We want you to know that just a few tweaks can turn a typical barbecue into something more than plain hot dogs and hamburgers. We will give you some basic barbecuing tips along with a few ways to spice up your barbecue menu.
Basic Grilling Tips:
- There are two standard types of barbecue grills: gas and charcoal. Both need adequate warming time before you start grilling. Plan to light the coals or gas at least 15 minutes before you start cooking.
- Meat and vegetables will cook best if they are at room temperature before hitting the grill. Be careful though not to leave meats unrefrigerated for longer than 30 minutes.
- You'll want to either brush the grill or your meats and vegetables with oil before you barbecue them to prevent sticking.
- Chicken and seafood are best browned over hot heat and then cooked thoroughly over medium heat. Pork and beef, on the other hand, should be cooked over hot heat.
- To check the temperature of your barbecue: medium coal heat can be detected if you can hold your hand 4 inches above the coals for about 6 to 8 seconds. High coal heat is detected if you can only hold your hand over the coals for 2 to 3 seconds. Most gas grills will have a temperature gage on the lid. Use this gage to cook according to temperatures recommended in recipes or cookbooks for all meats. You can also check the temperature using the hand test. Then, adjust the gas levels accordingly.
- Cook chicken until juices run clear.
- Chicken will barbecue best if you buy it with the skin on; skin keeps the meat moist. If you don't want to eat it, remove the skin after grilling.
- Wait to apply sauces that contain sugar until the last 20 to 30 minutes of grilling. This will keep the meats and sauces from burning.
With just a little bit more added preparation time, your barbecue selection can be that much tastier and more tender. Here are a few of our favorite ways to spice up your typical barbecue menu.
- Make a marinade. Marinades are a great way to infuse your meats with flavor. Add your own favorite spices and flavors to a marinade recipe from a cookbook or Internet site. Pick one with acid (like lemon juice), oil and spices. The acid will tenderize, the oil will keep meats moist and spices will add flavor. If you plan on using leftover marinade as a sauce, be sure to boil it before applying it to cooked meats.
- Add to the top. A plain hamburger can be much more interesting with exciting toppings. For example, make your own guacamole out of mashed avocado mixed with diced tomato and onion, garlic, and some salt.
- Stuff it. All kinds of meat can be stuffed with cheeses, spices, vegetables and more. Try Chef John's Stuffed Burgers recipe or create something similar with your favorite cheese.
- Prepare fresh side dishes. Barbecues are not complete without all of the side dishes that accompany the main event. Pick from the in-season fruits and vegetables that are available during the summer. You can read the Fresh Produce article in this month's features for tips on how to pick what's good.