Finally winter’s cold grip on much of the U.S. has left and spring is warming everything up. That means it’s time to get out the grill. Not everyone is a grill master, though, even if they attend Boulder culinary school. And it’s easy to forget a thing or two over the long dark months when you can’t grill. Try these tips when you break out the grill this spring:
Have the necessary tools on hand
It’s a total pain to have to run back to the kitchen to grab tools you forgot in the house. Instead, store your grilling utensils near your grill. These could include tongs, a scraper and wire brush, an apron and a spatula. Tin foil and a vegetable steamer tray are also handy but you can keep those in the house. Be sure your utensils are not rusty and are properly cleaned between use. If they are not sanitized, you could end up getting salmonella or food poisoning.
Be sure your grill is clean
If you didn’t properly remove leftover burned bits and food particles from your grill and grate, you may be risking a fire. Plus, your food might take on the taste of these charred pieces. Always thoroughly clean your grill and grate with a brush before using it. It’s best to clean the grill shortly after you’ve used it, when its still a little hot. The heat makes the cleaning process easier. Just be sure it’s cool enough to touch before you start brushing. In a pinch, you can crumple up a ball of aluminum foil to use in lieu of a grill brush. They do sometimes go missing (misplaced between the kitchen, garage and deck, or even stolen by the dog).
Don’t mix meat with veggies
When meat is raw, it contains bacteria that can make humans sick. It’s important to keep raw meat separate from everything else on the grill until it has been thoroughly cooked. When you bring the meat out to the grill on a plate, be sure to send that plate back to the kitchen right away. If you were to set your newly cooked meat back on that plate you would be at risk of becoming sick because of the juices left on the plate. You may also want to have separate tongs for the meat and veggies so you are not unintentionally cross-contaminating just by turning your corn on the cob with the same tongs you used for the steak.
Cook meat indirectly
When you place items that take a long time to cook (like chicken or beef) directly over the flame, they tend to burn on the outside but not get completely cooked on the inside. Avoid this by placing meat on the sides of your grill. There they are still exposed to the heat but they cook more evenly and won’t burn. If you use a glaze and want to caramelize the outsides a bit, simply place the meat over direct heat for a few minutes right before you take the meat off the grill. If you’ve done it right, pieces will be lightly charred and cooked all the way through.
Watch cooking times
Everything doesn’t cook at the same time. If you plan to grill multiple types of food at once, be sure to account for differences in cooking time. Meat, for example, will take a while so you may want to put it on the grill first. Add veggies later, starting with hardier ones like potatoes. Then add onions, peppers and avocado.
Keep a hose or fire extinguisher nearby when you are grilling. Be sure to pay attention to whether or not the air vents are open on the lid and the bottom of your grill. Don’t use one with bottom vents if you are cooking on a deck or other wooden surface. It can also be dangerous to cook over grass. Before starting your grill, always check that it is sturdy and stable. If it is windy, consider reinforcing the legs of your grill or moving it to a place where the wind won’t be able to knock it over. Watch small children and pets that are around when you are cooking. They could accidentally touch or knock over your grill, injuring themselves and potentially starting a fire.