Barbecue & Grilling Tips
There's a bounty of information provided here for outdoor grilling and barbecue success.
Read about tips on how to build the perfect charcoal fire, learn the techniques of "Direct" and "Indirect Methods" for grilling assorted cuts of meats properly, along with a few all-important safety tips.
Over the years, various barbecue and grilling methods have evolved regionally in America. Notably, charcoal grilling is preferred 2 to 1 over gas grilling according to a national blind-taste test conducted by Alliance Research. From east to west and north to south you'll find an array of various mopping and sopping barbecue sauces that differ in color and spiciness, ranging from deep burgundy red to Carolina mustard yellow. And then there are all those mild to hot-hot spice rubs, marinades and glazes galore to explore!
Preferences for the type of meat barbecued varies from region to region, too. Texas and Oklahoma prefer beef, while in the Deep South pork is tops. In western Kentucky, mutton shares the honors with pork. Chicken enjoys top billing in eastern Tennessee, however pork comes in a close second. In recent years with the focus on healthier eating, fish and seafood, even fresh fruit and vegetables have gained in popularity. Whatever your preference, if it makes your mouth water, it's the right barbecue choice.
Barbecue Preparation Tips:
- Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after handling food. Have a bottle of antibacterial instant hand sanitizer handy when working in an area where soap and water is not easily accessible.
- Always defrost frozen meats completely in the refrigerator or if in a hurry, in the microwave oven.
- Start with a clean grill. Use a metal-bristle brush to free the rack of any food deposits from the last barbecue session.
- Use a timer to remind you when to check or turn food on the grill.
- Prevent food from sticking to the grid by coating lightly with vegetable oil (use a paper towel dipped in the oil to apply), or use a vegetable cooking spray prior to grilling. Never spray toward an open fire.
- Transfer cooked foods from grill to table using clean utensils and plates. Never place cooked meat onto a plate that was previously used for raw meat.
- Use sugar or tomato-based sauces only during the last 15 to 20 minutes of direct grilling to prevent burning or charring.
- Always use tongs for turning meat. Piercing meat with a fork causes it to lose natural juices.
- Use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of meat near the end of the recommended cooking time. Insert it into the thickest area, being careful not to touch bone or fat.
- Remove large pieces of meat, such as roasts and whole poultry, from the grill when the internal temperature registers the desired doneness, and let it stand 15 minutes before carving. (Note that the meat may continue to cook as it stands.)
How to Build a Charcoal Fire:
- Use a high quality hardwood charcoal to make the hottest, longest-lasting fire. To extend the life of your barbecue, be sure to line the bottom of the fire bowl with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
- For grills not equipped with an elevated charcoal pan or grate, spread a one-inch layer of sand or small gravel over the bottom of the grill. This will allow the charcoal to burn better and protect the bottom of the grill. Place enough charcoal in the grill to extend about one inch beyond the food to be cooked. Place the charcoal in a pyramid-shaped stack in the center of the grill.
- Pour charcoal lighter fluid evenly over the charcoal and allow it to soak in for one minute. Carefully light the charcoal, and let it burn 30 to 45 minutes or until the coals are mostly covered with white ash.
- Wood chips can add a hint of smoky flavor. Hickory, mesquite, and fruitwoods impart a wonderful flavor to grilled food. Depending on your grill manufacturer's instructions, soak the wood chips in water for at least 1 hour. Drain the chips thoroughly, and either scatter them directly onto the heat source; or place them in a partially sealed packet made of heavy-duty aluminum foil and set them directly onto the heat source; or place them directly in your grill's smoker compartment.
- Other aromatic and flavorful additions to add to the fire include bunches of fresh herbs, fresh or dried citrus peels, and assorted types of nut shells.
Temperature Ranges for Coals:
- Low Coals - 300°F (150°C) and under.
- Medium Coals - 300°F to 350°F (150°C to 175°C).
- Medium-Hot Coals - 350°F to 400°F (175°C to 205°C).
- Hot Coals - 400°F to 500°F (205°C to 260°C).
Direct Method for Barbecuing and Grilling:
This method is best for grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chops,and chicken pieces. When the coals are ready, spread them evenly in a single layer. For the hottest fire, arrange the coals so all are touching. For less heat, spread them apart. For grills with adjustable cooking grid levels, arrange the coals with about 1-inch of space between them for even heat distribution. Then adjust the grid level closer or farther away from the coals to get the desired heat for the food you are cooking.
Indirect Method for Barbecuing and Grilling:
This method is best for foods that require more than 25 minutes of cooking time, such as roasts, whole poultry, and hams. It should be done in a covered grill with the hood closed for uniform heat. Use a drip pan under the meat that extends about one-inch beyond the meat. This drip pan may be purchased or made from a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminum foil. To begin, build a fire with about 40 charcoal briquettes. When ready, pile half the coals along the front of the fire bowl and half along the back, leaving space in the center of the bowl for the drip pan. Place the drip pan in the center. Now place the meat on the cooking grid over the drip pan and close the hood. If your grill has adjustable air vents, you can better control the cooking temperature inside. With the vents fully open the grill will cook food faster because the temperature of the coals will be hotter. The more the grill is closed, the slower it will cook the food, providing a smokier flavor. With vents fully closed, the coals will go out.
Keeping the Backyard Barbecue Safe:
- Never use charcoal or gas grills for indoor cooking. Toxic carbon monoxide fumes can accumulate and cause death.
- Never use gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol for igniting charcoal. These fuels may explode or flash when igniting, resulting in serious burns.
- Absolutely never spray charcoal lighter fluid directly onto hot coals to "coax" the fire along. It can cause a flash of fire that can travel up the stream of fuel into the can causing an explosion which can result in severe burns or even death.
- The area around the barbecue grill is no playground. Always keep children and pets away from a hot grill.
- Do not place a hot grill on a combustible surface.
- After cooking, make sure the coals are completely out cold before disposal.