Grilling and barbecuing are deceivingly simple cooking method. After all, it seems like all a cook has to do is build a fire and throw a piece of meat onto the grill. Barbecuing and grilling are in fact simple cooking methods, but require good technique to execute masterfully. By knowing where a few potential land mines lay and how to avoid them, you can help to guarantee that your next meal on the grill will be your best.
One of the biggest errors that novice cooks make with grilling food is improperly preparing the fire. Grilling is all about temperature control. You want to be in total control of your fire so that you don’t have pieces of meat that are burned and pieces that are still raw in the center. To give yourself better temperature control over your fire, it’s helpful to build a two zone fire. A two zone fire is one in which there is a hot side where you can sear food and cook quickly and a cold side, which can be used as a safety zone for meats that are cooking too quickly. Setting up a two zone fire in a gas grill is easy. Most gas grills come with two or three burners. Instead of turning them all on, leave one burner off. This will be your cold zone. If you have a charcoal grill, setting up a two zone fire can be a little more work. Normally, when the coals are hot, you would spread them evenly across the bottom of the grill. Instead, pile the coals off to one side of the grills, creating your two different temperature zones. Cook your foods over the hot side of the grill according to your recipe. If you notice the food is cooking too fast on the outside or scorching, move it quickly to the colder side of the fire, where it won’t be directly over the heat source.
Another error that a lot of cooks make is putting cold meat onto a hot grill. Raw meat should definitely be kept in the refrigerator during marinating or before grilling, however, placing cold meat directly onto the grill is a huge mistake. If you do that, the outside of your meat will cook faster than the inside, which will be raw and inedible by the time the more exposed areas are perfectly cooked. If you continue cooking your meat until the inside is perfect, the outside will be charred and dry. To fix this problem, take your meats out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you plan to cook them. This will allow the meat to come to room temperature and cook evenly on the grill.
One more problem that many grilling novices have is with foods sticking to the grill grates. To avoid this, make sure your grill grate is clean to begin with. Invest in a sturdy wire brush that you can use to scrub down the grates while they are heating up. You will need to remove any charred bits that are stuck to the grates because food will stick to them. Next, make sure that you lubricate your grill grates liberally. Grasp an old cloth towel with some tongs and dip it into oil. Use this to oil the grill grates right before you place on the food. Finally, resist the urge to move your meats immediately after placing them onto the grill. The meat needs time to seer and brown. If you try to move the meat, it will stick and tear, leaving you with a mess. The meat will unstick itself from the grates when it is ready to be turned.
Finally, once your meats have been taken off the grill, let them rest for at least 15-20 minutes. If you serve your grilled meats immediately after they have been removed from the grill, the juices inside the meat will run out onto the plate, leaving a dry, flavorless piece of meat. By resting the meat after cooking, you’ll allow the proteins in the meat to relax and the juices to be reabsorbed, resulting in a moist, succulent piece of barbecued meat.