Barbecue season is in full swing, and nothing can wreck a grilling session more than dried out and tasteless meat. Even the most seasoned pro can make a few silly mistakes that can lead to an epic failure, charring or otherwise ruining the food.
So before lighting up the charcoal or refilling your propane tank, take a look at these quick tips that will have your friends and family begging you for more, more, more.
How many times have you sat down during a barbecue and taken your first bite of that steak you've been salivating over only to taste, well, not much? Don't put anyone through this travesty. The reason the best chefs' plates taste so delicious is because they put the work in before throwing the food onto the flame.
In other words, it's all about the seasoning. Remember: the high heat of the grill can take the zing out of your seasonings so be very generous with your favorite herbs and spices. Try a garlic, crushed pepper, salt, olive oil and lemon mixture as your base.
The Hot Zone
If you take your food off the grill and the veggies are charred but the chicken is barely cooked, you made the most common of grilling errors: cooking everything at the same temperature.
To avoid such a disaster, you want to create different heat zones. Why? Because meat can withstand higher temps than delicate vegetables. So, pile a generous amount of charcoal on one side of the grill so it forms a slope towards the center. This creates one area that is really hot and other areas for slower-cooking items.
Also, before adding your meat to the grill, make sure that it is at room temperature. Cooking cold meat can cause it to cook unevenly. It's also crucial when you take it off the grill before serving to have it cool to room temperature. This ensures that all those succulent juices stay put.
How to Grill Correctly
- Common Mistake: Opting for the leanest meat possible
- The Fix: Look for packages that read 80 percent meat and 20 percent fat—this extra fat will give you the juiciest bite. Also, use your thumb to indent the center of the patty so that it won't puff up during cooking.
- Common Mistake: Charring
- The Fix: Cook sausages over medium heat for 20 minutes. And never—we mean never!—puncture the casing. That's there to keep those delectable juices in place.
- Common Mistake: Overcooking to the point of dryness
- The Fix: Don't grill your chicken on high heat. Barbecue thighs and legs over medium temperatures. Brush your sauce on when you are almost ready to remove the pieces from the grill, because sauces will burn and taste bitter if put on too early.
- Common Mistake: Leaving lamb chops on for too long
- The Fix: Don't take your eyes off the lamb chops because they cook quickly. Add to the grill and cook each side for about 3 and 1/2 minutes over medium heat.
- Common Mistake: Buying pricey meat.
- The Fix: Strip steak is a good choice because its flavor holds up on the grill and the price won't break you. It has a good fat to meat ratio which keeps it tender and tasty when barbecuing.
- Common Mistake: Adding directly to the grill
- The Fix: Place your fish in a fish basket so that delicious red snapper won't wind up in the coals. If you insist on placing it directly over the heat, choose fish such as swordfish—it's really sturdy and can be placed directly on the grill and has a steak like texture. Mahi Mahi, Tuna and Salmon are also good choices.