Go-To Guide: A Grilling Primer

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First of all, let’s get this straight: Grilling is not the same as barbecuing, although the two words are often used interchangeably. In grilling, we’re talking hot, quick, open cooking. Barbecuing is slow, covered cooking. Barbecuing works best with big cuts of meat—briskets, whole pigs and goats, slabs of ribs. Grilling, as you’ll see, works best with everything.

Remember that the meat will continue to cook after it comes off the grill, so pull it off about 5 degrees before the desired temperature. Always start cooking with the presentation side down.

About the Grill

  • Always consult the instructions that come with your particular equipment.
  • Clean your grill with a wire brush before and after cooking on it.
  • Lightly oil your grill before cooking on it.

The Necessary Tools

  • Heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs
  • Long-handled spatula for flipping burgers
  • Long-handled wide spatula for turning fish
  • Heat-resistant glove that covers your forearm
  • Long-handled brush or mop for applying sauce while cooking
  • Metal flue (with a wooden handle) for starting charcoal
  • Long matches or lighter
  • Long-handled wire brush (brass) for cleaning the grill
  • Skewers (metal or wooden skewers that have been soaked in water)
  • Spray bottle with water to help put down flare-ups

Temperature Check
Use a grill thermometer for safe and accurate reading of the temperature of the coals and of your meat while cooking.

Dry Rubs are just that—dry. They can consist of any combination of the following: salt, sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, and lemon pepper, along with other spices such as dry mustard, cumin, sage, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. When applying a rub, add it thoroughly and don’t skimp on the amount. After coating the food, let it absorb the spices anywhere from 30 minutes for fish and shrimp to overnight for large cuts of beef. Large sealable plastic bags or oven roasting bags are good for this process.

Pastes are dry rubs made into a thick paste using liquid or fat. Some base ingredients are stock, lemon juice, oil, fresh herbs, pureed garlic, onions, anchovies, horseradish, or mustard. The paste needs to be thick enough to adhere to the food but thin enough to smear easily.

Marinades are a combination of acid, oil, and seasoning. Some marinades tame an undesirable taste, as a buttermilk soak does for wild game or fish. Mostly they are meant to tenderize and to complement a food’s natural flavor.

The acid could be vinegar, lemon or other citrus juice, milk, yogurt, or wine. The fat is usually oil but could be butter or even bacon drippings. Always prepare a marinade just before you use it and don’t reuse it. If you plan to use a marinade for basting while cooking, first boil the mixture vigorously to kill any harmful bacteria.

Always marinate food in a glass, stainless steel, or plastic container. You can also use large sealable bags or oven bags to marinate foods. Turn the food once or twice during the process to make sure the marinade touches all surfaces. Two cups of marinade will flavor about 2 pounds of meat.

(Check out our tips for quick rubs and marinades!)

After the Fire

Remember that the meat will continue to cook after it comes off the grill, so pull it off about 5 degrees before the desired temperature. For an added burst of flavor, sprinkle with a finishing salt or quick spritz of fresh lemon or lime.