At its essence, grilling is pretty simple—make a fire, cook food over it. Perhaps that's why those grill-gone-wrong experiences can be so humbling. Alas, we've all had those grilling mishaps with burned burgers, charred chicken and incinerated veggies. But this summer is going to be different! Here is a quick refresher on grilling tips and techniques before BBQ season starts. Check out our Guide to Grilling for lots more tips and tasty recipe ideas.
Preparing to grill:
- Clean your grill, especially the rack, before each use.
- Oil the rack prior to heating to prevent sticking. Keep a spray bottle filled with canola oil handy in case of unexpected sticking.
- Keep in mind that the area of the fire needs to be wider than the area of the food you're grilling. If you are cooking a variety of items using charcoal, pile coals at different levels to achieve the right level of heat for each item.
Fruits & Veggies:
- Use a light brushing of canola oil on vegetables and fruits to help prevent sticking. The use of a non-stick grate or foil packets lightly coated with oil can also be helpful.
- Some veggies (including artichokes, asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash) can be pre-cooked to shorten grilling time and ensure that the inside and outside cook evenly.
- Steam or blanch until just barely tender. Pat dry, brush lightly with oil, then grill until completely tender and lightly browned.
- Ideal grilling fruits are firm and barely ripe. Watermelon, pineapple, apples, peaches and pears can all take the heat. Soak them in liquor or drizzle with honey before grilling for an added burst of flavor.
- Thin pieces of poultry can be cooked over direct heat; larger pieces of chicken should be cooked over indirect heat. Cook whole chickens breast-side down using the indirect method, place a drip pan under the chicken and cook with the lid closed. Open the bottom vents and close the top vents of the grill halfway.
- Chicken that is cooked enough will feel springy when pressed. If you're uncertain, cut into the thickest part of one piece. The meat should still be juicy, but the juices should be clear, never reddish.
- Use direct heat for sausages, chops, steaks and hamburgers.
- Treat larger cuts of pork, like pork shoulder, the way you would larger cuts of beef.
- Start sausage off on high heat to get a really nice char on the outside, then move sausage to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking through.
- Oil fish well with a neutral-flavored oil such as canola to help keep it moist.
- Fish cooks quickly using the direct heat method. Remove it from the grill as soon as it's done; it will continue to cook once it has been removed from the fire.
- Once you put fish on the grill, don't touch it for at least three minutes. A crust needs to form on the outside, which will allow the fish to naturally pull away from the grates. Once the crust has formed, it can be flipped over without sticking or falling apart.
What are some of your favorite grilling tips? We’d love to hear them! Want more tips? Check out our Guide to Grilling.