Before you start cooking, always preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes to ensure the grill reaches the proper temperature for cooking your food. This is an important step because in addition to ensuring proper temperature and even heat, it will kill any bacteria that may have grown on your grill since you last grilled.
Temperature settings should be around 400 to 450°F for foods that require cooking on high heat, 350 to 400°F for medium high, 300 to 350°F for medium, and 250 to 300°F for low heat. If you do not have a thermometer, you can get a pretty good idea by using the hand test.
Once your grill is up to temp, always use your grill brush to clean the grates (even if you cleaned it after the last grilling). Then oil your hot grill rack with olive oil or other vegetable oil to reduce sticking. Soak a paper towel with the oil and hold it with tongs to safely rub it over the grates.
Buy your meat fresh from a good butcher shop, or get it directly from your supermarket’s meat counter and have it wrapped in paper. Prepackaged meats in plastic wrap end up trapping in moisture.
Before grilling, remove your meats from the refrigerator about 20 minutes or so, in order to bring the meat to room temperature. This will ensure more even cooking.
Before putting your marinated meats on the grill, pat them dry on both sides. When you put wet cuts of meat on a grill, they steam instead of sear. Avoid lifting the lid and turning the meat often. To develop the richest flavors, let the meat develop a fully seared crust before turning them, and don’t turn them more than once or twice at most. If you lift the meat off the hot grates before it has properly seared the outside, the meat will stick to the grates.
Boneless chicken pieces are best grilled quickly over direct heat. Bone-in chicken pieces take longer to cook, so it is better to cook them slowly over indirect heat to avoid burning. Grill bone-in chicken over indirect heat until nearly done, and then finish it for five minutes over direct heat to add some light charring and to caramelize the glaze.
To avoid burgers ending up with rounded tops that are awkward for piling on toppings, press a small indentation into the tops of the raw patties before cooking. When the center of the meat pushes up as the burgers cook, the tops of the burgers will end up being flatter.
When grilling kabobs, the meat and other ingredients will stay juicier longer if they are placed on the skewers close enough that they are touching one another, but not packed on too tightly.
If you use bamboo skewers on the grill frequently, you can save yourself some time by soaking a big batch of skewers all at once for 30 to 60 minutes, drain the water, and then freeze your soaked skewers in a plastic bag. When you are ready to grill again, you can pull out the number of skewers you need.
For cooking ribs, roasts and other large meat items, maintain a low temperature for several hours. Fluctuating temperature levels will dry out and tighten your meat, but cooking over a consistent low temperature will produce softer, more succulent meat.
Glazes, Marinades and Rubs
Glazes for grilling are typically made with honey, maple syrup, molasses or melted jam, and are brushed on during the last few minutes of grilling. Glazing your meats at the end of the grilling will give a glossy sheen to cooked meat and can add subtle flavor.
Wet and dry rubs are blends of spices and other ingredients that you gently rub onto your meats. Dry rubs are made with dry herbs, spices and other ingredients, while wet rubs typically incorporate wet ingredients such as oil, mustard or yogurt. Apply these rubs to the meats up to a few hours before cooking to create a savory crust.
Marinades are typically made with acidic liquids such as lemon juice, vinegar and wine. A good rule of thumb for marinades is to start with a 1:3 ratio of acidity to oil (e.g., 1 cup of fresh juice of lemon or vinegar to 3 cups of oil). The acids will tenderize the food and contribute a tangy flavor to the food, while the oil will provide moisture and richness, and will help marry the flavors of the meat and the other spices and ingredients.
Marinating times should not be too long — usually about 30 minutes to a couple of hours. The smaller the pieces of food, the shorter the marinating time. If you marinate your food too long, you can end up with a mushy texture if there are a lot of natural enzymes in the marinade from certain ingredients like pineapple or papaya, or it can give the food a tough texture if the marinade is highly acidic with citrus or vinegar.
Wherever possible, add smoke! Smoke flavoring can be added by incorporating wood chips or wooden planks into your grilling, or by incorporating Lapsang souchong tea to your marinade or rub.
Remove your food just before it’s done, and allow it to rest uncovered for a few minutes (longer for roasts and other large cuts of meat). The food will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the grill, and giving it time to rest will allow the juices to settle a bit and in the meat, which will make for a juicier, more tender result.
And finally, clean your grill with a wire brush once again while it is still hot, and your grill will be ready to go for next time!