We’ve compiled our top tips and tricks to make sure you are grilling to perfection. Follow the professional points below for safe grilling, the best way to handle your grill and, most importantly, delicious food which is charred, tender and smokey.
1. Choose The Right Equipment
The right tools for the job makes all the difference to a grilling experience.
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A long set of tongs makes it easier to manage the grill and have control over your station. Tongs allow ingredients to be accurately moved across with precise tension, while being a safe distance from the direct heat. Spatulas are best for flipping burgers and turning steaks, while a pronged fork can be especially handy for catching sausages or larger joints.
Another useful piece of equipment is the basting brush. It is used to delicately apply marinades, oils or butter while grilling to develop a crust, keep ingredients moist and reduce temperature when needed. Barbecue gloves are a sensible extra safety precaution to prevent burns. It allows you to get involved directly without the risks of only using a thin cloth.
2. Begin With A Clean Grill
A wire brush for cleaning a grill is essential, use a grill brush to remove charred areas. Once the grill has been brushed clean, wipe the grate with a paper towel or cloth dampened with oil to create a non-stick surface and further heat.
If these charred food particles are not removed then you can risk contaminating your food when cooking. A clean grill will also be better for cooking, allowing the surface to become hotter and making sure that the ingredients taste delicious rather than picking up flavours of burning.
3. Safe Handling
Use separate designated tongs and spatulas for raw and cooked products. This reduces the risk of food poisoning with raw and cooked products also being stored separately. If raw products are handled with bare hands then make sure to wash thoroughly with warm soapy water. Disinfect any surfaces or equipment which come into contact with raw products.
The more you can prepare ahead of time, the more you can relax in the celebrations and the pleasure of your perfectly grilled food. Make sure you’re fully stocked, sides can be prepared a day ahead and meat can be marinated beforehand.
6. Marinades And Dry Rubs
Applying either a marinade or rub to your meat and fish before grilling will transform an ingredient. By marinating up to a day before products are able to take on a whole new depth of flavour. Thick tougher cuts are well suited to a marinade as the acid from a vinegar or citrus juice slowly tenderises the meat while adding flavour.
Dry rubs are another option to add a punch of flavour without extra calories or fats. A rub is also the best option when looking to develop a crust, as extra moisture can prevent a crunchy exterior from developing. Marinade meat for between an hour to 24 hours depending on the cut, the options for marinade are endless so whip together a combination of your favourite zingy flavours and let the marinade do the rest of the work.
Remember to take the meat out of the fridge before cooking to avoid the fridge chill. Bring the protein up to room temperature for 30 minutes then grill away.
6.Space Out Ingredients
Don’t overcrowd the grill, this will reduce the temperature and cause uneven cooking. Dry heat needs to come into contact with all surfaces of the ingredient to develop the smokiness of the fire, spaces in the grill allow steam and heat to rise which allows for an even cook.
Instead organise the grill with equal spacing between your ingredients leaving room to flip and control your cooking. If there isn’t enough space on your grill then cook in batches and keep cooked products warm either wrapped in aluminum foil or covered in a cloth.
7. Use High Heat
Preheat the gas grill to heat for 10 to 15 minutes, the heat should be very hot when your hand is placed 6-inches from the grill. By preheating the grill it is easy to brush away any residual particles to guarantee that the bars are completely clean and ready for cooking.
The high heat also reduces the risk of ingredients sticking, when food comes into contact with the preheated grates a sear will develop which acts as a barrier between the food and grill and is also delicious. Gas grills are able to produce a higher heat than charcoal grills creating a deeper sear and producing charred flavour. There is also a time and place for low and slow when grilling so follow the technique of two zone cooking explained below.
8. Two Zone Cooking
Whether using a gas, charcoal or wood fires, set up two zones on the grill in which one is hot and one is cooler. Direct heat is best for creating a sear and developing the ideal smoky flavour, this area allows for charring, colour and caramelisation on the hot zone. Then transfer the food to an area of the grill with indirect heat, within this cooler zone ingredients can slowly finish cooking through and take on further smoky aromas.
Another important area to keep in mind when grilling is the overall temperature of the grill. No matter how tempting, if you are grilling with a lid on then don’t lift the lid every 5 minutes to check on your food. By lifting the lid the internal temperature of the BBQ is reduced which will increase cooking time and prevent the char which gives grilling its flavour. Both two zone cooking and maintaining internal grill temperature will allow for more control when grilling and reduce the likelihood of burnt sausages.
9. Select The Right Meats
If your steak or chop is only 1-inch thick then it is far more difficult to develop a crust without overcooking the meat. Instead purchase thick cuts which will allow for more time to build a deep bark with caramelisation whilst the meat is still tender and juicy in the middle. Lean protein is less suited to grilling as there in a danger of overcooking and drying out.
The best meats for quick grilling are those with marbling and natural fat which will render as it cooks, flavouring the meat and keeping it moist.
Ny strip, rib-eye, porterhouse and tenderloin are all popular cuts for grilling but there is also the opportunity to discover lesser known cuts which are more affordable and just as delicious. Flank steak, hanger steak, skirt steak and flat iron steak are all suited to high heat quick cooking so expand your repertoire and explore new options.
10. Use A Digital Thermometer
Digital thermometers are more reliable and accurate to check the temperature of both the grill and your meats. The dial on the grill is a reading on the lid temperature and not the grill bars which causes uncertainty in the true cooking temperature.
Use a digital thermometer rather than testing the cooking of meats by touch alone. A thermometer reduces the risk of overcooking or undercooking, instead producing tender meat cooked to your liking and grilled to perfection.
11. Rest Proteins
Once a steak or chop has been removed from the grill the residual heat within the meat will continue the cooking process, even away from a heat source. Wrap the protein in aluminum foil to maintain the external temperature and allow the ingredient to rest for at least 5 minutes. Resting allows the juices within the meat to redistribute with an end product which is tender and juicy.
12. Grill Your Veggies
At least half of your meal should be made up of vegetables as we strive to incorporate more healthy veggies into our diet, so make the most of your grill and start grilling!
The word BBQ brings images of chicken wings, burgers, rack of ribs and maybe the occasional corn on the cob but there is much more summer produce which can be transformed on the grill.
Our favourites include; sliced eggplant or zucchini grilled simply with olive oil and salt, vine-tomatoes which slowly blister to caramelise and sweeten, charred baby broccoli and asparagus spears, wedges of red onion and bell pepper which become tender and smoky or whole mushrooms which develop a deep umami taste and meaty texture. Try the whole lot and serve up a grilled summer vegetable banquet alongside your classic grilled meats and fish.
Our final tip which needs the least explanation is possibly the hardest, relax. Try not to stress and enjoy the process, grilling is about food, family and friends.
Jeff Wilson is a writer and product comparison expert. He is dedicated to saving you money on popular home products.