Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Five Deadly Grilling Sins...and How to Avoid Them

Barbecue grill feast
Grilling by a pro: Well-spaced food on clean grill grates
Memorial Day is generally considered the official start of the summer barbecue and grilling season. Are you guilty of making one or more of these common grilling mistakes? Don't worry, you don't have to confess your sins here--simply keep reading to obtain absolution and achieve BBQ and grilling salvation.

1. Grilling dirty:  Dirty grates, dirty tongs and dirty spatulas not only make your food stick, but also leave unpleasant and bad-tasting--think creosote--bits of old, burnt food on whatever you're grilling. Dirty grates can also contribute to flare-ups, which can char your food, and dirty grilling tools are also unsanitary (and no one wants food poisoning). A good grill brush and some grill wipes don't cost much and are well worth it. For some useful info on cleaning your grill and keeping it clean, read my post on Quick Tips for Cleaning Your Grill.

2. Stop playing with your food: There's hardly ever a reason to turn food more than once or maybe twice on the grill. You won't achieve those impressive, professional-quality sear bars on your steaks, chops or chicken if you're constantly flipping or moving your food as it grills. So long as you've placed the food in the right place on your grill, you should only have to flip it once while it cooks, or twice if you're going for the sought-after cross-sear pattern.

Grill thermometer
Click to browse grill thermometers
3. Over/under-cooking: Rarely should you place food directly over hot coals or other high heat. Cooking over direct heat is good for a quick sear when needed, but after that most grilling should take place over indirect heat and usually at medium or low heat, to ensure the food is properly done, neither dried out nor charred. Invest in a good grill thermometer to save you time and and prevent disappointment. Grill thermometers take the guesswork out of figuring out if your food has reached a safe internal temperature, thus reducing the risk of over- or under-cooking and of illness from undercooked food.

And then there's fish: The trick to grilling fish and other seafood is to remove it from the grill before it's fully cooked, because it will continue cooking for the next 1 to 2 minutes from the residual heat in the fish or seafood. If you wait until it's done, in reality it will be dried out and overcooked by the time you plate it. For more information on how to grill fish, just read my post on Easy Tips for Grilling Fish.

4. Overcrowding: Arrange the food on the grates in an orderly manner, leaving sufficient room for easy turning. You'll facilitate even cooking, reduce the risk of dropping food through the grates, and more easily keep track of what went on the grill first (and thus is likely to be done first).

Picnic at Ascot Chef's Set BBQ Apron and Tools
Chef's BBQ Apron & Tools
5. Stop piercing your meats and poultry: This one's a cardinal sin. Using a fork or pointy-toothed tongs to handle meat or chicken on the grill is a recipe for flavorless, dried-out food. Each time you pierce the surface of the meat or poultry, you allow flavorful juices to drip out. Instead, use a grill spatula or "The Grate Tool" or flat-ended grill tongs, and use wood planks or a grilling basket for fish.

Bonus tip:  Want to know the secret to fool-proof, championship-quality BBQ grilling? Make sure to read my post on the BBQ Pro's Secret to Great Grilling.

Zestfully yours,

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