The weather has finally broken- no more snow (hopefully), and the sunshine is on its way. It’s also time to dust of the grill, take the cover off, and get it ready for some cooking! There are a few things that need to be done before that first steak, or piece of chicken is cooked.
The cooking surface needs to be cleaned first. Light your grill (charcoal or gas) and let it heat up for 30 minutes. When the surface is truly hot, it turns gray. Take a wire brush to the grill and clean the surface until there are no pieces of grit, and the face of the grill is clean. Next, dip a rag in some oil (vegetable or olive oil) and coat the grill. Let the grill cool for a few hours, then remove any soot, or expired charcoals from the shell of the grill. At this point, you can even wash the grill out with a hose to make sure it is completely clean, just make sure it’s completely cool, or the cold water will crack some of the grilling components.
Cooking on the Grill:
Light your grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, add a small amount of charcoal fluid- using too much fluid will make the food taste bad, so be careful. If you’re using a gas grill, simply light it with an extended match, or lighter. Make sure to light your gas grill right after you turn the gas on. If the gas stays on too long, you risk igniting a pool of gas and causing an explosion. Light your charcoal. Make sure that the vents under the grill are open, charcoal needs oxygen to breathe. The charcoal should cook for 20-30 minutes, or until it becomes gray. If there are portions of black on the briquettes, it’s not ready. If you’re using a gas grill, ignite the flame, and let it heat up for approximately 20 minutes. If you have an external temperature gauge, it should read between 350 and 400 degrees. If your grill doesn’t have a temperature gauge, one can be purchased at Home Depot or Lowe’s. Now that the grill is prepared, and pre-heated properly, you’re ready to begin cooking.
Meat, Fish, and Vegetable Preparation:
If you’re cooking a piece of meat or fish, take it out 30 minutes prior to cooking. It’s never a good idea to place cold meat on a hot grill; it can seize up and can become tough while cooking. Coat the meat with a small amount of olive oil, the season with salt and pepper. Next, season the grill. Take a small rag, dip it in oil, and coat the surface of the grill. Take your seasoned meat, and set it on the grill. At this point, you may close the lid/cover. Check the meat every three minutes- DO NOT continually flip, or move the meat. If you’re cooking a piece of protein it should be flipped once. If you want to make diamond grill marks on your meat, simply turn it 60 degrees, and let it cook for an additional 3 minutes on the same side. Make sure the meat is done before moving it from the grill. You can do this by inserting a temperature gauge into the beef/chicken (poultry should be at least 165 degrees), or if you’re experienced, it can be done by touch. An undercooked piece of meat will feel soft in the center; a cooked piece will provide resistance. This will take some time to learn, but it’s the most effective way of determining when to take meat off the grill. One additional point: Let your meat rest for at least 10 minutes. If you cut it before that, all the juices will run out, and it will be dry and lack flavor. For cooking vegetables, simply apply the same methods, but reduce the cooking times significantly. Overdone vegetable are mushy, and can lose their nutritional integrity.
Points to Remember:
- Always cook on a clean grill.
- Make sure the meat you cook isn’t cold when you place it on the grill; it should be closer to room temperature.
- Always season your proteins before cooking. Use a small amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper.
- The grill needs to be pre-heated, then hot enough before the meat is cooked.
- Don’t over-work the meat while it is cooking. Flip it once, and remove it from the grill when it is done cooking.
- Let the meat rest for five minutes before you serve it.
- Don’t overcook your vegetables.
Chef Chuck Kerber