Today is Memorial Day, and whether it’s at home or with friends, the vast majority of Americans will celebrate with a cookout. Here are some quick grilling tips to ensure you’ll do your grilling right:
- Make sure your grill is clean. If you’ve been good and cleaned your grill before putting it away for the winter, just be sure to wipe off any dust or sediment that may have accumulated over the past few months using a damp cloth. And always remember to clean your grate with a wire brush after every time you grill, and give it a quick once-over with the wire brush just before grilling. If your grill has been sitting dormant for the last 6+ months and requires a true deep cleaning, follow the steps below.
- For gas grills: Make sure the gas valve is shut off and use a wire brush to remove any bits of cooked-on food, then clean the grate with a cloth full of warm, soapy water. “Rinse” it off using another cloth saturated with only water, then dry it off. Next, remove the burner cover and clean that with warm soapy water. Remove any caked-on stuff with a wire brush. Finally, inspect the burners for any clogs. If they’re removable, take them out to inspect them before you put them back in. Give everything a good wipe-down with a damp cloth, then dry them off and reassemble your grill.
- For charcoal grills: remove and clean your grate with a wire brush, and either scoop out or dump out any ash sitting underneath the grill. If your grill has a bottom grate to catch any ash, take it out and tap out as much ash as you can. Clean everything with warm soapy water, then rinse off the soap and wipe everything dry.
- Make sure your grill is hot. There’s nothing worse than throwing delicious stuff onto the grill only to realize your grate isn’t hot enough. That’s a surefire way to ensure you’ll have things stick to the grates. If using a gas grill, preheat for at least 15 minutes before cooking. If using charcoal, at least 20 minutes or more, and wait until your briquettes or hardwood coals are nice and orange and have a light layer of ash on them.
- Make sure your grill is oiled. This is one step most people skip, and it’s probably the most important step of all to prevent sticking. Before you put anything on the grill, use a pair of tongs and dip a folded-up paper towel into a bowl filled with about 1/4 cup cooking oil. It’s best to use oil with a high smoke point such as vegetable oil. Saturate the paper towel and then rub it over your preheated grill with the tongs just before you start grilling. This creates a layer of oil that not only prevents sticking, but develops a patina on your grate which “seasons” it, making future grilling sessions much easier. Regardless of whether you have a well-seasoned grate or not, you still need to oil it each time you grill.
- Don’t move things around too much. Whether you’re grilling meat or vegetables, one certain way to ensure things stick is to move them around a lot. Once you place things on the grill, don’t move them around until it’s time to turn. This way, you’ll great grill marks. The one exception is for steaks and burgers and other kinds of meat if you want a beautiful crosshatch pattern. To do this, place the meat at a 45 degree angle facing one direction, then after a few minutes, move them with the same side facing down at a 45 degree angle the other direction. When you flip to the other side, follow the same steps.
- Rest your meat before slicing. Whatever kind of meat you’ve grilled, always let it rest before slicing. For individual portions of meat, rest for 5 minutes. For larger things like whole chickens, whole pork loin, etc. I recommend resting 10-15 minutes. During cooking, the heat of the grill sends the juices of the meat toward the center. Letting the meat rest after grilling allows the juices to redistribute thoroughly. Have you ever cut into a piece of meat that’s come right off the grill, only to watch it “bleed out” all over your plate? That’s because it didn’t have time to rest. You want those juices in your meat, not all over your plate (or your clothes.)
There are other tips for successful grilling, but the ones above are my top choices for anybody. Now get out there and grill!