Grilling Tricks

Grilling is such a simple (and non-messy) method of cooking and is perfect for the college student because it doesn’t require a lot of different pots or pans. Whether you choose a gas grill or a charcoal grill, the cooking techniques and times are roughly the same but to be sure always use a quick thermometer to make sure your food is cooked.

Picking a Safe Grilling Area

  • Place your grill on a flat, level surface so it won’t tip over. Make sure it’s located away from overhangs, fences, deck railings and shrubbery that could be ignited by a sudden flare-up or flying spark.
  • Position the grill in a well-ventilated location. Never barbecue indoors as toxic, odorless fumes (carbon monoxide) can build up.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill when it’s in use.


Starting a Charcoal Grill

Follow these easy steps:

  • Arrange charcoal briquettes in a pyramid at the bottom of the grill.
  • Add approximately four squirts fluid to the center of the briquettes and carefully light with a match.
  • When coals are ready for cooking, spread them in a single layer or bank them, set the grilling grid in place and put on the food.
  • For food cooked using the direct grilling method, it takes about 30 briquettes to grill one pound of meat or poultry. Charcoal should extend about one inch beyond the area the food will cover so the food cooks evenly all around.


Starting a Gas Grill:

The first rule of lighting a gas grill is to always keep the lid raised while lighting. If you don’t leave the lid open, the grill chamber will fill with gas and when you hit the ignition or stick in a match, you’ll really, really spoil your party.

Another big rule is that if it is real windy, have someone hold up a shield of some kind or move the grill to an area where it is less windy to keep the wind from blowing out the flame or match. You don’t want to use more gas than necessary when you’re trying to get a match to light. Also, do not light or use in an enclosed area!

First, raise the lid of your gas grill. Second, turn on the gas at the propane tank. Next, turn on one of the gas burners on the grill. Then, press the auto light or ignition button if your grill has one.

After the grill is lit, turn on the other burners. Allow the entire grill to burn for about 5 to 10 minutes on high. This will burn off any remaining food and grease accumulations on the diffusers below. Once the smoke subsides and it appears to be burning smoother and cleaner, then you can turn the burners back down to low and you’re ready for business.

Indirect Cooking

Can’t decide whether to use a direct or indirect method? If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use direct heat; if it takes longer, use indirect heat. “Boneless chicken pieces do well grilled quickly over direct heat, but bone-in pieces take longer and direct heat alone would burn them. Use indirect heat for bone-in meats.”

This method requires that the “fire” by built off to the side of where the cooking will take place. If you think of a typical gas grill, imagine having the burner(s) turned on, on only one half of the grill. This is the heated side. You then place the food you wish to grill indirectly on the unheated side and close the lid. Convection and radiant heat will then cook the food. Since the food is not being exposed to direct heat from the burners it will cook more evenly and be less likely to burn on the exposed side. Of course this also means that it will cook more slowly.

Burgers can puff up in the middle as they cook, making the tops rounded and awkward for piling on the toppings. To avoid this, press a little indentation into the top of each raw patty with your thumb or the back of a spoon. Then, when the center pushes up, the top of each burger will be relatively level.

Sear Steaks to Perfection. After you marinate your steaks, pat them dry on both sides. Wet steaks don’t sear; they steam. Also, resist the temptation to lift the lid and turn the steaks over and over. You develop the richest flavors in steaks when you leave them alone as much as possible, turning them just once or twice.”

Go Low and Slow with Ribs For tender ribs, maintain a low temperature for several hours. “Spikes and valleys of heat will tighten and dry out the meat, but consistently low temps will produce soft and succulent meat.”

Don’t use a water bottle to extinguish flare-up flames. When water hits hot-cooking grates and flames, it can splatter, causing burns, or crack the porcelain-enamel finish of the grill. The quickest way to extinguish flare-ups is to put the lid on the grill. The lid will reduce the amount of oxygen that feeds the fire, thus limiting or snuffing out the flare-ups]

Get It Hot!

Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any bacteria). Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking. While searing doesn’t “seal in” the juices (contrary to popular belief ), it does create improved flavors through caramelization.