Our nation is turning the big 2-4-2 this year and chances are you’re breaking out the grill to celebrate. Serving as host and pit master at your Independence Day BBQ is a great opportunity to show off your cooking chops. But if you’re not careful, your grilled delicacies can start a revolution of their own. Here are some tips (or reminders) on how to be a grilling force this Fourth.
Brushstrokes: When you set out to create your meaty masterpiece, fancy yourself an artist and start with a clean canvas to work from. Once your grate is sufficiently heated, take a long-handled wire brush and scrub away the gunk clinging to the bars. It’s arguably a very satisfying feeling and will put you in a positive headspace.
Oiling Point: If your grill isn’t oiled down, your food can develop separation anxiety and stick to the bars when it comes time for flipping. To prevent this, just dip a paper towel in canola or vegetable oil, and use tongs to spread the oil-soaked paper towel across the grate, coating evenly.
Rah, Rah, Shish Kabob: If you’re using wooden bamboo skewers for your Shish Kabobs, soak them in warm water for at least a half-hour before placing them on the grill so they don’t burn. Pandas haven’t struggled through endangerment just to watch you mistreat bamboo. For some recipe ideas involving skewers, Food & Wine offers a thorough guide to kabob possibilities.
Pop-up Blocker: Burgers puff up in the middle while cooking on the grill (probably because they can’t contain their excitement). But a lopsided burger means your toppings will have a tough time staying put. You can avoid an uneven burger top by making a small indentation into the raw patty with the back of a spoon.
Magic Fingers: Seasonings help make your meat dishes flavorful and unique. But even though you may be eager to apply that new dry rub you’ve concocted, remember to be gentle while seasoning so as not to damage meat fibers and change the meat’s texture. The cow won’t feel it but your guests might taste it.
We Did Too Start the Fire: Lighter fluid can leave your food with an unsavory finish. A strong alternative when using charcoal is a chimney starter. You simply put some coals in the top portion and light up pieces of newspaper in the bottom portion. Feel free to use whichever news section you’d like, and soon enough your coals will be ready to go.
Flash in the Pan: Not all your food items will sit as comfortably atop the grill bars as a sturdy slab of beef. Vegetables and fish, for example, can be slender enough to slip through the bars like cunning convicts. Like a good warden, keep them in check with a perforated grill pan or a grill basket.
You’re the Director: Kind of like schoolchildren, different meats “grow” at different speeds. That’s while you’ll want to be mindful of direct and indirect heating. Smaller, thinner pieces of meat usually finish the test early, cooking fast over direct heat. Larger pieces, not wanting to burn themselves out, steadily ponder the exam questions and cook slower over indirect heat. But if you’re a good teacher, they’ll all get high marks.
Thanks, ‘Mom: As much as you might enjoy pretending you’re a caveman cooking big cuts of meat over a fire, there’s no shame embracing technology. Using a grill thermometer is widely regarded as the most accurate way of determining doneness and you’ll be able to reassure those pickier guests.
Slumber Party: By now your meat’s been through a lot (that's an akwar sentence), and it’s almost time to serve it up. But before cutting into it just yet, let it rest. This allows the juices to properly redistribute and settle. If you carve it up too early, you’ll be watching those juices escape like cattle from a corral.