Confession: I'm obsessed with my grill. Summer in North Carolina can be described as tropical at best, so between May and October, we grill anything and everything we can. During college, I used a cheap hand-me-down grill with uneven burners, a warped stainless steel grate, and more rusted parts than I care to admit. Now that I've upgraded (I have a CharBroil Gourmet 2-burner Tru-Infrared, and yes I realize that some of you will think that gas is cheating, but I've always got my trusty Weber for a 'true' grilling experience), I've become a bit fanatical about it.
Here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of your grill:
Start off clean
As the old adage goes, where there's smoke there's fire. However, the opposite shouldn't be true when you're grilling (unless you're using your grill as a smoker). If you see smoke coming out of your grill, there is something burning inside of it and that smoke will infuse into your food and make it taste like whatever is smoking (and I'm guessing it isn't hickory chips...).
- WHILE YOUR GRILL IS OFF, remove the grill grate and clean out any debris that has fallen onto or near the burners. This will also help maintain your burners and keep everything cooking evenly.
- Replace the grill grate and turn your grill on to its highest setting. Close the cover and let the grill heat up for about 5-10 min. This will loosen anything stuck on your grate. Open the cover and use a grill brush* to scrape the grate clean. Close the cover and allow the grill to heat up again for another 5-10 min (or until whatever you scraped off of the grate has stopped smoking) to burn off what you've just cleaned.
- Lower the heat and allow the grill to cool to the heat level at which you intend to cook your food.
- Repeat step 2 after you have finished cooking, then turn off the gas and let your grill cool completely before covering with a grill cover (to prevent rust/nesting animals).
*Not all grill brushes are created equal. Most cheap stainless steel grill brushes are completely useless because they are held together with glue that can't withstand the heat of a grill and loosen over time, allowing the steel fibers to dislodge and stick to your grate (and then your food - gross.). Look for a grill brush with fibers that are woven into a metal handle. If you have a porcelain or enamel-coated grill grate, you'll need a brass brush, which is the only type that won't scratch the coating.
Wide Heavy Duty Grill Brush
Heavy Duty V-shaped Grill Brush
Oil the food, not the grill
|Keep the tacky off the grill.
Since cooking on the stove generally starts with oil in the pan, the next logical step may be to oil your grill grate. DO NOT OIL YOUR GRILL GRATE. This will actually make your food stick to the grill because your grill is much hotter than your stovetop and in the time it takes for you to turn around and grab the food you were going to put on it, the oil has burned and your entire grill grate is tacky and smoking.
Use a silicone basting brush to oil any side of the food that will touch the grill. I promise it will come off (even fish skin). I like silicone because it doesn't absorb the flavors of any seasonings you may have added to the oil.
Extra Long Blue Silicone Brush Stainless Steel Handle
Red Silicone Angled BBQ Brush
Use tongs to flip your food and check the doneness
Grilling forks are big and ominous looking (and isn't that element of danger part of the thrill of grilling?) but poking holes in your food will only allow moisture to escape and leave you with dried out steaks and hockey puck burgers. Flip your food with tongs and use them as a burn-proof stand-in for your hand when attempting to discern the temperature of a piece of meat.
9" Locking Tongs with Nylon Heads
18" Stainless Steel BBQ Tongs
Resist the urge to open the cover to just 'check' on the food
Without the reassuring presence of a window (like your oven) it can be really tempting to constantly open your grill to check on how your food is cooking. This prevents your grill from maintaining a constant temperature, and the frequent rush of cool air dries out your food. Use a timer to keep track of your cooking time (I lose things easily, so I prefer a magnetic one or one on a string) and use a grill thermometer to gauge the temperature of your grill (the built-in ones can degrade and lose their accuracy over time).
Magnetic Timers: Small and Large
Digital Timer on a String
Keep small foods together
Otters hold hands so they don't drift away from each other while sleeping.
(I am not suggesting that you grill an otter)
Veggies are my favorite thing to grill - the quick, high, heating brings out crisp flavors in a way similar to a wok. But, small cut vegetables can easily fall through a grill grate and turn into smoke bombs. Flexible FireWire skewers will keep your veggies locked in place (and don't need any pre-soaking). Use a grill wok for small, quick jobs (we use ours to heat up freezer bag curly fries - works just as well as the oven) or a grill basket for delicate items like fish fillets.
FireWire Flexible Skewers
12" Enameled Grill Wok Topper
Nonstick Flexible Grill Basket
Do you have any grill tips that we've missed? Tell us in the comments!