If you haven't dusted off your outdoor grill yet, you are missing out on a very flavourful lifestyle.
So, in honour of the kings and queens of the backyard barbecue, the ones that struggle with it, and everyone in between, I give you my top 10 barbecuing tips.
Mentioned in a previous column, this is my #1 tip. Cooking with this natural fuel of carbonized wood adds such a depth of flavour to everything from burgers to desserts.
I am not talking manufactured, square-shaped “briquettes” here; I am talking about lump charcoal: chunks of wood that have been heated with very little to no oxygen so they naturally carbonize.
According to archeological expeditions, we humans have been cooking with this fuel for thousands of years, so this is the oldest-known form of fuel to humankind.
- Internal meat thermometer
Use one. This is the only way to accurately prevent over-cooking or under-cooking any piece of meat.
Sauces are not marinades
If you slather on barbecue sauce before your meat is cooked, the high sugar content in these sauces will burn. Sauces are meant to be glazes at the end of the cooking process.
When your food is about a minute or two from being done, spread some sauce on, close the lid, and let it glaze onto your food.
- Never clean your grill
Now when I say “grill,” I'm talking about your cooking grate/grid. The worst thing you can do is take your grid to the sink and scrub it down with soapy water.
All you need to do is take a grill brush to it when it is hot after the pre-heating of your grill to knock off any food residue from your previous grilling escapade. This will help to keep your grid seasoned and non-stick.
- Always pre-heat
Ensuring your grill is extremely hot not only will burn off any residual food bits from your last cookout, it also will guarantee great crust formation (and grill lines) on your food.
- Oil the meat
Oiling the meat in advance not only will help to enhance the crusting process (and the resulting increase in flavour), it also will assist in creating a non-stick environment.
I always oil the meat before seasoning with salt and pepper just prior to going onto a hot, pre-heated grill. If you are fully coating with a dry rub, however, oiling won't be necessary and the dry rub will help prevent sticking.
- Oil the grates/grids
This tip is more for delicate pieces of meat or fish. In combination of oiling the meat, this also will help in flavour creation and ease of release. This should be done with an oil that has a high smoke point.
This is not an application for your extra virgin olive oil. Grapeseed oil would be perfect but a canola or vegetable oil will work fine, as well.
Oiling the grates/grids should be done once they have been pre-heated, however.
Protecting your hand with a grill mitt, dab some oil on a cloth and quickly, but efficiently, wipe down the hot grills (just be careful not to have the cloth soaking with oil to the point that would cause flare-ups). A light coating of oil will work fine.
- Leave it alone
Once the meat has been placed on the grill, the worst thing you could do is to prematurely break that contact of meat with grill. Even with following the above rules religiously, the meat will stick . . . at first.
Leaving it alone allows it to create a crust (grill marks) and thus helping to release it from the cooking surface.
If you are following the rules above and your meat is stuck to the grill, chances are it is trying to tell you that it's not ready to be flipped yet.
Brining can help protect light-meat poultry and lean pork. This is a technique that involves soaking in a salt-water solution for a period of time prior to cooking.
Not only does this add moisture to the centre of the meat but also seasoning as the salt-saturated water is drawn in. A simple brining formula would be one-quarter cup salt dissolved in four cups of water for pieces of poultry or lean pork.
Let the meat sit in the brine for one hour in the refrigerator. Remove from the brine, pat them dry, and cook as you normally would.
This brining process will provide a moisture protection shield to help keep fully-cooked meats juicy. However, this is only a safeguard—over-cooking is still possible but this lessens the chance.
The only other consideration you may need to give your recipe is the amount of seasoning. The meat already will be seasoned somewhat from the salt in the brine so back off on the salt shaker.
- Try something new
This may be my best piece of advice. Let's break away from the old standbys of hamburgers and hotdogs and try something new and different.
There are so many ideas on the internet and in your cookbook collection that easily can liven up your next backyard cooking adventure.
So have fun and enjoy the outdoors!
Send your food/cooking questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, B.C., V2T 6R4.
Chef Dez is a chef, writer, and host. Visit him at www.chefdez.com