Summer is well underway now and if you haven’t dusted off your outdoor grill yet, you are missing out on a very flavourful lifestyle. So, in honor of the Kings & Queens of the backyard barbecue, the ones that struggle with it, and everyone in between, I give you my Top 10 Barbecuing Tips.
1. Charcoal – Mentioned in my previous blog entry, 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 as humans have been cooking with this fuel for thousands of years, so this is the oldest known form of fuel to humankind. There is nothing more natural. Did you know propane and natural gas contain "ethyl mercaptan"? This is a chemical that is added to help detect gas leaks, but look it up - it's toxic. Inhale ethyl mercaptan directly and it will cause paralysis in your body. Yes, it is only added in small quantities (unharmful they say), but regardless why would you cook food over that for your family?
2. Internal Meat Thermometer – Use one. This is the only way to accurately prevent overcooking or undercooking any piece of meat.
3. Sauces are not Marinades – If you slather on BBQ 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
4. Never Clean Your Grill – Now when I say “grill” I am talking about your cooking grate/grid. The
5. Always Preheat - Ensuring your grill is extremely hot will not only burn off any residual food bits from your last cookout, it will also guarantee great crust formation (and grill lines) on your food.
6. Oil the Meat - Oiling the meat in advance will not only help to enhance the crusting process (and the resulting increase in flavor), it will also 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 preheated grill. If you are fully coating with a dry rub however, oiling won’t be necessary, and the dry rub will help prevent sticking.
7. Oil the Grates/Grids – This tip is more for delicate pieces of meat or fish. In combination of oiling the meat, this will also help in flavor 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 or rice bran oil would be perfect, but a canola or vegetable oil will work fine. Oiling the grates/grids however should be done once they have been preheated. Protecting your hand with a grill mitt, dab some oil on a cloth and quickly, but efficiently, wipe down the hot grills. 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.
8. 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 is not ready to be flipped yet.
9. Brine - 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 center 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 4 cups of water for pieces of poultry or lean pork. Let the meat sit in the brine for at least 1 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 – overcooking is still possible, but this lessens the chance of the meat turning out dry. The only other consideration you may need to give your recipe is the amount of seasoning. The meat will already be seasoned somewhat from the salt in the brine, so back off on the saltshaker.
10. Try Something New – This may be the 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 can easily liven up your next backyard cooking adventure. So, have fun and enjoy the outdoors.
Until next time... Happy Cooking and Happy Barbecuing!