Here are some useful tips when it’s time to fire up your BBQ Grill:
First and foremost, have fun. The real purpose of back yard and outdoor cooking is enjoyment; this includes relaxation, stress reduction, and enjoying your friends and family. In a recent survey, 70% of outdoor grill masters rated their grilling skills “no better than average.” If your aim is to become a true “Pit Master,” this information won’t take you far. If, on the other hand, you believe that savoring a relaxing, enjoyable meal is an added bonus, then our grilling secrets obtained from a wide variety of resources (the most important of which is no doubt the search engines on the internet) may provide some suggestions that will improve your grilling techniques and overall enjoyment of outdoor culinary activities.
The Second Most Important Insight “Varying Opinions”
Most grill masters can’t agree on much of anything and often give “contradictory advice.” As one BBQ guru explained, “One of the things that gets me hot is seeing the same old outdoor cooking myths in print”. Remember one man’s truth is another man’s heresy. Who is correct? Often, you must be your own judge.
Here are a few examples:
Advice: ”Always turn foods with grilling tongs rather than piercing with a fork to retain natural juices.”
Opposing Opinion: ”If you pierce a couple of hundred of these (meat) cells (with a fork), you’ve got billions of others holding the liquid. What is important is searing the meat to lock in the juices.”
Opposing Opinion: People wrongly think you “sear” meat to “lock in” juices. Searing is all about caramelizing or browning the surface of the meat to give it great flavor. There is no evidence that searing protects juiciness.
Advice: ”Sprinkle fresh rosemary sprigs for lamb, thyme for seafood, and bay leaves for steaks and burgers over the coals during the last few minutes of grilling; after applying barbeque sauce to food, then sprinkle basil, oregano, and marjoram over the coals.”
Opposing Opinion: Never place herbs on the coals as they contain volatile oils that scorch and burn causing an unpleasant, bitter flavor.
Advice: ”Never salt meat until just before going on the grill as salt draws moisture out of the meat.”
Opposing Opinion: Ignore those who say don’t salt your meat until the last minute. It is okay to salt your meat several hours before grilling as there isn’t enough time to draw the moisture out.
Advice: Since steaks sear at 500° F or above, use oils on the grate with high smoke points to avoid smoking and off flavors such as cottonseed, safflower, canola, and sunflower oil. And, don’t use olive oil.
Opposing Opinion: Rub olive oil into the grate and onto meat prior to firing up the grill.
Practice Safety first, then your Planning, Preparation, Practice, and Patience. This will result in continuously better culinary performance as one gains experience with newly acquired grilling techniques. So take all of these guru tips with a grain of salt. Try those that make sense and experiment with those you question. Remember Lesson One: Learn your grill’s idiosyncrasies; and always heed Safety Commandment One: Stay with the grill during cooking. Never leave the grill unattended if children or pets are present. This tip will also prevent you from seriously overcooking your food.
Health Issues When Grilling
There are several health concerns encountered when grilling. Basic food handling and sanitation involves cleanliness; meat, dairy and product separation to avoid cross-contamination; and temperature control during the cooking and chilling of food products.
Healthy ingredient purchase decisions are determined by personal choice. A primary consideration is the fat content of meats to be grilled lean versus marbled meat. Succinctly put, marbled meat with higher fat content generally tastes better and is more easily grilled than leaner cuts. From a fat content perspective, grilling is a healthy technique for meat since fatty juices drain away. Decisions as to what to grill remain a personal choice for those responsible for ingredient purchases.
Potential risk from carcinogenic chemicals associated with the high heat grilling of Meat, Poultry, and Fish; especially when charring occurs, has been the subject of numerous media reports. There have been two types of potential carcinogens that occur during high heat cooking. The first group, PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons) occur in the smoke when fat juices drip into flames creating smoke that deposits potentially carcinogenic chemicals on meat being grilled. The second type, HCA, heterocyclic amines, occur chemically in the meat, increasing in amount the longer and hotter the temperature at which the meat is cooked. Charred and burnt meat gives the most cause for concern and it is generally recommended that charred pieces be removed and discarded.
Under normal conditions, and with a healthy diet, people eating grilled foods even several times a week don’t consume anywhere near the amount of charred foods likely to cause a serious health problem. Health experts have suggested a number of common sense solutions to reduce such risk even further. It is generally agreed that if you don’t grill over an open flame or allow the meat to catch fire, occasional grilling should be okay.
Marinades reduce HCA’s formed on meats by as much as 90% to 99% although at this time scientists are not sure why. We recommend that you both inject and soak meat with our marinades in a bag prior to high heat grilling to reduce the HCA’s formed by direct heat. Our Cajun Injector Marinades not only add great flavor, and tenderize the meat, they also reduce the formation of carcinogens on the surface and the inside of the meat.
We suggest cleaning the grill to eliminate buildup of fats that can burn, and then cleaning and oiling the grating to remove all charred particles that might attach to freshly grilled food.
Tip: Once grilling is completed, place aluminum foil over the grilling grates if the charcoal is still hot enough to reflect heat onto the grate; if using a gas grill follow the same procedure but turn gas to high for one minute, then turn off. This will transform the food into ash on grates. When cool, use the aluminum foil to brush the ash away from the grill. Another trick: if you use a gas grill with briquettes, when cool, turn all the briquettes over so that grease and food particles are facing the flame. Turn the grill on high for 5 minutes to clean briquettes completely.
Some authorities recommend precooking meat in the microwave from 3-5 minutes depending on thickness to reduce the total cook time on the grill while maintaining the moisture content of the meat. We suggest you utilize an internet search engine for information on this topic.
The Grilling Skill Drill
- Purchase quality ingredients selected on the basis of the grilling techniques to be utilized.
- Use proper grilling tools: Wire Grill Brush, Digital Oven Thermometer, Long Handled Spatula, Digital Meat Thermometer, Grilling Tongs, Oven Mitts, Spray Bottles, Drip Pan sized to your grill, Ceramic Roaster (optional), Rib Rack (optional).
- Proper heat control involves monitoring both grill temperature and the internal temperature of the items being grilled. Heat control involves direct and indirect heating techniques when searing or grilling with medium heat or smoking “low and slow.” Plan the potential areas of use prior to grilling. A portion of the grating should be reserved for high direct heat, a portion for medium or indirect heat, and an area where food can be move to avoid charring during flare-ups. Obviously this plan depends upon the area of the grating. For small grills, a platter may be the area of last resort to avoid flare ups.
Searing over high, direct heat is the best technique for most foods to cook hot and fast to brown the surface and seal in the juices. A great cut of meat requires hot, dry direct heat to caramelize the surface to give it great flavor. Move to medium heat to avoid overcooking once a good sear is achieved. Charred food occurs when meat comes into contact with dry direct heat above 500° F for too long and the meat surface breaks down into carbon. It’s unhealthy, and charred meat pieces should be cut away and discarded.
- Clean the grill, then the oil grates with a vegetable oil with a high smoke point.
- Let a gas grill heat as high as possible for a minimum of 10 minutes prior to searing.
- Be sure that all moisture is removed from the surface of the meat to be seared; dry meat sears best.
- Place meat at the hottest part of the grill. Close the lid to keep the heat in and check at one minute for dark brown properly seared surface. Note how long it takes your grill to get a good sear for future reference; during searing you don’t want to release heat when opening except when necessary.
- Once properly browned, flip the meat to a previously unused part of the cooking grate. Remember searing involves browning the meat, not charring the meat.
- Once searing is completed on the second side, open grill cover and reduce the heat and flip the meat rotating at 90° to obtain a crisscross pattern on the surface.
Tip: For a stronger crisscross pattern, place a black iron skillet on the meat during searing being careful to remove with caution.
- After searing, finish cooking the meat over medium heat or with in direct heat if required cooking time is more than 25 minutes total.
The USDA recommends the following normal sanitary procedures when preparing raw products for smoking.
- Clean – wash hands and surfaces often.
- Keep ingredients separate – Don’t cross contaminate ingredients or utensils.
- Cook to proper temperatures – using two thermometers; one for the food; one for the smoker or grill.
- Heat food to a safe internal temperature and doneness.
- Poultry breast 170° F
- Whole Poultry 180° F
- Beef, Veal, Lamb Roast 145° F to 170° F
- Pork 160° F to 170° F
- Chill – Refrigerate meat and poultry within 2 hours of removing it from a heat source.
Source: USDA Pamphlet on Smoked Foods