Saturday, July 6, 2013

5 Summer Grilling Tips

Summer is here! It's finally grilling season, and we've been cooking up some good grub. Nobody goes hungry at our house, and with a couple decades of grilling under my belt, I've learned a thing or two. Here are some tips I want to share; tricks that I often see overlooked by novice grillers.

Coleman Road Trip Grill
My Coleman Grill

1. Don't Mess With The Food!


Some cooks are busy-bodies. You know who I'm talking about. The kind of cook who hovers over the food, just waiting to swoop down and turn it, arrange it, flip it, whatever. This used to be me, and it was a hard habit to overcome.

The ideal way to cook most foods is to know your grill, know the food you are cooking, and let it cook a certain amount of time on each side, ideally flipping it just once. Flipping something too soon / too often only makes it cook unevenly, not to mention messes up those gorgeous grill marks that announce to the world that your grilling kung fu is strong. Like other things in life, if you touch it too much, you're just playing with it.

2. Keep A Clean Grill


Coleman Road Trip Grill, Elements Removed
Clean it down to bare metal when you can!
One of the problems I was having as a grilling rookie was that my food was very inconsistent. Sometimes I just nailed it, and sometimes, well, not so much. That's because every time I grilled anything, it left a little bit
behind. And some of it would fall through, leaving little bits of asparagus and whatnot to flavor future food. The grill was only deep cleaned when it was so bad I couldn't put it off any longer.

Keeping a clean grill does wonders for the consistency of your food. In nerdy terms, it gives you a "baseline", meaning that every time you grill, you're starting from the same point. Grill the same cut of meat 100 times and it should be the same every time.

Cleaning your grill is tedious but simple, just don't use anything toxic on it. I mostly use a solution of simple green and water. And to clean off the baked on guck, I use a wire wheel attachment for my cordless drill. The trick with the drill saves lots of time.

3. Deal With Flame-ups


Tasty meats like burgers and steaks are high in fat content, and fat is flammable. Now, anything that fatty you put on the grill is going to flame up, but as the amount of food increases, it can become a real problem. Burgers for 10 of your closest friends can rapidly become a nightmare.

The trick is simply to move the food off the grill until the flame runs out of fuel. In some cases, the flames
DeWalt Cordless Drill With Wire Brush
This is way better than a wire brush
don't really hurt the food, but most of the time serving people scorched food is not going to do much for your reputation as a grill master. So, simply move any food which is getting scorched out of the way of the flames. Most of the time just putting out a fire with water or air is just putting off the grease fire for another time.

When you are done with your grilling session, let any grease burn off on its own whenever feasible. Again, any grease you are not burning this session, you are just saving for next session. It's a flammable fuel you don't want. I like to keep a clean grill, so anything I don't burn off needs to be wiped off.

4. Prep For Success


I believe that one of the secrets to good grilling is preparation. Anyone can slap some meat or veggies on a grill and call it food. In some ways grilling is just the culmination of the food. It's usually the last step in a process, and making good food means looking at the entire process, of which prep is an important part.

In fact, it's often that the prep time is much longer than the grill time. I sometimes do a marinade for a couple days. Even corn sits in a saltwater bath for at least an hour before I grill it in the husk.

Never skimp on prep, whether it's something simple like getting your hamburger patties the perfect size and shape, or something complicated like your grandma's secret steak seasoning.

5. Pay Attention To Safety!


Fire Extinguisher
About two steps from my grill at all times
Maybe it was all those shop classes, or the year of mechanic's school, but I've always been anal retentive about safety. And being old now, I have the benefit of hindsight to see that my attention to safety has been justified. I've seen enough injury and property damage over the years, and I've done the math.

It's completely senseless not to have a small fire extinguisher near anything you are working with that is on fire, such as a grill. And it usually takes literally a few seconds to practice a few basic common sense procedures, like making sure that the grill is away from other objects and people so that if it flames up, you are not going to catch your surroundings on fire.

And when something happens, like something you don't want on fire catching fire, keep a cool head. Don't flip out and compound the problem, like I have seen people do. Make sure everyone is safe and then put it out, and if you can't put it out, call someone who can.


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