Grilling is just one of those skills that, while simple in concept, is easy to miss the little things, and in grilling the little things are what separate an average meal from a great one. Here are the seven biggest changes you can make to improve your grilling and become the master of the backyard barbecue.
Never freeze your meat before cooking it. Freezing your food causes ice crystals to form in the food, which can cut and tear the meat on a microscopic level as they expand during the freezing process. Those micro tears allow the juices of the meat to leak out faster in the cooking process resulting in a dry meat instead of a juicy one.
Quality over quantity.
Use the best quality ingredients you can afford, it’s a lot easier to create something great when you have good materials. (This applies to everything really, try building a home with just composite board and linoleum tiles and your results won’t be as great as if you had access to quality parts). In meat you want to look for good marbling, meaning how the fat is distributed through the meat. You want thin lines of fat distributed throughout the meat. When it comes to meat, fat is flavor. This is what separates a steakhouse dinner from those cheap flank steaks with a texture similar to shoe leather when you overcook them.
Charcoal always wins.
There may be more work than a gas grill but it’s worth it. Charcoal adds a bit of a smoky flavor to the meat that can’t be matched by gas.
Speaking of smoky, adding smoke is a great way to add flavor to your food. There are two main ways to do this and it depends on what you’re making. In the case of either a ground meat (hamburgers for example) or something you are going to marinate overnight use a tablespoon of liquid smoke per pound of meat. You can usually find this in the condiment/marinade aisle of your grocery store.
It’s pretty much exactly what the name implies, a rich smoky flavor in a bottle. For all other meats, pick up some wood chips from the barbecue section. These wood chips are designed to be used in smokers for smoking meats over a long period of time. Soak the wood chips (about 2 cups of them) in water overnight, next make a flat bottomed bowl out of tinfoil and place the wood chips in the foil. Place the tinfoil on the grill with the food and make sure you cook with the lid closed. The wood chips will add a nice light smoky flavor to your food.
Less is not more, well when it comes to seasoning anyways. Using just a little more seasoning can help kick up any dish. Usually you want to use a ½ tsp. of seasonings per side of steaks and chops and a full 2 Tbsps. of seasoning or rub per side for tri-tip and ribs.
Pull the meat off early. You want to remove your food from the grill when it’s about 10 degrees below your target temperature. (You do know what temperature your food should be at right?) Carry over heat from the cooking will allow the food to increase its internal temperature another 10 degrees on average. For example if you want a medium well done steak pull it off the grill when it’s medium, if you wait till it’s medium well on the grill it will be well done and overcooked when you finally serve it.
Just let it rest a bit. You should let your food rest 10 to 15 minutes when you pull it from the grill in order to let the juices settle and the carry over heat to finish the cooking process. Remember that steak house steak we were talking about? It was done cooking about 10 minutes before the waiter brought it to you in a good steakhouse.
So there you have it, the seven golden rules of grilling. Stick to these rules and your food should turn out just fine. Remember grilling is an art not a science, it takes practice to get right and is at its best when you experiment a little and make it your own.