First off – In England we call the grill a bbq. So excuse the interchangeable terminology that follows – just know I’m talking about that thing you cook on outside – using either gas or charcoal.
Living in California means the grill is an extension of our kitchens for a huge chunk of the year. But, for some reason, many of us have never really been taught how to use it, so cooking can be a bit hit and miss. Aside from steaks, burgers and sausages, most grills don’t fulfill their potential.
I know that for some reason many of us girls are a little scared by the grill. Or perhaps we’re just happy to delegate some cooking to the boys? If you are nervous of the grill, lean in and learn how to cook on it. It really isn’t that hard.
Remember that grilling is an art not a science. Variables such as weather, thickness of food, starting food temperature and grill temperature will effect how long your food cooks for. You won’t find precise times in my instructions. But don’t let that scare you, I will be teaching you how to see and smell when your food is ready rather than relying on the clock.
Once you’ve understood a few basic principles you will be good to grill.
- Plan your menu in advance to allow you to prep as much as possible before your guests arrive
- Don’t try and do too much – no one needs three types of meat! Just do one or, at most, a couple of options well
- Write a plan of what needs to be cooked, in what order, to ensure you stagger the food (or get it all ready at the same time if that’s what you want)
- Set up your cooking station with all you need before you turn the grill on (including serving platters and any knives etc to chop up cooked foods to serve)
- Buy 2 pairs of long-handled metal tongs and put colored tape around the handle on one pair. That way you always know which tongs have been used for raw food and which have been used for cooked food (without creating a mound of dirty utensils)
Cleaning (the worst bit)
- Make sure the grill is clean before you start, otherwise food with stick and taste of your last meal
- Leave your grill to burn for 10 minutes after removing your cooked food then clean your hot grill with a wire brush or crumpled aluminum foil. Do this again before cooking your next meal
- Wash your grill once a year with hot soapy water
- Work out if your food should be cooked using direct, indirect or combination heat (see below for what these are)
- Don’t flip food more than once when cooking. The more you flip, the more it sticks
- Keep the lid closed to keep the heat in
- Oil food, not the grates, to prevent sticking
- Let the food develop a crust by not moving it, this will stop it sticking too
- Never cook on hotter than 600F
- Take advantage of the heat of the grill by grilling some veggies or extra meat or fish, for dinner tomorrow
- Keep in mind your hot and warm zones on the grill and move food around to control cooking (but only move it when it is due to be turned)
- Always leave meat and chicken to rest for 10 minutes before eating
The Direct Method
Is used primarily for searing foods and for cooking foods that take less than 20 minutes to cook, such as shrimp, steaks, hamburgers and most vegetables. Food is placed directly above the heat source and must be turned once halfway through the cooking time to expose both sides of the food to the heat. The direct method can be done on any grill but works best with the grill lid closed during cooking. Remember: the longer the lid is up, the longer it will take for your food to cook.
The Indirect Method
Is used for larger cuts of meat and other foods that require longer cooking times at lower temperatures such as whole turkey, chicken bone-in pieces, ribs and other roasts. Foods are cooked by reflected heat, as in a regular oven. Typically on foil or wrapped in foil, or a placed in a pan, and not directly above the heat source. This allows faster cooking and juicier meats without having to turn the food. This method can only be used on a grill that is covered.
This is a combination of the two cooking methods. It is used to sear foods over high heat before finishing the cooking process slowly by indirect heat. Place food directly over the heat source until well-seared, generally only a few minutes, and then move it to the area of the grill that is set up for indirect heat, generally the center of the cooking grate, and complete cooking. This method is perfect for chops, steaks, whole tenderloins and bone-in chicken pieces. In fact, I use the combo method for almost all of my cooking and it is the secret to making grilled pizza!
I’ll be posting recipes from the grill all summer but start off with my burger recipe, or my kebab (or kebob) and marinades which are here. My grilled kale and corn salad is a great way to use the grill too.