Taste of the OBX: Expert Grilling Tips to Make Your Guests Drool Uncontrollably
Everyone knows that the grill makes everything taste better! That smoky flavor, those grill marks, the extra flavor that is imparted that you just can't quite replicate indoors—no matter how hard you try or what method you use. You know what we're talking about. Yes, grilling is a perfect blend of science and art.
But what separates grilling experts from the novices? Well, these grilling tips will give you insight into how to spot an expert and how you can achieve master griller status. These surefire grilling techniques promise to keep your guests coming back for more and drooling over your food in the process. Just be sure to keep your hungry guests far enough away from the grill, so they don't actually drool on the food.
Great grilling tends to draw a crowd, so be prepared. You'll be famous!
The Grill Is Your Friend
Keep it clean.This seems obvious, but it's really important! First of all, no one wants to see you cooking anything on a dirty, unsanitary or unsightly surface—grill or no grill. We're not going to get into the deep cleaning that should be done on your grill periodically throughout the year. But you that's important, too. We're talking about the cleaning you need to do each and every time you use the grill to ensure it's ready to use.
Most of the proper cleaning happens when you're done with the actual grilling. Once the heat source is off but the grill is still warm, use a wire brush and/or scraper to remove the excess food and charred residual bits and pieces that may still be stuck to the grates. Empty the grease trap, if your grill has one. Do a quick wipe down of the exterior, knobs, lid, and other parts that may have been splattered during the cooking process. Clean any grilling utensils you've used. Keep the grill covered until your next use.
It helps to heat the grill to a high heat and keep it there for at least 5 minutes prior to each use and before putting any food on it. The heat will burn off any hard-to-remove debris that may still remain from the last time you used it and keep your grill cleaner overall.
Keep it well-oiled.Yes, this is really important. If you want your grill to run like a well-oiled machine, then you have to keep it well-oiled. The oil primes the cooking grates for your food and helps maintain the nonstick quality you'll appreciate when the time comes to turn, rotate or flip you're food. The type of oil you use is a personal preference, really, as long as it can tolerate a high cooking temperature without smoking. Let's be clear that well-oiled means just enough to coat the grates without excess dripping, which can cause flare-ups.
It's best to oil the grill before you turn on the heat, for obvious reasons. If you're using oil in a spray can, you don't want it to combust. You also don't want any flare-ups or accidents caused by using too much oil. Just enough to coat the grates should do. How you do it is up to you.
Some people like to wad up a paper towel or clean cloth and dip it into oil then grab some tongs and brush the grill grates. Others prefer the onion method where you cut an onion in half right down the center, oil up the flat side of it, stick a barbecue fork in the round end, and rub the oil on that way. You can also save pieces of fat from cuts of meat in the freezer to use in place of an oil to rub on the grill. Finally, depending on what you're grilling, you can brush the meat or vegetable with oil before placing it on the grill (unless the marinade already has oil in it, then you're good to go) and then there's no need to oil the grates themselves. It all depends on your preference and what works for you!
Keep it hot.Keeping the grill hot and giving the food time to develop a nice sear is what gives grilled food it's attractive and oh-so-desirable grill marks, not to mention its flavor and proper cooking. If the heat is too low, then you're not going to get that wow factor visually and you're probably going to have problems with your food sticking to the grill grates.
The Expert Griller
Grill smarter not harder.Think about your menu items and what you need to have on the grill and the timing of it all. You want to make the most of your cooking surface without overcrowding the grill. If there's too much on there at once, you'll end up with problems. Making good use of your space is wise, just don't crazy.
Think about the cooking time of your food items. Common sense dictates that you'll want to put the food that needs the longest cooking time on the grill first. It's good to have a designated part of the grill to keep things that are ready to go warm, but not on direct heat, until everything is ready.
Try to have a system in place so that you have the tools and any ingredients you need right nearby. It's not safe or efficient to be making trips to and from the kitchen while the grill is in use. Be organized, and if you forget something, ask someone ahead of time to be your "runner". They can grab what you need and leave you to focus on your task at hand.
Plan a menu that is easy to execute. Don't make it too complicated! Let the grill be the star and your food is guaranteed to shine.
Let your grill do its thing.
It knows what to do and just needs your direction and oversight. Let it do its thing! Relax and enjoy the experience. Talk to your guests, give them a glimpse of your skills, and let the smells from the barbecue drive them crazy with anticipation of what's to come. Work it, baby, work it!
The more you practice your technique, the more comfortable you'll become as you settle into the role of grill master. Soon, you will have reached expert level and other people will be asking you for grilling tips and tricks. Put on that grill apron, grab your grilling tools and show them who's boss.
Don't forget to grab a cold drink or refreshing adult beverage. You'll need it!
Grilling tips and tricks from the masters.
- When grilling, lay food in orderly lines from left to right and top to bottom. It's easier to keep track of what needs to be turned and when, all in an orderly fashion. For quick-cooking items, try a circle formation and move in a clockwise rotation.
- Remember that food continues to cook after it comes off the grill. Factor that in when testing for doneness. This carry-over cooking could affect the end result if you're not remembering to allow for it. It's especially important for meat to rest after it comes off the grill. If you cut into it right away, you will lose all of those succulent juices you just seared into the meat, and the end result will be dry meat with less flavor and unappealing texture.
- Know your desired temperature and use a reliable meat thermometer to test for doneness. Yes, you can tell the doneness of the meat by touch if you know what you're looking for, but it's much more accurate to use a meat thermometer. Remember that carry-over cooking time, though. Take it off a little bit before you reach your ideal temperature. The resting time will bring it up a few degrees.
- The quickest way to calm a flare-up is to close the lid. It will quickly and safely quell excessive flames and get you back on track. Water is no bueno!
- If you're using a glaze on your meat, wait until the last few minutes of grilling to apply it. If applied too early, the sugars in the glaze can burn or cause flare-ups, while also becoming quite a mess on your grill. You'll char the outside before the inside ever reaches its proper temperature.
- Don't be afraid to experiment with adding smoky flavor. Whether you grill over gas or charcoal, use hardwood logs, chunks, briquettes, or chips to impart a smoky flavor to foods. Different wood varieties add subtle nuances; try applewood for sweetness, mesquite for tang, or hickory for a bacon-like taste.
- Create heat zones. Ideally, you'd like to have a high heat area, medium heat area, and a no-heat zone.
- Keep raw meat separate from the cooked meat. Don't let cross-contamination occur. Use separate tongs, plates, utensils and cutting boards when handling raw meat versus the cooked meat.
What's your best expert grilling tip? We'd love to hear it!