Dear Home Ec 101,
I think I’m going to bite the bullet and fire up the grill this weekend. I’m tired of waiting for my spouse to cook something. Do you have any tips for a beginner?
Grilling in Groten
Hands down, the most important tip I have for a noobie grill chef is learn the hand test. What’s the hand test? It’s simply the most useful judge of a grill’s heat known to mankind. Even if you have a snazzy grill with propane and knobs that indicate the level of the flame I’m willing to bet your grill sits outside exposed to destructive elements and possibly more destructive children. I don’t trust the knobs on my grill one bit. Sure it says I’ve turned it to low, but that flame looks more like a medium or on another burner the opposite is true. Aside from that, every grill whether charcoal or propane will have areas that are hotter than others. Use the hand test to become familiar with the zones or settings of your grill. (With a charcoal grill the zones will vary depending on how you spread the coals, a propane grill is fairly consistent).
The Hand Test
|1 – 2 seconds
|3 – 4 seconds
|5 – 7 seconds
|turn up the burner or add more charcoal
OK, now remember this isn’t the time to play hero or prove your man / womanhood. Seriously. We will point and laugh if you hurt yourself by trying to not wimp out holding your hand over a flame. That’s asking to be mocked. Move your hand as soon as it becomes uncomfortably hot.
My other suggestions for successful grilling:
Keep a spray bottle of water handy.
Use this to control flare ups. Remember to squirt the flare ups, not the food.
Know the difference between direct and indirect grilling.
Not every recipe you come across was intended for a grilling novice. Many times the recipes assume the cook has some basic knowledge of how to grill.
Direct grilling is straightforward, you grill over the heat source and is appropriate for many items that benefit from fast cooking: burgers, fish, boneless poultry, vegetables, and of course steaks. Keep the lid down, except when turning.
If you are preparing a cut of meat that is more than 2 inches thick, poultry (with the exception of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs), or roasts indirect grilling is more appropriate. The outside of these items would burn long before the center reached a safe temperature. To grill indirectly on a charcoal grill, mound the charcoal off to one side or in the center. Place the items away from the pile. For a propane grill with multiple burners, turn on one burner but cook over the other. For a small propane grill you may need to place a drip pan under the grate to deflect the heat. When grilling indirectly, it is vital to keep the lid closed as much as possible. Think of it like baking, you wouldn’t open the oven every two minutes to check on a cake, don’t do it to your grill.
Prepare the side dishes in advance.
Just trust me on this one, it’s not fun to monitor the grill for flare ups, while dashing back in the house to stir something on the stove. It’s not my idea of a good time and I inevitably manage to let in flies while going in and out.
Keep the grill clean.
This means cleaning the grill the same days it is used. If it’s hard enough to want to grill, it’s going to be even worse if you have to clean the grill before you use it.
What grilling tips do you have?