Hey, look at that! The sun’s been out and warming up the northern United States (finally). Warm weather is upon us, and that means it’s once again time for family cookouts complete with some of the best grill products available.
Sadly, not everyone is a grill master. Some of us are more likely to turn that delicious t-bone into a very t-bone-shaped, charred rock. Others have the grilling down, but can’t seem to get that sweet family barbecue recipe quite right.
Not to worry; we’re here to help (on both counts).
Hone your skills with this easy list of quick fix tips.
- Quality: Nothing will ever change the results of your grilling like choosing a good, high-quality cut of meat in the first place. What you want, at least in the case of beef, is prime, but you probably won’t find it at your local grocery store. Instead, head to your closest butcher (and expect to pay a little more…but it’s worth it). For pork, chicken, and other non-red meats, ask for the highest available grade.
- Always fresh: This tip is especially important when grilling fish, but no matter what you’re throwing down, make it’s better when it’s fresh. Pre-frozen meats can be grilled, but they rarely carry the same flavor and often turn out drier and denser. Skip the freezer and pick it up the same day or the day before. Or, take the opportunity to work in a fishing trip and catch it yourself!
- Don’t skip the marinate: If you can’t get fresh meat, marinated meat is the next best thing. Vinegar happens to be a key element in most marinates, so don’t be afraid to make your own at home with some vinegar, soy sauce, water and whatever other “secret ingredients” you deem necessary. Tenderizing the meat before you marinate also allows it to get right down in the center of the meat, so don’t skip that step either. And even if you do have fresh meat, it can be even more amazing after a half hour or so soaking in your own homemade recipe.
- Steam, don’t char: Having a hard time getting the meat done all the way through without charring it on the outside? Steam can save the day, especially when it comes to foods you’re especially concerned with, like chicken. Put your meat on a hot grill and let the outside develop that tasty coating that only comes from grilling. Then, rather than allowing it to cook over the charcoal alone, spritz the hot coals with water. The steam will cook the meat, but won’t leave your chicken looking like a piece of charcoal itself.
- Always preheat: Don’t you dare slap that steak down on a cold grill! Way too many people do this assuming it won’t really make any big difference in the outcome of their meal, but the truth is that preheating a grill matters just as much as preheating your oven. Failing to preheat will result in an uneven cook!
- Don’t smush burgers into shape: Struggling to get the perfect light and fluffy burger? When you’re shaping burgers, you should always be cautious of pressing down too firmly. Not only does it bruise the meat sometimes, but it also causes it to become denser and more chewy. Use a light hand and a mold for best results.
- Use a Himalayan salt block (or a wood plank): Is your issue burning the meat no matter how carefully you watch it? First of all, you may have your grill up too high; try dropping the temperature just a smidgen. If you still have problems, buy a Himalayan salt block or use a wood plank to create a barrier between the flame and your meat. Both also impart additional flavor for rich, gourmet results.
- Add richness with Doritos: Okay, yes, it sounds ridiculous, but bear with me, here. Toss a handful or two of Doritos onto a charcoal grill and you end up with more flavor and more richness, too. Not only do they act as a great firestarter, but they also release fat and hydrocarbons as they burn — and that just might help you beat the “dry burger” issue once and for all.
- Grill fish on lemons: Fish is incredibly delicate, and unfortunately, that means it’s also remarkably easy to screw up on a hot grill. While most of us get around this by wrapping it in tin foil, there’s another way. Make a plank out of lemon slices, lay your fish over it, and grill on that. The flavor is just sublime.
- For veggies, season the oil first: For meat, it’s common to drizzle with olive oil and add seasonings on top. For veggies, you should actually season the oil first, and then use the oil to flavor your veggies prior to placing them on the grill. It imparts more flavor and keeps your veggies from sticking to the grill. Coconut and lime works well for a tropical feel, while olive oil blends with just about any spice or herb you decide to include.