Whether you’re an experienced chef or a cooking newbie, grilling or barbecuing perfectly cooked meat takes knowledge and practice. And as we’ve all experienced, even the so-called “Grill Master” gets it wrong from time to time. Let’s start with the basics. Grilling vs. Barbecuing
If you’re like most people, you probably consider grilling and barbecuing to be one in the same. But when it comes to cooking methods, they are actually quite different.
Grilling involves placing food directly over flames or another heat source. This high heat chars the outside of the meat, seals in the juices and cooks it within a matter of minutes. Grilling is best for thin cuts of meat, burgers, chicken breast, fish, vegetables and even breads.
Try grilling Tangy Grilled Chicken:
Barbecuing, on the other hand, is a slow cooking method that can take 6 to 12 hours to complete. It involves keeping the heat source away from the food being cooked. Traditionally, the heat source is not in the same chamber as the food, but attached to a firebox. Wood chunks are then added to the heat source to create smoke that infuses the meat with flavor. Barbecuing is best for larger meats like whole turkeys or tougher cuts of meat like brisket or ribs, where the long slow cooking creates more tender meat.
Try barbecuing this Grilled Herb Turkey Breast:
Yet another method, indirect heating, is a combination of grilling and barbecuing. It involves using a low flame that is contained on one side or around the periphery of the grill. The food is then cooked on the other side or in the center. Think of it as turning your grill into an oven, allowing you to cook large cuts of meat without burning them. You can also use wood chips soaked in water to add a smoky flavor. Try this type of cooking for larger chunks of meat like thick steaks, whole turkeys, whole fish or fatty foods like ribs.
Try your hand at indirect heating with Grilled Salmon with Zucchini Relish:
Tips from the Grill Master:
1. Keep your grill clean.
Clean your grill grates after every use to manage food safety and prevent food from sticking on the grill. It’s easiest to clean just after you’ve finished cooking, when the grill is still a little warm. But if you’re like me, this rarely happens. Instead, clean the grate by scraping it with a stiff wire brush (or crumbled aluminum foil) before you heat up the grill.
2. Remember to preheat the grill.
Heat the grill on high for at least 10 minutes before cooking. This will ensure you’re cooking at the right temperature and kill any bacteria.
3. Get organized.
Gather everything you need before you start grilling.
Here’s an equipment checklist:
- Food to be cooked
- Seasonings or sauce
- Clean plate for when the meat is done.
- Grill set, including basting brushes, long-handled tongs, spatulas, oven mitts and foil drip pans
4. To marinate or not to marinate?
Whether you have one hour or twelve, marinades or rubs not only infuse flavor but also help the meat hold in moisture so it comes out tender and juicy. So the answer? If you have the time, yes, please.
5. Don’t poke the meat.
Sounds like something Dad would say. But Dad is right. Using a fork releases the meat’s flavor-filled juices. Always gently turn the meat with a spatula or tongs.
6. Basting basics.
Basting the meat is up to you, but it can be done any time during the cooking process. Try using oil, vinegar, citrus or yogurt-based marinades. Practice basting with Grilled Vegetable Kabobs.
7. Adding more flavor.
Barbecue sauce is always a smart idea. Make sure you add it toward the end of cooking time to avoid burning – unless you like a charred taste. For the perfect melt, top your hamburgers with American cheese two to three minutes before serving, just like we did with these California Cheeseburgers.
8. Doneness temperatures.
The key to cooking your meat properly is knowing when the food is done. Sounds easy, but the only way to know for sure is to have a thermometer. Cutting the meat to check the color is not only inaccurate; it also releases the juices and dries out the meat. An instant-read thermometer is definitely worth the investment.Use this handy chart to find the doneness temperature for different types of meat:
9. Let it stand.
Let grilled meat stand for a few minutes before serving to allow the juices to return to the surface of the meat. This will result in a juicier, tastier piece of meat.
10. Have fun.
Grilling is as much about the food as it is about fun. So get out there and practice your new grilling techniques, your friends and family will be glad you did!