8 Tips to Make You a Better Griller
It’s summer time! It’s the season of backyard barbecues, pool parties, and days at the beach. And if you somehow find out that you’ll be in charge of the grill and feel unprepared for it, don’t worry. It’s not as hard as it sounds. In fact it is super fun! To ease some of your anxiety, here are a few of my favorite tips I picked up over the years to help you achieve grilling success this summer…or at least avoiding an epic fail.
- Use charcoal instead of a gas grill. Gas grills are convenient. But if you want that true smokey flavor, you can’t beat charcoal. I recommend using a chimney starter with newspaper rather than lighter fluid. You can even use a heat gun (pictured below). I’ll admit, though, that when I am pressed for time, I’ll just use Kingsford Match Light charcoal.
- Crumpled up aluminum foil is a great makeshift grill cleaner if you don’t have a grill brush.
- Soak a paper towel in vegetable oil and wipe the grill to prevent food from sticking while cooking.
- The Hand Test. If you don’t have a thermometer to tell you how hot the grill is, here’s the basic Hand Test. Place the palm of your hand about one hand height away above the grill. If you need to pull your hand away after 2-4 seconds, the heat is high (450-550 degrees F). If you need to pull your hand away after 5-7 seconds, the heat is medium (350-450 degrees F). If you need to pull your hand away after 8-10 seconds, the heat is low (250-350 degrees F).
- To prevent the center of a home made burger patty from bulging out when cooking, put an indentation in the midde of the raw patty before cooking it. Then when it cooks, the center will rise up and be more even with the rest of the patty.
- Keep the Flames Down. Don’t let the flames touch your meats. They’ll burn the food before cooking the inside and will cause meats like beef, poultry and fish to form carcinogenic compounds. There are 2 easy ways to reduce the flames in your grill. The first way is to put the lid on, which suffocates the fire quickly. The other way is to use a squirt bottle to shoot water. The water squirt method is better to quickly putting out flames that are caused by fat dripping onto the charcoal. These superheated fats become carcinogenic when they burn and accumulate on the food and will also give it a weird taste (at least to me). Flame control is the key and will give you meats that are cooked better, tasted better, and are healthier (or less unhealthy) for you and your family.
- Marinate Your Meat. Marinating your meat does 2 things. First, it gives the meat more flavor. Second, it reduces to formation of those potentially carcinogenic compounds that form when grilling any kind of meat (beef, poultry, fish). According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, marinating the meat can reduce the formation of the carcinogens by over 90%.
- The Brazilian Method. A few years ago at a party, I met a guy from Brazil who commandeered the grill like a boss and was cooking thin cuts of beef. He told me in an awesome Brazilian accent, “You Americans…you use too much sauce, too much fancy stuff on your steaks.” He proceeded to show me how he grew up doing it in Brazil. He put a ton of rock salt into a pan. Then flipped the raw meat in the salt so the meat was covered with salt. It looked like way too much! Then he put the meat on the grill. After the first side was semi cooked, he flipped it over, slamming it gently on the grill. That knocked off a bunch of salt. After cooking the other side, he flipped over again and bounced it off the grill knocking more salt off. He repeated this process a few times. When he was done, the meat didn’t appear to have much salt on it but it was salted to perfection. I have tried this several times over the years and it has worked every single time! I’m sure this is not a new method but it was the first time I ever saw this technique. So in honor of that dude from Brazil who showed it to me, I’m referring this to as the Brazilian Method. You can see a brief video below showing this method.
So that’s it! Those are just a few tips you can try this summer. I will be the first to admit that I am not a pro. In fact I only grill a couple times a year. And when I do, I have 2 goals in mind. First, don’t make the food suck because then everyone will be unhappy and I will be embarrassed. And second, I try to have fun socializing with whoever is at the party. So as long as you can achieve those 2 things, everything is good.