Summer is here and you know what that means: it’s barbeque season! Grilling barbeque is not only a great way to infuse smoky flavors in meats, seafood, vegetables, and even fruit but it can also double as a bonding experience for family and friends.
What’s so great about grilling is that while it’s associated with barbequing meats, grilling is actually a very versatile cooking method. You are by no means limited to pork, beef, or chicken! There are many pescatarian, vegetarian, and even vegan choices of food to barbeque. Mix and match this with the endless variety of dry rubs and marinades, and the sky’s the limit. Or rather, your grilling space!
Whether you’re craving meat, seafood, veggies, or vegan barbeque, we’ve got all the tips you need to grill anything to perfection:
1 Prepare your grill by cleaning and preheating.
As with all cooking techniques, our first tip is to always start with a clean grill! This really should be done after you’ve used your grill, but just in case, making sure your grill grates or grill pan are clean before you use it will not only help you avoid health hazards, it is also the best way to preserve the prime condition of your grilling tools.
Just like baking, it’s also important to pre-heat your grill. If it’s an electric grill, this means putting it on High for a few minutes, until the surface is hot enough. If it’s a charcoal grill, this means burning your charcoal first. You’ll know it’s ready when there is a thin layer of ash on the surface of the charcoal. Pre-heating ensures that you get more even grilling, better flavor distribution, and that signature charring.
2 Choose the right grilling method.
It pays to pay attention to the type of grilling method to use for different cuts of meat, seafood, or vegetables. Depending on what you’re grilling, you can cook food over direct or indirect heat.
Direct heat means grilling over the heat source and is great for thinner cuts of meat, and smaller cuts or pieces of seafood and vegetables or other food, like hamburgers, shellfish, and kabobs.
Indirect heat means grilling away from the heat source. For example, in a charcoal grill, you can achieve this by putting all the charcoal off to one side, placing the food on the other side, and closing the lid. This way, the food is cooked low and slow. This method is for bone-in meat cuts that take longer to cook than boneless cuts and whole fish that need a gentler heat to cook it through without drying it out.
3 Use a dry rub to create beautiful crusts.
Wondering whether to use dry rubs or marinades? Grilling experts actually prefer using dry rubs because they not only season and flavor the meat well but also yield beautiful crusts. For dry rubs to work their magic, the meats need to be generously seasoned with them for 12-24 hours. If you want to make them more flavorful, add some salt: this helps to let the flavors penetrate the meat more deeply.
4 Use marinades to tenderize meat.
On the other hand, marinades are liquid mixtures that usually contain an acidic ingredient balanced with a sweetener and other spices. Marinating meats tenderizes them because the acid in the marinade breaks down the meat. It doesn’t necessarily make your grilled food juicier, because dry-rubbed grilled food can be just as juicy. Marinating’s main draw is its tenderizing effect. However, note that marinating has a time limit. Marinating meat for too long can cause them to break apart during grilling, so keep the marinating time short, around 2-4 hours, in order to get the best flavor without breaking down too much of the meat’s texture.
5 Let the food rest at room temperature before grilling.
You read that right: letting the food rest before you grill is also an essential step! Specifically, the food you’re about to grill should be allowed to rest at room temperature (out of the refrigerator, preferably in a cool, dry area) so that it’s not too cold when you add it to the hot grill. Letting food come to room temperature before grilling helps to cook it more evenly; grilling them straight from the refrigerator, or worse the freezer will most likely cause the food to be burnt on the outside and raw on the inside. This only works if you’re fine with a gradient of doneness like you might want on steak.
6 Brush on sauces or marinades at the end
Barbeque sauces and marinades usually contain sugar or some type of sweetener, and that means that when enough heat is applied, these sauces will caramelize. To avoid getting grilled food that’s just blackened all over, brush on your favorite barbeque sauce or marinade towards the end instead of right at the beginning. Do this one or two minutes before your barbeque is done! This ensures that you get the robust flavor of the barbeque sauce or marinade while still getting that smoky flavor from the charring, without actually creating a burnt surface on your barbeque.
7 Undercook, and let the meat rest after grilling.
To be clear: undercooking food does not mean serving it slightly raw. There is a phenomenon called carry-over cooking, which means that even when you take food off of the grill (or out of the oven), the food will continue to cook with the residual heat. This is important to take into account, because for example: if you want a medium steak and grill the meat all the way to medium before taking it off, you’ll find that it will be medium-well by the time you slice through. The culprit: carry-over cooking! You can remedy this by grilling your meat up to or a little past medium-rare, removing the steak, and letting the residual heat as it rests cook the meat to medium.
Meanwhile, resting the meat not only serves as a way to let carry-over cooking do its thing but it also lets all the flavors from the fat and juices that were built up during the grilling permeate through the meat. It’s best to let it rest for about 15 minutes (or longer for bigger cuts), and you’ll get juicier pieces when you finally cut into your grilled masterpiece!