This post may contain affiliate links. When you click on and/or make a purchase through an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Grilling can be intimidating because of the intense heat; and the flames all up in your face! Here are some tips to make sure your grilling this season is more successful and you can feel more equipped!
Grilling is a Dry Cooking Method
The term “Dry cooking” is confusing because you think of it being completely dry; but actually cooking with oil/fat is considered dry because there is no liquid. This is what helps to achieve that delicious browning I always refer to: the Maillard Reaction. You want to choose proteins that are more tender.
Before You Start
- Bring your protein to room temperature so it can cook evenly. The thicker the piece, the longer it needs.
- Season your protein ahead of time. Same rule applies with the thickness of the protein. The thicker the piece is, the more time it will need to travel to the center. If you didn’t have time or forgot, it’s fine to season right before.
- Prepare and clean the grill by using a rolled up cloth dipped in oil (avocado or vegetable oil works) and rub the rods.
- Preheat your grill
The best way to clean the grill is right after you’re done, let the heat do some of the work for you by loosening the crusted on pieces. Then use a good bristle brush to scrape off the rest. Make sure there’s no gunk on the grates! That doesn’t allow the food to stick properly to the grates and you risk getting a good golden brown and crusty exterior.
Rubs + Marinades
Anything with sugar will burn easier, so control the heat with that in mind.
A great way to prevent this is to partially cook your protein before adding some of the sauce so it caramelizes, but doesn’t burn. Here is an easy homemade bbq sauce I did with blood oranges (they might be hard to find now) but you can replace a regular orange or other fruit of your choice.
Dry rubs are also a great alternative!
This is something to keep in mind if you’re on a charcoal grill, which is less predictable. Some areas or zones will be hotter than others. Therefore, you can keep quicker cooking items on the areas that are not as hot. Generally on a gas grill, if you turn on all flames to the same intensity, the “zones” are less of a concern.
My friend Sam from @ferrarokitchen and her husband Joe are great cooks and they cook on charcoal frequently. They shared a video with me on some tips on how to cook on a charcoal grill. It will be on my instagram IGTV.
Cooking + Presentation
- Preheat the grill until it is at least between 350 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Oil your (pre-seasoned) protein
- Add food to the preheated grill and especially with meats: let them cook undisturbed. They will release when ready to flip. You can also look for browning on the underside to let you know it’s ready to be turned over. Keep in mind the goal is deep golden brown, not too charred or black which will be bitter and carbon tasting.
- Use a thermometer to check your desired doneness. My recommendation is below.
Crosshatch marks are really for presentation. Place the protein at 10 o’clock and let it sear for a few minutes. When it releases on its own, turn it to 2 o’clock and continue to cook a few more minutes. When you flip it over, you should have nice diamond shapes.
Using the Lid
Closing the grill and using the lid helps to cook the food faster and provide more smoky flavors. It’s also especially helpful when you need to cook a thicker piece of protein all the way through.
For items that cook quickly, like thin chicken breasts, burgers, hot dogs, shrimp, etc – you can leave the lid off.
Rest + Carryover Cooking
Resting the meat is important to allow the muscle fibers to relax, and the juices to redistribute. Carryover cooking happens at the same time. The heat continues to cook the food once you remove it from the heat, and I talk about it more in this post
These are affiliate links. When you click on and/or make a purchase through a link to an Amazon affiliate link, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Thermoworks MK4 Thermometer is one of the best. It is accurate and gives a fast reading (2-3 seconds!), you can view it in either hand, intuitively turns on and off, and can be used for other things as well. Currently on sale for $69! (originally $99!)
Sheet Pans – I love to season everything on these, so I can spread out the proteins or vegetables and they’re also great to collect the cooked food off the grill. Just make sure to wash them in between raw chicken and meats or you can use parchment paper.
Tongs are important for the grill to properly turn the food, but it’s really important to get ones that are not only long enough but also – I find that the ones made for the kitchen are a bit better than the ones made for the grill. They have a better spring load that allows you more control.
Grill pan for veggies – This is a great sturdy pan for vegetables and even for fish.
Grill brush– I like the wide shape of this one and how it can get a lot of the grates at once.
Offset spatula – This heavy duty spatula works great on the grill for things where the tongs don’t work well: burgers or larger pieces of meat.