You have just found them! Here is a compilation of some time-tested grilling tips to use before and while grilling outdoors. The goal is to enhance the whole experience resulting in tasty mouth-watering foods!
Use this treasure trove of tips and ideas as suggestions. Some of the tips are important critical safety guidelines. For the most part, feel free to customize them to suit your needs. Nothing trumps being able to do it your way!
Many of the grilling tips you will find here can be used along with a host of grilling methods and techniques. These tips apply whether you are grilling with charcoal, gas or wood.
1. The most important tip is to read and understand the information provided for the equipment, tools, recipes or ingredients that you are using. This helps to eliminate avoidable injury, food poisoning or disappointment with the outcome of your grilled food.
2. Before you embark on a grilling session, create a checklist of ingredients, cooking times, food temperature and tools you will need. Also, when experimenting with new flavors or techniques, keep a record to get a point of reference for your next grilling session.
3. Use a reliable digital meat thermometer when you are grilling food. You should check the temperature of the meat as it cooks. Always check the temperature in the thickest part of your meat away from the bone and fat. Follow cooking temperature guidelines. Consumption of meat that is not cooked well can lead to serious illness.
Please visit the USDA website for exhaustive Food Safety information and guidelines.
4. Before you start grilling, lightly coat the food and cooking grid with oil or Cooking Spray. This minimizes food from sticking on the grid. Lightly oiling your food also makes it stay moist longer as it cooks on the grill. Iron grids are notorious for sticking food although they give foods those good signature grilling marks a.k.a crosshatches.
For even cooking, lay your food out spaciously on the cooking grid allowing you to be able to see the gas or coals as they burn. Keep an eye on the fire. This helps in monitoring and dealing with flare-ups.
5. Avoid using a charcoal or gas grill near homes or buildings. Set up the grilling area at least 10-15 feet away from any permanent structures. Exercise caution if grilling in breeze ways, patios or on the porch.
Shrimp in Grilling Basket
6. Use a mesh grill basket when grilling small foods like shrimp to avoid them slipping into the fire. Where possible, grill skewers can be used instead.
7. If you have food residue on your cooking grid from your last session, let the grill burn it off on high heat for a few minutes then use a grill wire brush to scrape it off. Be sure to re-coat the grate with cooking oil.
8. As you apply these grilling tips, always make it a point to always use color-coded tongs (two different colors) when grilling. One for raw meats and the other to turn your food and 'harvest' it when it is cooked.
9. Consider searing your steaks to seal in juices and flavor. This involves cooking them on high heat for a few minutes without burning your meat.
10. Avoid using a pitch fork to stab and turn steak, chicken or other juicy types of meat. This creates a path for juice to run off. Use tongs instead. Thin steaks, hamburgers and chops can be conveniently turned with a pitch fork.
11. When grilling large food items, be sure to place a shallow metal or aluminum pan under the cooking grid to collect the juices. This is particularly important when applying the indirect grilling method.
12. Do not trim off all the excess fat from your meat. Leave a thin layer to moisten your meats as they grill. Allow marinades to drain before placing the food on the grill. Use a drip pan with water, beer or broth to add moisture and other flavor to your grilling food.
The temptation exists to be too creative. Avoid combustible liquor!
13. Never use uncooked marinade for basting. Bring it to a boil and make sure it is bubbling for 1 minute to kill any bacteria.
14. Add a little oil in your marinade to lubricate and add moisture and conduct flavor too. Avoid marinating longer than the recommended time. Most meats saturate the marinade in record time and longer times do not 'add' more flavor.
15. Always add a little lemon or vinegar in your marinade. It will tenderize or soften your meat. Do not leave it for too long, it could get mushy because of the acidity.
Glass Dish Marinade
16. Avoid metal or aluminum containers when marinating. The acidic nature of most marinades corrodes metal. Use non-reactive solid plastic, ceramic or glass containers.
17. Always thaw meat in the refrigerator to inhibit bacteria growth. Marinated meat should be stored in the refrigerator up to 30 minutes before grilling starts.
18. Remove your meat from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before grilling to allow it to attain room temperature. Ground meat should be removed 10-15 minutes before grilling. The larger surface area of ground meat makes it more susceptible to bacteria growth.
19. Store any left over grilled food in the refrigerator within the hour to prevent bacteria growth. Store it in solid plastic bags or containers.
Here are some more outdoor grilling tips and ideas that can be used when grilling with charcoal.
1. If you are lighting your charcoal directly on the grill, make sure to arrange the charcoal on the grill in a pyramid shape. The pyramid shape will allow air to flow freely, allowing air to flow for coals to light up efficiently.
2. When layering charcoals, add only one layer of coals on one side of the grill and a double layer on the other side of the coal grate. This way you will have two heat levels in one grill. Wrap cooked items sitting on the cooking grid in aluminum foil paper to keep them moist and juicy.
3. To increase the heat of your grill, gently fan the coals. If you are using a small grill get your set of coal tongs, carefully and safely remove the food and the cooking grid or grate. Pinch one side of the coal grate or tray at the bottom. With a firm hold of the tongs 'vibrate-shake' the tray gently so that the excess ash clumps can break off. Do not try to blow the ash away with your mouth!
4. Add a few more coals if you need to grill some more. The best way is lighting new charcoal on the side is by using a charcoal chimney also known as a chimney starter. Add only glowing coals to a started grill.
Unlit good quality lump charcoal can be added to an ongoing fire. They have 'clean burning qualities.' Avoid adding charcoal briquettes in this way. Most types will infuse your food with a petroleum 'flavor'.
Skewered Sausages on the Grill
5. If your grill flares up, close the lid promptly to cut of oxygen supply. Reduce airflow by closing air vents. Be careful not to open the grill cover or lid too soon.
Use a spray bottle with water or a salt-water solution on the coals to extinguish minor flares. If you need to open the grill, do so gently and with caution.
6. Never use gasoline or kerosene (paraffin) to light the coals. The fumes and vapors are highly flammable and can cause an explosion resulting in severe burns. Also avoid adding lighter fluid to coals that are glowing or burning.
If all your coals did not light up well the first time, try stacking unlit coals over the glowing ones and fan them gently. Use a paper plate (avoid Styrofoam type) or a piece of cardboard or 'carton box'. This can be a chore especially if you are using self-igniting briquettes. It is always best to start the grill nicely on the first try.
7. Self-igniting or self-starter briquettes burn more quickly. Mix them with plain briquettes to get more cooking time from them.
8. Never use a charcoal or gas grill indoors or in an area with poor ventilation. This is a real health and fire hazard. Bi-products of the combustion of charcoal and gas are odorless and colorless. The human nose cannot effectively detect them.
The following grilling tips and grilling basics pertain to the use of a gas grill and lean more on safety
1. Carefully read instructions on the assembly of a gas grill. This is a real safety concern.
Safe OPD Propane Tank
2. Only use the specified type of gas and assembly parts from the manufacturer. Avoid using a gas cylinder that is rusty, corroded or dented. The other parts could fail because of tear, wear or age.
If you still have an old tank, trade it in for the new, safer 3-point valve (OPD) propane tank. You will know you have the safer 3-point valve if your tank has a triangular hand wheel valve.
3. Always use your gas tank in an upright position unless otherwise specified. Do not try to invert or turn the tank 'down-side-up' in an attempt to use up all the gas. It is a pressurized container, it does not need to be turned. Unusable liquid propane at the bottom of the tank can spew through the hose and gas lines and cause a major, scary uncontrollable flare-up!
4. Make it a habit to always turn all the knobs OFF before you open the lid. Carefully open the lid looking out for any lurking spiders. Next, further inspect the grill before lighting. Look out for that gas odor.
5. Make sure the hoses, regulators, valves and other attachments are secure. It is very easy to check for potential gas leaks by using a soap-water solution with a brush or sponge. Any bubbles forming on the hose and other connections will be a clear indication of a leak. Secure or replace the necessary parts. Re-test again for leaks in the same manner. Follow the owner's manual on lighting instructions for your grill.
New Federal Safety guidelines direct that all new propane tanks should have an Overfill Protection Device(OPD).
6. Always lean back when lighting a gas grill. Avoid a potential 'flush-back' explosion.
7. Keep the lid or hood open until the grill is heated, then cover it for a little while to heat up the cooking chamber.
8. If the grill burners do not ignite on a few tries, turn the knobs OFF and wait for a few minutes before re-igniting to allow the unburned gas to diffuse or blow away.
9. Consider using a grilling plank when grilling seafood and fish with indirect heat. It will hold your food and infuse it with aromatic wood flavor of your choice.
10. Keep a second or spare gas tank handy. It is more convenient to switch from one empty tank to a filled one than having to stop cooking to replace or have your tank refilled to resume cooking.
11. Lastly, have a dry-spray fire extinguisher on hand incase of a fire. "Sear Thy Steak, Not Thy Neighbor." - New York Times article.
Which is your favorite tip? You can share some of your own tips that have worked well for you. We will add to this list. Please let everyone know!
Now you have a few outdoor grilling tips in your arsenal. You will find many more Grillspot Tips! in these pages that may apply only to a specific method or item and can be found side by side with its application. Also, consider going to the recipes section to take a look at more useful ideas on a vast range of food types from steaks to vegetables. Tipping on good flavor!
"All normal people love meat. If I went to a barbeque and there was no meat, "Yo Goober! Where's the meat? I'm trying to impress people here Lisa. You don't win friends with salad."
"Grilling, broiling, barbecuing - whatever you want to call it, is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre and throwing on a piece of meat as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach."
"It is very important that when you put something on the grill, you leave it in place to cook. If you move it around too quickly, chances are it is going to stick."