Summer is so close I can taste it. The long nights, flip flops (but never with jeans), baseball in full swing, summer movies: all of these things fit the bill for summer. Grilling is part of the fabric of summer; parties are centered around the grill, the allure of the flame is like a magnet for guys, given the potential of what to do with it. Take everything that comes under the umbrella of the grill and you have something that I love. In fact, I’ll do it in the winter. However, I know that most won’t plan on grilling under layers of fleece or raincoats, so the summer is the season. This is my little intro on getting the best food experience over an open flame or smoldering charcoal.
First, let’s get something out of the way; a BBQing isn’t the same as grilling. Barbecue uses long periods of methodical cooking with indirect heat from smoke. Grilling uses high heat for shorter bursts of time. Think they are the same? Mention you’re having a BBQ in front of a pitmaster and see what they say. Okay, got that out of the way; let’s talk about the act of putting food to flame.
Things to do:
Gas or charcoal. – I prefer gas, because I love the convenience and speed of getting rolling. It’s super easy; ignite, wait, and in about 15 minutes your outdoor cooking adventure can start. Though charcoal burns hotter, I don’t like the wait of having the charcoal hot enough to start. More power to those that love the gamesmanship of charcoal grilling. Not for me.
Preheating – When using a grill, (and like most cooking) the idea is to get the cooking area properly heated. Most grill grates use cast iron and will need time to get warmed up. You also want to load the grates with heat to get those sear marks. In fact, using an aluminum tray to cover your cooking area will help.
Fun things to try on the grill – Here are foods that are awesome to give a try: watermelon, bananas, avocados, green onions, apples, peaches, pineapple, oranges, iceberg lettuce wedges, hard cheese,. The key with all is high heat and timing. Just put them on long enough to get grill marks.
Things not to do:
Pressing down on burgers – This drives me nuts. Everytime a burger gets pressed down, the juices in the meat get squeezed out and you’re left with a dry burger. Don’t press. It doesn’t look cool. It’ll look like you don’t know what you’re doing. And don’t leave the burger on there so long that it overcooks and becomes a weird meat coaster. Not good.
Poke your food – This is the hardest to adhere to, because it’s natural to poke and prod. This won’t help the food cook faster. The saying goes, “set it and forget it.” If you really want to know when things are done get an internal thermometer. A thermometer also helps to avoiding over or undercooked food.
This should be a primer for your summer grilling adventures. Not really breaking any new ground, mostly just gentle nudges of how to be that grillmaster all of us want to be. And there are a ton of resources out there on how to work the grill! Websites, books, tv shows (video plays); you name it! Enjoy your time in front of grill! We’ll be sharing all sorts of stories this summer. See you around the picnic table.