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The Basics of Grilling

July 14, 2017

Independence Day has come and gone but grilling season is still in full swing. So for all those BBQ virgins and newbies, here's an excerpt from our new book "Mastering the Grill".

Grilling is just like any other method of cooking. At its core it is an art form. Crafting your sauce, laying out the coals and even the order in which you cook your food can make a world of difference in terms of taste and overall quality. Knowing what you’re doing on the grill is what separates people that throw food on the grill from people that barbecue.
When you grill 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. The main difference between cooking in an oven and grilling is that with a grill you have higher heat at the cost of having 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 till the coals burn out.
The average gas grill can reach temperatures of 500 degrees within a few minutes. This is why you can't throw the food on the grill and walk away until the timer goes off. Vigilance is the name of the game when your barbecuing, so set your self up for success by making sure you have a cooler and someone or thing to help you pass the time as you monitor your grill.
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. However, if you turn the food too often you’ll actually just slow the cooking speed down 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, aka grill marks, start to darken from brown to black it's time to turn the food.
Knowing when to turn and when your food is cooked to preference (rare, medium, well-done, etc.) is the core skill required for 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.
If you’re just starting your grill master journey, 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’ve gotten the feel for for those cuts you can move on to more difficult foods like ribs and thick cut steak.

Here are some useful tips for first-timers:
1: Clean your grill after every use. A clean grill will give you better tasting food and is less likely to cause your food to stick to the grate. Make sure you clean out the body of the grill too to avoid flare-ups.

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

3: Give yourself plenty of time for prep. You don't want to rush your grilling or keep everyone waiting as you fight to restart the grill.

4: Don't leave your grilling unattended. You always want to at least have eyes on the grill in case of a flare-up. Flare-ups can occur at anytime and leave you with burnt food if you're not vigilant.

5: Flare-ups are caused by grease and heat. Trimming excess fat from the meat and using the indirect grilling method are the best ways to control flare-ups. Do not use a spray bottle of water to control a flare-up.

6: Don't add sugary or oily sauces or marinades to meat on the grill until just a few seconds before your ready to take it off the grill. Adding sauces to early will just give the food a burnt taste depending on how early you apply it.

7: Apply spices or marinades to your food at least one hour before putting in on the grill. Also, if you’re using barbecue sauce, you should soak the food overnight. This will assure that the flavor has a chance to seep into the meat.

8: Using the proper tools is important. A fork should never be used for grilling because it creates on opening for all those flavors to escape through. Instead, use a long set of tongs for turning steaks, chicken and other cuts of meat; and a long handled spatula for burgers. 


Remember to always think safety first whenever your cooking on the grill. Keep the grill at least 25 feet from your house as well as any flammable structures. Be sure to grab a copy of Mastering the Grill for just $1 when you enter promo code "Grilling". Be sure to subscribe to Yagoli for more content and discounts.

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