The Padilla Group Blog

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The Basics of Grilling

Category: Grilling

Grilling is just like any other kind of cooking, it is a learned art.  Keep this in mind as you are learning. You are sure to have some failures. The major difference between grilling and cooking on the stove or in the oven is that grilling is a combination of the two.

You have direct heat from the gas burners or the charcoal and you have indirect heat that fills the grill when the lid is put down. Grills also have higher heat and less control over that heat. With your oven you can set the temperature precisely, but with a grill you either turn on or light the fire and the heat will just keep rising.

The average gas grill can reach temperatures of 500 degrees in a just a few minutes. This is why you can’t throw the food on the grill and walk away until the timer goes off. You must remain ever attentive. Monitoring is the key. The high heat, both direct and indirect is the basis of grilling.

You want to use this high heat to cook the food quickly, but, because foods will cook fast on a grill, you will have to turn them to get them to cook evenly and without burning. Although, if you turn the food too often you will just slow the process of cooking and this can lead to food that is tough and dry. The trick is to turn only when necessary. To check when the food is ready to be turned you will need to get down low, by the edge of the grill, being careful not to burn yourself, and lift up the corner of the meat. When the lines from the grills cooking grate start to turn black it’s time to turn the food.

Knowing when to turn and when your food is cooked is the whole skill of successful grilling. The rest is just recipes and tricks. This skill however is also the hardest thing to teach, especially in a book. Ideally a steak should be turned only once. If you are cooking a thick cut of meat  (over 1-1/2 inches) you may need to turn it three times to ensure it is cooked through to the center.

As a beginning grill master you should start simple. Thinner cuts of steaks, pork chops and burgers under 3/4 inches will let you get the “hang” of grilling and still get your food properly cooked. After you become experienced with these thinner cuts you can move on to more difficult foods.

Here are some useful tips for the beginning griller:

Tip 1: Keep your grill clean. A clean grill will give you better tasting food and is less likely to cause your food to stick to the grate.

Tip 2: Applying cooking oil or spray to the grill before it is lit will keep low fat meats and other foods from sticking.

Tip 3: Allow for plenty of time. You don’t want to rush your grilling or keep your family or guests waiting.

Tip 4: Don’t leave your grilling unattended for any length of time.  A flare-up can occur at anytime and leave you with burnt food if you are not there to attend to it.

Tip 5: Flare-ups are caused by grease and heat. Trimming excess fat from the meat and moving the meat to a different area of the grill when turning is the best way to control flare-ups. Do not use a spray bottle of water to control a flare-up.

Tip 6: Don’t add sugary or oily sauces or marinades to meat on the grill. This will just cause burning.

Tip 7: Apply spices or marinades to your food at least one hour before grilling. If using barbecue sauce, you should soak the food overnight. This will assure that the flavor gets into the food.

Tip 8: Using the proper tools is important. A fork should never be used for grilling. A long set of tongs is the best for turning steaks, chicken and other cuts of meat. A long handled spatula is best for burgers

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