Grilling can be your best friend when done right. Here are some tips to help you get the grilling yumminess you desire.
- Seasoning: Seasoning your meat, fish, poultry, veggies or even tofu isn’t hard once you get the timing down. The real issue is that if you put the wrong seasoning on too early or leave something marinating too long it can create a tough outcome. Meaning tough to chew. Generally, err on the side of a shorter time period for brines and marinades. Overly acidic marinades will have the effect of toughening meat if left too long. Similarly, salt in seasoning that is going on fish will draw out moisture. Best to season fish right before it goes on the grill.
- Brines: Great for chicken. This is a salt and water mixture that you can add additional seasoning too. It helps to add moisture to meat.
- Marinades: Marinades add flavor and can help make meat more tender. These are usually a mix of oils, acidic additions such as wine, citrus or vinegar, herbs or flavors and salt. Marinades that are too acidic will toughen meat. Always keep the oil ratio higher than that for the acidic ingredients.
- Rubs: Rubs are usually a mix of spices salt and even sugar, which you pat directly onto meat or fish. For meat and chicken you can leave rubs on as long as you want. For fish, if the rub contains salt, only apply it right before cooking so it doesn’t draw moisture out of the fish.
- Sauces: Sauces can be added before, during or after the cooking process. If sauces are sugar based, add them near the end of cooking as sugar will burn and that’s likely not the flavor you are trying to attain.
- Grilling temps: When in doubt keep the temperature on the low side and cook for longer if need be to avoid drying food out. Or, buy yourself a meat thermometer, which will help you get things just right. When you remove meat from the grill and let it sit, its internal temperature will continue to rise a few degrees.
- Seafood: It’s recommended that filets of fish be cooked until an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit is reached. How long this takes depends on the thickness of the fish. Fish is easier than most meats to tell if it’s done as it usually turns opaque or becomes flaky.
- Poultry: Cook dark chicken meat to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and white meat to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. When in doubt cut the chicken in the center to make sure all of the pink is gone. Chicken is one meat in particular that you don’t want to eat raw.
- Pork: Recently the USDA dropped the temperature for pork from 165 degrees Fahrenheit to 145, but be sure to let it sit before eating.
- Steak & Ground Beef: For a medium rare steak, remove it when the thermometer hits approximately140 degrees Fahrenheit. For a medium steak, let temps reach 155 degrees Fahrenheit. A well done steak will reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Searing or Indirect Cooking: For searing heat the grill to approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re cooking on low and slow heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The Hand Test and temperatures: One test for checking the heat of your grill involves no high tech tools, just your hand. By holding your hand four to five inches above the grill you can test for heat. Here’s how to use and test for the different temperature ranges.
- A High heat grill ranges from 450 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. This is for searing foods and fast and quick cooking. At this temp, you should only be able to hold your hand over the heat from 1 to 3 seconds before you have to move it.
- Medium high heat, which ranges from 375 degrees to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, is actually the perfect temp for many grilling needs. It’s good for doing a quick sear of your steak but also for cooking a juicy burger, chicken and fish. Your hand should handle approximately 4 to 5 seconds over this heat.
- Medium heat runs roughly 325 degrees to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and is used primarily for indirect heat and cooking things like roasts and whole chickens. Indirect cooking is when you keep the outer burners on and turn the middle one off or on a charcoal BBQ move the coals to one side and cook food on the other side of the grill. Your hand can take 6 to 7 seconds usually of medium heat.
- Medium low heat and low heat (250 to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and below 250 degrees). At these temps your hand can hang out for a while and so can your food. Your grill is basically just a warming oven and hand warmer at this point.
- Open or Closed: A few rules of thumb or suggestions for different outcomes when grilling involve the lid. Closing the lid helps to make sure that your meats and chicken are cooked evenly through out. Closing the lid makes sure the heat is captured inside and your grill can act somewhat like a convection oven. The lid is particularly effective and necessary when you are doing indirect cooking with items such as a whole chicken, roasts or prime rib. In this case do not open the lid until it’s time. Each time you peek inside you add time to the cooking.
Uncovered cooking is good for veggies, searing, or getting a crusty outside and less cooked inside. Think a nice burger that is a bit crusty on the outside but super juice on the inside. Or sometimes you might want a bit of both. Sear your steak with the lid open and then turn the heat down a bit, close the lid, and let it roast a bit longer.
- The Art of Resting: Whether you are cooking chicken, ribs or steak, it will all taste better if you let it rest after cooking. As you grill meat, the moisture is drawn to the outside layers. When you let it rest after cooking, the moisture is reabsorbed making your meat tender and juicy.