The Rules of Grilling

There is something about grilling which brings out the best in foods. Nothing can quite compare to the smoky, toasty and delicately charred taste of foods which are hot off the grill. Whether it is roasted beef steak, pork roast, chicken skewers, grilled fish or vegetable kebobs, grilled foods are certified favorites.

Yet it takes science and skill to grill. The rules of grilling differ for different kinds of food and cuts. Here are some rules to follow in order to come up with grilled foods which have the taste, aroma and texture you love.

1. Learn the two methods of grilling.

There are two methods of grilling, the direct heat and the indirect heat grilling methods. Knowing how each is done and when each or both can be used is basic knowledge one must learn to succeed in grilling.

The direct heat grilling method is done by placing the food item directly over the source of heat.

If using the charcoal grill, the food is placed on the grate directly above the hot coals. If using a gas grill, food is grilled with all the burners set to no lower than medium heat.

This method of grilling applies high heat which creates that lovely charred crust we love about grilled foods.

This method works best for thinner and quick-cooking foods. It may not work for thicker cuts such as pork roast as it may simply burn the surface without cooking the interior portions.

The indirect heat grilling method involves applying indirect heat on the grilled food. It is done by placing the food a little distance away from the source of heat.

If using the charcoal grill, the hot coals are pushed to one side of the grill and placing the food above the emptied side or away from the burning coals. If using a gas grill, only one of the burners is turned on and the food is placed a little distance away from the working burner.

This method of grilling applies low and sustained heat which ensures doneness of even thick cuts of meat. It does not, however, create a toasted crust on the food.

This is then the grilling method to use for thicker and slow-cooking foods.

2. Learn the rules for grilling different kinds of meat.

Grilled foods can either be beef, pork, poultry, fish or vegetables. Each one requires different grilling directions. And within the same meat kind, the directions may further vary depending on the cut.

Beef is the toughest to cook and “doneness” can only be guaranteed by grilling with indirect heat. However, to create that lovely charred crust, beef can first be grilled with direct heat then finished off with indirect heat. Thinner beef meats such as hotdog, hamburger patties, New York Strip and kebobs can be grilled for shorter times while thicker beef such as ribs, rib eye, steak and loins require longer grilling time. Depending on the cut, beef is grilled anywhere from 8 minutes for hotdogs and 90 minutes for sirloin. Beef is considered done or safe to eat when the interior has reached a temperature of 170 degrees F.

Pork is a little bit easier to cook than beef and requires shorter times for grilling. As with beef, pork can be grilled with both direct and indirect heat. Pork can be grilled anywhere from 6 minutes for pork chops to 3 hours for a 12-pound ham. Grilled pork should reach a temperature not lower than 145 degrees F. Thicker pork meats such pork roast should reach 160 degrees F.

Poultry meats are commonly chicken and turkey. Smaller cuts of chicken such as breast and legs can be grilled with indirect heat alone while thicker chicken cuts or whole chicken must be grilled for long with indirect heat. Turkey, whatever the cut, should be grilled with indirect heat. Poultry is grilled anywhere from 5 minutes for chicken breast to 3 hours for whole turkey.

Fish, being easily cooked, is best grilled with direct heat. You will know when fish is cooked by its opaque meat all the way to the interior and its flaky texture when forked.

Vegetables suitable for grilling are eggplant, mushrooms, zucchini, squash, corn, asparagus, red bell peppers and onions. They are so quick-cooking that they’re done in 2 to 3 minutes of direct heat.

3. Learn grilling tips from the pros.

For best results, marinate food before grilling. A good marinade enhances the flavor, texture and aroma of grilled foods.

When making marinade, reserve for basting the meat during grilling. Do not baste meat with used marinade as this can cause contamination with raw meat bacteria.

When grilling with indirect heat, close the lid of the grill to ensure uniform heat.

Use tongs or spatula for flipping foods. Do not use fork as this pierces the food and lets juices escape, reducing moisture and flavor.

Leave some fat on when grilling meats as fat greatly improves the flavor and adds moisture.

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