In my house, I’m the unabashed griller of the family. It’s kind of a joke with my friends and neighbors because they think it’s mean to do to my husband. I can understand, since we as a human race decided about a gazillion years ago that men “hunt” and cook over fire and women “gather” and make salads, side dishes, and dessert of course. (Who was in charge of drinks do you think?) But after being forced into grilling for work on a cookbook, I fell in love with it and decided to take over the tongs. And let me tell ya, I don’t think you’ll hear my husband complaining. I grill rain or shine, and will cook anything outside. Veggies, turkey burgers, pizzas (my favorite!), ribs-you name it and I’ll grill it. So if you too have a hankering for taking over the grill, here are my best tips for getting started:
- Start with a clean grill. If it has old food on it, remove the grates and use a natural de-greaser to clean them, then make sure you clean the drip area below as well. (This is great to do at the beginning of every grilling season.) Also, every time I turn on my grill, I scrape it down with a steel brush once it’s hot in order to remove any old food.
- Lightly grease the grill surface before cooking. The best way to do this is to fold a paper towel in quarters so it’s thick, then dab it in a little vegetable oil. Quickly brush the grill grates with it when the grill is hot. (Note: Be careful! The grill needs to be clean and you need to move quickly.) This will prevent your food from sticking to the grill.
- Pat your food dry with paper towels if it has been marinating. Excess liquid drips down and causes flare ups.
- Don’t put sugary sauce on at the beginning of cooking food. Sugar caramelizes and causes flames, so sauces should be brushed on during the last few minutes of cooking over low heat.
- If you’re new to grilling, start by cooking cuts of food with even thickness-they’ll cook quickly and evenly for you. Skirt steak, flank steak, boneless chicken, and sliced veggies are all great ways to start.
- Once you have mastered the above, you can move on to pieces of food like bone-in chicken, double cut pork chops, and foods that require longer cooking. For pieces of meat that need 30-40 minutes to cook through, I always start them on higher heat to crisp them, then I turn down the heat to finish them off so they don’t burn.
- Never cut into meat to see if it’s done. Cutting into meat allows all of the great juices to escape, leaving you with dried out meat. Follow the directions on the recipe for how long it should take, Instead, use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the temp.
Most importantly, don’t be afraid to practice! Buy some cheap veggies and just keep messing around until you start to feel comfortable.
For a delicious recipe to try this weekend, see Grilled Skirt Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce.
Amanda Haas is a cookbook author and founder of the website One Family One Meal, a site that provides free recipes, menu plans, and shopping lists to parents who want to cook healthy meals their entire family will love. Her most recent book project is Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Roasting, Revised Edition, which includes some of her best grilling recipes and an entire chapter on grill “roasting,” one of Amanda's favorite techniques for cooking outside.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.