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Tips & Techniques of the BBQ Guru : BBQ Basics

So, you bought the new grill and are rarin’ to go! Let’s start with some basic grilling techniques.

First I would like to define the various heat temperatures, hot, medium and low.

: temperatures above 450º
  Primarily used for searing meats. When we talk about searing, it is not in regards to sealing the juices in. That is nearly impossible on a grill. Instead, searing is the carmelisation of the meat. That is the process that is responsible for that grilled taste.
: temperatures between 300º to 400º
  This is normally what most things are cooked at. First you sear at high temps then you will finish cooking at medium temps.
: temperatures between 225º to 275º
  These low temps are used on larger cuts of meat that are laden with fat that must be rendered. The only way to accomplish this is to cook the meat at low temps for extended periods of time.

Let’s now review the difference between direct and indirect heat. Direct heat means the meat is placed directly over the flames or heat source. Lean cuts of meat will be grilled using the direct heat method. Indirect means that the meat is placed away from the heat source. Indirect heat is used for larger cuts of meat that are not as lean. See the article entitled “Indirect Heat” for a full explanation of how to use these methods.

Next, let’s talk about the various meat temperatures . . . what we call doneness temps. These are always somewhat controversial, simply because everyone likes their meats done a little different. These are the minimum temps I use when finishing meats

: 145º for medium rare. All the bad bugs in beef are killed at this temp. The one exception here is ground beef. That should always be cooked to 160º because of the huge surface area that promotes bacterial formation.
: 165º for white meat, 185º for dark meat. Salmonella is killed at 165º.
: 150º for medium rare. Don’t worry about trichinosis, it is killed at 137º

As I mentioned, these are my minimum temps and if you like your meats done a little more that is fine. Just don’t cook them too much . . . they will dry out.

I strongly suggest a good quality meat thermometer. The new digital instant read thermo’s are very affordable and easily carried around in your pocket. This is essential, especially if you are new to the grilling experience. Once you are comfortable with the time it takes to bring meats to these temps, then the thermo can be replaced by “feel and touch”. 

OK, time to start grillin’!!

Here are my 25 most important tips:

  • Brush food with oil. This will prevent sticking. Olive oil is my choice. Don’t brush the grill, it will burn your brush!
  • For most meats, sear over high heat first, then move to lower heat to finish.
  • Turn often. I don’t care what the “experts” say! Don’t let too much juice accumulate on the top of the meat…you will only lose that juice once you turn it over.
  • When seasoning, larger roasts should be seasoned and then wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight. Smaller cuts of meat should be seasoned 1 - 2 hours prior to cooking.
  • If using a marinade to baste, BOIL it first!

For burgers:

  • Mix the spices (salt, pepper, etc) before forming into patties.
  • Use only ground beef that has at least 20% fat (usually ground chuck). You need it for the juices!
  • Make an indentation in the center of the patty. This will eliminate the “plumping” in the middle.
  • Make 6 ounce patties that are 3/4 inch thick.

For steaks:

  • Use only Choice or better cuts of meat.
  • Trim all surrounding fat.
  • When slicing, cut against the grain.
  • 'Rest' the meat before and after grilling. Allow the meat to come up to room temp prior to grilling. After grilling, let the meat rest for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
  • Salt just prior to grilling . . . too soon and all the juices may be drawn out.

For poultry:

  • Whenever possible, keep the skin on. It will help to keep the meat from drying out.
  • Season all parts of the chicken. Work your fingers up under the skin and apply your rub / seasonings underneath. Then replace the skin. Also, apply rub to the cavity area.
  • As far as flipping, generally, bone-in pieces need not be flipped, while boneless pieces should be flipped half way through cooking.
  • Trim all fat from exterior.
  • Use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking skinless, boneless breasts. 165º is done and that is attained very quickly.
  • Try brining or injecting for dispersing extra flavor and moistness inside the bird. See article on brining.

For seafood:

  • Use fresh when possible, but “fresh-frozen” is just as good and sometimes better than fresh!
  • Fish is done when the flesh turns opaque (this includes shellfish). This is a better indicator than the old test of flakiness. Place a sharp knife between the meat sections and check.
  • When grilling shrimp use the jumbo variety. You are less likely to overcook.
  • Don’t use foil to cook your fish. You need to get that flame broiled taste. There are a couple exceptions . . . sole, dory and flounder are very thin fillets and will need some foil.

Well, this should be a good guide to get you going. Keep in mind, there are always a few exceptions to the tips above. But for starters, these will do!

The BBQ Guru

Kevin Taylor - BBQ GuruKevin Taylor is know as the BBQ Guru on the RecipeGoldmine website for his expertise in the art of the Barbecue and Smoking. Over the last twenty years barbecuing has caught on fast in the UK but for most of us it is still an unexplored form of cuisine - a few chops and some sausages.

With the help of Kevin Hub-UK is hoping to bring to you a series of articles and recipes over the summer which will change your way of life and bring great pleasure to you, your family and friends as you enjoy the long summer evenings.

Kevin Taylor is a regular contributor at RecipeGoldmine - click here to visit the website.