Here are some tips I have collected over time and from all over (most from my mom and dad) to help you have a better experience. Most are pretty simple and easy to incorporate into your cooking routine.
Have everything you need for grilling - the food, marinade, basting sauce, seasonings, barbecue sauce and equipment ready before you start.
Clean it off!
Take a moment, just before seasoning the meat and give the meat a bath. Gently rinse the meat, poultry or fish and pat dry. This will remove any odors and materials that may have been deposited prior to this point.
Knives are really important pieces of equipment to the backyard barbecue. We recommend going to a knife store or a large department store - if the former is not available - and purchasing several high quality knives for your use in preparing the meat both for cooking and for eating. Here are a few knives you may want to place in your arsenal:
|Butcher Knife - Light and heavy duty||Skinning Knife|
|Fish/Filet Mignon Knife||Chopper|
|Boning Knife||Paring Knife|
|Chef's Slicing Knife||Chef's Knife|
In order to keep knives sharp and in excellent condition. Always hand wash and dry before putting away. When you do put them up, place them into a knife block to protect the blades. And when using a good knife, ALWAYS USE A WOODEN CUTTING BOARD preferably a hard rock maple board. It will not dull the knife and will help make good clean cuts with sharp knives.
I will admit that in my earlier days, there were times I only had two knives in my kitchen, a clean one and a dirty one. :-)
A well-equipped kitchen should include two or more cutting boards. For food safety’s sake, be sure to reserve one cutting board for exclusive use with uncooked meat. Wash in hot, soapy water and disinfect the cutting surface regularly with a mixture of water and bleach
Keep it clean!
There’s nothing less appetizing than cooking on dirty old burnt bits of food stuck to the grate. Besides, the food will stick to a dirty grate. Clean the grate twice: once after you’ve preheated the grill and again when you’ve finished cooking. The first cleaning will remove any bits of food you may have missed after your last grilling session. Use the edge of a metal spatula to scrape off large bits of food, a stiff wire brush to finish scrubbing the grate.
Keep utensils and plates for cooked meat separate from those that you used to prepare it. We'd suggest that you exercise extra care if you are going to bring meat out to the grill in glass baking plates. I've lost a few tri-tips this way when the plate and meat slipped off the side table. Better to use a metal cookie pan covered with tinfoil. It took 2 disasters for me to finally learn this.
Completely defrost all frozen food before tossing it on. Meats and all high risk foods should be kept refrigerated until the BBQ is ready. There is a tendency for barbecues to char food on the outside and leave the inside somewhat raw. Study your instructions and control your heat in order to give meat enough time for "center cooking." Own and use several meat thermometers for your more robust cuts.
Lock it up
Marinate in a large plastic zip-lock bag for easy clean up. Place the marinating bag with marinade and meat in the refrigerator and turn occasionally. Chicken and seafood absorb a marinade better if you score the skin prior to marinating. Never re-use a marinade that has come into contact with raw meat, poultry or seafood. Set aside a portion of the marinade to use for basting and as a dressing over cooked food. Throw out the used marinade immediately to be safe. Chicken and seafood absorb a marinade better if you score the skin prior to marinating.
After meat, poultry and seafood have been marinated in the refrigerator, wait until they return to room temperature before grilling to ensure even cooking.
Keep it lubricated
Oil the grate just before placing the food on top, if necessary (some foods don’t require that the grates be oiled). Spray it with oil (away from the flames), use a folded paper towel soaked in oil, or rub it with a piece of fatty bacon, beef fat, or chicken skin.
TURN, DON’T STAB
The proper way to turn meat on a grill is with tongs or a spatula. Never stab the meat with a carving fork - unless you want to drain the flavor-rich juices onto the coals.
Keep it Moist.
The cooking process that is slow tends to dry out the meats. Using a water smoker, frequent basting with juices or mops, parboiling, and sealing in foils are all ways to retain and add to the moisture in the meats.
When using a dry rub during barbecuing, always allow the meat to cook for approximately 1/3rd to 1/2 of the total time before applying any basting sauce. This cooking time will allow the meat to become warm and start absorbing the dry rub seasonings. It also allows the dry rub to adhere to the meat securely. If you begin to baste too early you will be defeating your process by "washing off" the dry rub seasonings. After this time, you may baste as frequently as you wish (but probably not more often than every 20 minutes)
Make sure that if you are grilling seafood (Specially shellfish!) that you set aside one part of the grill, or a separate grill if sectioned, that will be used exclusively for those items. If your grill has multiple levels, DON'T put these items where they may drip on the meat. Your barbecue is the wrong time for your guest to find out that they or their children have food allergies!
Basting the meat while cooking helps keep it moist and is a great way to add additional flavors. The baste should be applied with either a basting mop or a spray bottle. If you use a spray bottle, the ingredients must be mostly liquids with soluble powders. Don't use a basting brush as it will brush off the dry rub seasonings.
Keep it covered
When cooking larger cuts of meat and poultry, such as a whole chicken, leg of lamb, or prime rib, use the indirect method of grilling or barbecuing. Keep the grill tightly covered and resist the temptation to peek. Every time you lift the lid, you add 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time.
Don't press the burgers!!!
Most of us love nice juicy burgers, mouth water steaks, deliciously moist chicken and tender sweet pork. I know I do. It pains me to see a bored cook using his spatula like a automobile squishier to drive out the juices just to see the grill flare and smoke to show his/her prowess at the controls of the grill. Actually he/she is making a mess of the grill and will only be able to offer dried out meat to eat.
Give it a rest
Beef, steak, chicken - almost anything you grill-will taste better if you let it stand on the cutting board for a few minutes before serving. This allows the meat juices, which have been driven to the center of a roast or steak by the searing heat, to return to the surface. The result is a juicier, tastier piece of meat.
Always barbecue, grill, smoke or roast more than you intend to eat that day! This should be a no-brainer!. Once you have set aside the necessary time to do the cooking, gone to the store for the meat and you're ready to enjoy yourself, why would you consider cooking less than the pit can handle? Barbecue freezes very well and quite often becomes more flavorful as the seasonings and blends are reheated at a later date. Cook, eat, be happy knowing always that you will have enough barbecue in the freezer for those cold, wet and rainy days!
Here are some helpful ways to manage the meat without loosing those wonderful juices:
Whole chicken: Use some sturdy tongs or a carving fork and insert them in the cavity of the chicken to rotate or move it around. There is usually no reason to "flip" it over and cook on the breast side so rotating is sufficient.
Chicken parts: Use the same tongs and grab the bones and not the meat. If this proves too difficult, use a steak hook to grab a tendon near the bone and with one quick flip turn it over. Do not pierce the center of the meat.
Steaks: This is easy. Use a medium or large steak hook to pierce a corner of the meat and gently flip it. You may also use some tongs and grab the sides. Do not grab it in the middle. If you decide to use a spatula, be careful not to scrape off any seasoning.
Ribs: Use either the small steak hook and grab the end bone and flip or use some tongs and grab the bones. Try not to mar the meat by using tongs to grab the middle.
Brisket: Use a couple of spatulas, or insulated gloves. These are so heavy that tongs don't really work.
Pork: This is a much more tender meat and as such steak hooks are impractical. Use tongs if the size is 2-3 pounds. If larger, use a couple of spatulas or insulated gloves. Be tender with it!
Sausage: This is easy. Use tongs. Spatulas offer too much of a balancing act!
Burgers: Use a spatula or combination spatula/tong and be careful not to scrape off the seasonings.
As you can see, I do not recommend using a carving fork to impale the meat allowing the juices flow freely. If you see that you are doing that, give some thought to another means of achieving your goals. Tough, dry meat is not what you want to be remembered for.
Cook Like You Mean It!