Grilling is a fine summertime activity, but not everyone knows their way around a grill. A fun family barbeque can turn into a 5-alarm disaster quicker than you can say “corn on the cob." Don't be disappointed by flare-ups, flavorless grilled fish, or charred chops again. Put the kibosh on undercooked kebobs and enhance your grilled foods with this simple guide that helps keep your fun in the sun from going up in flames.
1) Getting the flavor you want Marinating meat is an excellent way to enhance its flavor. Typically, shrimp and fish need only 1-2 hours to soak up flavor, while beef, pork, and chicken need anywhere from 4 to 24 hours, depending on the cut. Before you put marinated meat on the grill, keep in mind that excess liquid on your meat not only increases the likelihood of flare-ups (particularly if you are using an oil-based marinade), it creates a steam effect that can ruin the golden coloration and texture of grilled food. The meat should already have soaked up a great deal of flavor – excess marinade is just not necessary.
Rubs and sauces are another way to enhance the flavor of your grilling. Using a rub prior to adding sauce is a great method for getting the most out of your meat: it gives the sauce something to stick to and can add a lot to your flavor palette. Remember that almost all sauces contain sugar, which can burn off during cooking if you put it on too early. To maximize your sauce's flavor, save it until 5-15 minutes before your meats are done.
If you're using a gas grill, try to use a chimney lighter rather than lighter fluid, as the latter will occasionally add an unwanted gas taste to your meat.
2) Avoiding flare-ups Always keep two levels of heat going on your grill – a cooler one and a hotter one – in addition to a spray bottle of water at the ready. This way, if a flare-up happens, you can transfer your grilled items to the cooler side while you take care of the flame. You might also consider raising the height of your grill grates, as this can sometimes be the cause of flare-ups.
If your meat is charred long before it's fully cooked, you can simply remove it from the grill and finish it in an oven low and slow. The smoky flavor from your grilling will stay in the food and you don't have to worry about it being undercooked.
If you're using wooden skewers to grill your food, keep your sticks from catching fire by soaking them in water for at least 20 minutes before putting them over the heat.
3) Keeping Equipment Clean Brush fish, steaks, or veggies lightly in vegetable oil to prevent them from sticking to your grill. (Chicken usually has enough oil in its skin alone to prevent this on its own.) You should also keep your plates clean by scrubbing them with a wire brush while they're still warm to keep charred bits from sticking and hardening.
4) Knowing When Your Food is Done You should consider buying an instant-read thermometer with a long handle to monitor the internal temperature of your meat. (As a benchmark, the internal temperature for a steak cooked medium-rare is approximately 135˚F). Also, it's a good idea to take out refrigerated meats for at least half an hour before you start grilling to help keep your meats grilling evenly inside and out.
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