Nothing says summer quite like standing over a grill, tongs in one hand, drink in another, as you wait for a piece of meat to finish searing off.
While your Memorial Day cookout might be smaller than usual this year, there's still no excuse for cutting corners and botching the BBQ.
If you’re looking to up your grilling this weekend or this summer, follow these tips below. They’ll have you slinging burgers and ribs better than ever before.
Get a charcoal chimney
Few food debates burn as hot as the one over charcoal versus gas grills. If you’re using charcoal though, get yourself a chimney starter. Lighting a grill can be a finicky process and loading and lighting a chimney is one way to ensure you get an even, quick burn every time.
Clean, clean, clean
The worst thing that could happen during a grilling session is that your meat sticks to the grate and rips apart when you try to turn it.
To keep that from happening make sure you keep your grill clean and oiled. After it heats, take a stiff brush to the grate and the wrap a spatula in a paper towel soaked in olive oil and give it a quick rub.
Let it get hot
Even with a chimney starter it can take a good 20-30 minutes for your grill to get hot enough. Throwing food on too early will keep you from getting the sear you want and those pro looking grill marks.
Embrace indirect cooking
Different foods need different heat. A burger can cook over high, direct heat, but a rack of ribs or a thick bone-in chicken breast needs to cook for a longer time at a slightly lower temperature. Set your grill up with a “hot zone” with all your lit charcoal and a “cool zone” without charcoal directly underneath it. You can use the cool zone to cook using indirect heat. You’ll need this for anything that won’t cook all the way through the middle set on direct heat.
Don’t press on your burgers
Maybe it’s because they think it will help the cooking process, maybe it’s just because they feel that they need to be doing something, but lots of people make the mistake of pressing down on their burgers while they’re on the grill. This squeezes all the delicious juices out of your burger and it can leave you with a dried-out brick of a meal.
Don’t add sauce too early
Lots of barbecue sauces have lots of sugar in them. Adding the sauce early on to say, ribs, which need to sit on the grill for hours will cause those sugars to burn and, trust us, that does not taste good. Don’t sauce anything until about half an hour before you plan to take it off the grill.
Strong tools make for a strong grill game
Beyond the grill itself, you don’t need much equipment, but there are two things you absolutely can’t be without: long-handled tongs and a long-handled spatula. Those long handles are important so you can get to food all the way in the back. Also, make sure both your tools are stiff enough give you the leverage you need to lift and move food on and off the grill.
Use metal bowls
The problem with plastic bowls for marinades and the like is that the smells can sink into them and stay there forever. A stainless steel bowl doesn’t have that problem.
Know when your meat is done
The best thing to do is just buy an instant read thermometer. But you can use the old thumb and finger trick to know if your steak is done on the grill. Touch the tip of your left index finger to the tip of your left thumb, then, with right other hand, touch the area just below your left thumb. If that’s how the steak feels, it’s medium rare. Repeat the process using your middle finger for medium and your pinky for well done.
Only flip meat once
We cannot emphasize enough the importance of patience here. If you’re one of those people who flips your burgers every 30 seconds all you’re doing is preventing those burgers from cooking evenly and properly.
NOTE: A medium-rare burger should take about three minutes on each side.