Summer BBQ Tips
For any experienced grill master, the summertime is less about relaxation and more about flexing one’s skills and honing one’s craft. But for the uninitiated, “grill culture” can feel like a really exclusive club with a list of rules and rituals dating back to the paleolithic era. Whatever your level of grilling experience is, we’ve put together a list of tips and suggestions for you to take advantage of the short but savory grilling season. All that’s left for you to do is find a witty apron and you’re all set!
The Big Question
Long before the world was divided by iPhones and Androids, there was one burning question: charcoal or propane? There are many grillers who swear by charcoal and wouldn’t touch propane with a ten-foot pole. Charcoal grills have the advantage of heat, in that they can get hotter than standard gas grills without infrared burners, which means your meats will reach the fine balance or crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside with a greater accuracy than with propane. More importantly, charcoal grills give off stronger smoked flavours that their propane counterparts can’t touch. On the other hand, charcoal grills have a slightly higher risk of starting a fire and many apartment buildings do not allow them on the premises. Coals and sparks can fall through the vents or chimney starters, but with a propane grill you just turn the knob and the flame is dead.
Propane grills also have the upper hand in convenience and control: they’re easier to start, easier to clean, easier to maintain the temperature or change it quickly. Many gas grills have rotisserie sets as an option as well. More than 60% of grills sold are gas and it’s easy to see why, although they tend to be more expensive than comparable charcoal grills and there are usually more parts to repair or replace.
If you’re serious about grilling and have the time to make use of both, consider investing in gas and charcoal, or a hybrid of the two.
Tools Of The Trade
It seems that there are more grilling tools and accessories on the market these days than foods you can grill. If we boil (or broil) the list down to the essentials, it would look something like this:
Tongs and spatulas – choose utensils with long handles that allow you to keep a wide berth between yourself and the grill.
Multiple cutting boards – Make sure to use separate boards for raw meat, cooked meat and vegetables.
Meat thermometer – Especially with thicker cuts of meat, a thermometer may mean the difference between “That was the best chicken I’ve ever had!” and “Remember that time you gave the whole family food poisoning?”
Trays and serving platters – Taste is paramount, but give your guests a multi-sensory experience with fun, summery dinnerware.
Aluminium foil – For items that burn easily like fish or corn-on-the-cob, aluminum foil is non-negotiable.
BBQ scrubber – The price of any delicious home-cooked meal is the inevitable cleanup, but a heavy-duty scrubber will make sure you end your grilling adventure on the right note.
A barbecue mitt - Leather mitts, while reminiscent of everyone’s other favourite summer pastime, offer great protection from heat and flames, but silicone mitts often have stronger grip and are a breeze to clean.
The first thing to make sure of is that your meat is thawed and room-temperature before cooking. The key to cooking meat - steak in particular - is to cook it at high temperature for a short amount of time. The colder meat is when it hits the grill, the longer it will take to cook - and the tougher it will be.
Contrary to what many grillers believe, make sure to oil the meat itself and not the grill. As for seasoning, for a one-size-fits-all solution use thyme, rosemary or sage, dip it in oil and lightly brush it over whatever it is you’re cooking for a fool-proof simple marinade.
It’s incredibly important to avoid cross-contamination with any raw meats. Always store raw meat separately before cooking and use different utensils when handling and preparing. Don’t be tempted to use marinades that have been in contact with raw meat on cooked food.
Make sure to turn meat regularly to make sure it’s cooking through - charred does not equal cooked! Don’t be afraid to cutt into the meat to make sure it’s not pink on the inside and juices are running clear. If you’re feeling nervous about timing and temperature with chicken in particular, it may be a good idea to cook it in the oven before giving it that final “finish” on the barbecue, that way you’ll still get that smoky flavour without any worry.
Once again, never grill a steak from frozen - you want the raw steak to be at least room temperature by the time it hits the grill. With that being said, you still want the inside of the steak to be a little bit cool before you grill it.
You can season a steak one million and one different ways, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best, and steak often needs just a bit of Kosher sea salt and pepper to truly bring out the flavour. You would be wise to prep the steak with butter instead of oil, or use a combination of both
In order to achieve a nice outer crust and visible grill marks on a steak, cook it briefly over high heat (this is known as searing). To bring the inside to the proper temperature without charring the outside, move it to a lower heat temp until you reach the desired level of “doneness.”
Searing should take 2 minutes for a 1-inch-thick steak and 4 minutes for 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick - this includes flipping and searing times.
Grilling Hot Dogs & Hamburgers
Most packaged hot dogs come cooked, so they only need around 5-7 minutes on the grill to get that char flavour. Hamburgers should be seared over high heat for 2 minutes on each side, with 2-3 minutes added for every level of “doneness” desired.
Cook pork chops over direct heat and flip halfway through - for thicker cuts, move to indirect heat to finish cooking. Cook a tenderloin as if you were cooking a steak - searing and all - until the internal temperature reaches 145 F.
With any kind of poultry except for whole birds, cook over direct heat flipping halfway through. Add any sauce within the last 10 minutes of cooking time to maximize the flavour.
Fish often needs more attention that other meats as it’s inclined to go dry in minutes.
For fish or shellfish you generally want to use a medium-hot grill, but if you’re cooking a whole fish, grill over low heat. Peeled shrimp, calamari, and scallops should be cooked on a hot grill. Treat tuna steaks as you would a beef steak and sear it first, then cook over medium heat.
While there’s less risk involved in grilling veggies as opposed to meat, there are still so many factors to take into account. One of the biggest differences between cooking veggies and meat is to NOT brush them with oil before throwing them on the grill. Cooking them dry and adding oil and seasoning afterwards guarantees they won’t go soggy or too soft. Garlic, fresh herbs, vinegar or lemon juice to gives vegetables a flavour boost prior to serving. Cook until tender and lightly charred, which should only take about 4-6 minutes.09