Five Tips to Boost Confidence at the Grill
Is your grill gathering dust? Many people love the idea of making summer meals at the grill, but need a nudge to actually fire it up. Don’t get stuck
inside with the familiar stove or oven instead of enjoying the sunshine at the grill.
When I teach grilling clinics, I talk to people who want to use their grills more often, and we discuss the things that are holding them back. I recently
worked with Land O’Lakes to stage a clinic in New York for food media and bloggers, and we shared stories about our personal experiences at the grill.
Here are some tips to help novice chefs get behind the grill with confidence:
Gas vs. Charcoal
As the owner of nine grills, I know the huge array of grill options can be overwhelming! In the end, it’s a personal decision and comes down to space,
time, flavor and lifestyle. The first step is to choose between gas and charcoal.
When comparing gas and charcoal grills, you’re choosing between convenience and smoky flavor. There’s nothing wrong with convenience, and if you’re
more likely to use the grill more often when it can be turned on at the flick of a switch, a propane or natural gas grill is a great fit for you. To
imitate the flavors of charcoal grilling, add foil packets filled with wood.
Charcoal takes more time to set up, cook and cleanup, but watching the coals glow and producing delicious flavors can make the end result worth the
wait. When grilling over charcoal, wait 20-30 minutes for the briquettes or lump charcoal to ash over before cooking, to give your food that
distinctive wood and smoke flavor.
The key to delicious, juicy meat (and food safety!) is simple: knowing when it’s done. But that turns out not to be so simple at all. Some people rely on
timers, while others poke and prod their meat on the grill. But the only real way to know when your meat is done is to measure the internal temperature
with an instant-read thermometer. This simple, inexpensive tool will give you the confidence to pull your meat off the grill when it reaches the
recommended temperature, so you’ll be far less likely to under or overcook it.
The USDA recommends cooking whole cuts of meat to 145˚F, ground meat to 160˚F, and poultry to 165˚F. Take meat off the grill when its internal temperature
is about 5˚ lower than your target temperature and cover it loosely with foil. It will continue cooking as it rests.
An open flame can definitely seem more dangerous than an oven or stove, but with a few precautions, grilling is just as safe as cooking indoors.
- Start with a clean grill.
A clean grill is a safer grill. Keep a stiff-bristled grill brush on hand and clean it after every use.
- Put your grill somewhere safe
. That means on level ground away from any structures and not under trees.
- Keep an extinguisher handy.
If you’re using charcoal, keep a small spray bottle of water by the grill, too, to handle small flare-ups. But do not spray water on gas
- Protect your hands
. Long tongs, long-handled spatulas, and sturdy, fire-resistant mitts are your friends.
- Avoid cross-contamination.
Use separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods. Never baste with the marinating liquid.
Who wants to gamble on dinner? Hungry chefs want guaranteed results—especially when feeding hungry guests. To lower the stakes, start with tested recipes
and high-quality ingredients.
Land O’Lakes created a new collection of tasty, family-friendly grilling recipes for this summer, to go with the dozens and dozens of existing
recipes. And I’m sharing my own favorite grilled pizza recipes, including BLT Avocado and Mexican Pizza.
Most importantly, get ready to have fun! This can be the summer that you and your grill become best pals—and make delicious dinners together.