimney starter or simply placing some paper towels and dried branches in the crate under where you would place your charcoal or wood. Light with matches and your coals will catch. This works very well.
5) Cleanliness and Lubrication are Key
Keep your grill clean, hot and lubricated. Scrape it with a wire brush before you light the fire and once again when it’s hot. Then clean your grill by dabbing a paper towel in veggie oil and gliding it along the grill plate using your tongs. It can catch fire if you don’t watch it, so pay attention. Let the oil cook off and repeat before placing any food on the grill, specifically fish.
Tip for fish: When cooking oily fish such as salmon, you can put the fish directly on the oiled grill. When grilling non-fatty fish you will need a special grill basket to hold the fish in place.
6) Searing Locks In Flavor
Sear your product first for a few minutes to lock in flavor and juices. This works even if you plan on using indirect heat later. Searing means cooking your meat or fish over a high heat for a brief time.
7) Watch Your Eyebrows
Avoid flare up. Don’t put several fatty products on the grill at once. Their drippings will flame up. Charring meats will ruin your meal. And a man with no eyebrows isn’t attractive.
8) Over-exuberant Manipulation Is Bad for Food Too
Don’t keep flipping your meat. It doesn’t help cook it any faster. In fact, the less your touch it, the better. Flip once, then hands off! And never press down on your hamburgers like you see at Mickey Dees. The less you play with your meat, the better (save the gripping and poking for your date!) In fact, this not only goes for grilling, it goes for cooking in general. The more you move it around and jab it, the greater the chance of it not being as good. You want to keep the natural juices intact and the integrity of the shape consistent.
9) Covering Up
To cover, or not to cover, that is the question. I use the cover of the grill infrequently, because I like to listen to my food sizzling. But most importantly, I want to keep a close eye on my meat to ensure I don’t over-cook it.
10) Ready To Eat?
When is your food done? I am an advocate of touching the product. I can tell when steak or hamburgers are done by the firmness factor. The squishier it is, the rarer it is. The more firm, the more done. If you are just starting out, get yourself an instant read meat thermometer such as this one.
11) Easing into the Feast
Let your products rest after taking them off the grill. Red meats will continue cooking a little longer after you take them off the grill. It’s great to let the juices settle. Let small pieces of meat rest for a few minutes. Large cuts need about 10-15 minutes of rest. Although chicken doesn’t continue to cook when off the grill, it’s still a great idea to let its juices settle. Fish doesn’t keep cooking when off the grill, and can be served right away.
Check out our Master Grilling Chart for more help.