Learning how to grill will change the way you cook food in the summers. It may seem daunting, but if you follow these steps and grilling tips, you will be able to cook some incredible, unforgettable meals.
I'm excited to kick off what I'm calling Grilling Month on the blog! All throughout April, I'm celebrating my favorite kitchen tool on the blog. Look forward to lots of recipes you can make this summer, plus lots of tips and tricks.
You may be thinking that grilling season is summertime, so April may seem like a weird choice. However, living in Arizona, I have come to love grilling in the spring and fall especially. At the height of the summer, it's way too hot to be barbecuing!
Plus, I just want you to get excited about using your grill. Whether you're just getting back into it or are a total newbie, don't let
Grilling season will vary depending on the weather where you live. When it's warm enough to be outside without a jacket, it's warm enough to get out those tongs!
Why I love to grill
Grilling may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. My husband used to grill most of the time, but ever since he taught me the basics of how to grill, I have fallen in love with it. Now, I do most of the grilling in our family!
I love it for SO many reasons! Let me count the ways...
- Grilling is a quick and easy way to prepare a meal. It's more hands-off than you think.
- You can prepare food for a lot of people at once. It's great for parties and small meals alike.
- It helps me spend more time outside with my family. I can keep an eye on my kids playing while I tend to the food. (Plus, I get sunshine too!)
- You can cook meat, pizza, veggies, and even fruits (like pineapple) and desserts on the grill. Once you know the basics, you can cook anything.
Essential grill tools
Truthfully, you don't need more than a good pair of tongs and a grill that works. Whether it's charcoal, pellet or gas is up to you.
However, if you're willing to invest in a few tools, you're setting yourself up for grilling success. Here's what I recommend:
- No-stick spray: Weber Grill Spray is the perfect spray to coat the grates and makes it easy to clean.
- A meat thermometer: Any meat thermometer will work. We have a simple handheld meat thermometer, but I've been eyeing the wireless, Bluetooth thermometers.
- A grill brush: A good-quality grill brush will help you clean off any burnt-on residue without scratching the grates.
- Kitchen shears: I don't go a day in my kitchen without using my kitchen scissors, and that goes for grilling too. They are handy for snipping off fatty parts of meat.
- Utensils: A great pair of tongs and a turner will go a long way in helping you flip anything you cook, from burgers to chicken wings to corn on the cob.
- Grill basket: Use a metal basket for kebabs, veggies like carrots or cut squash or small cuts of meat that might fall through the grill grates.
Grilling Tips: How to Grill
1. Always start with a clean grill.
A clean grill is the key to great-tasting food. You don't want last night's fish to flavor tonight's filet mignons! Use a sturdy grill brush with metal bristles to help you scrape off any caked-on bits. This will be much easier when the grill is hot, so do it after you cook or just before.
2. Avoid putting cold food on the grill.
To help your meat cook more evenly, place your meat on the counter about 30 minutes before cooking it to let it come to room temperature.
If you are marinating your meat, make sure it stays in the fridge to marinate, then bring it to temperature before cooking. (I can't recommend these marinated pork chops enough!)
3. Preheat your grill.
Preheating is just as important as preheating your oven when baking. Before you put anything down on the grates, make sure your grill is thoroughly warmed up. However don't just turn your gas grill to high and walk away. Turn the knobs to medium low to make sure you don't have a way overheated grill.
This helps your grill to be able to sear foods properly and it keeps food from sticking to the grate. Win-win.
4. Don't use lighter fluid.
Please, please, please don't use these chemicals to light your fire. It will make your food taste like lighter fluid, and no one wants that! Try a non-toxic lighter cube instead.
5. Resist the urge to flip and move.
Moving the food around too much is bad news. When you move a piece of meat too much, it doesn't cook as evenly and takes longer to cook. A general rule is to flip each piece of meat only once!
If a piece of meat is stuck, leave it alone. It will naturally unstick itself with a little more time on the grill and will then be ready for flipping.
6. Use a meat thermometer.
A meat thermometer will save you more than when using the grill! I use mine for stovetop and oven cooking as well. (It's a lifesaver for these pan-seared chicken thighs that are cooked on the stove or a Thanksgiving turkey!)
Why do you need a meat thermometer? It is very hard to tell if a piece of meat is cooked just by looking at the outside. If you don't have one, you'll need to cut the meat to see if it's cooked through, and then you'll have a slice through your meat which will look odd for serving.
Check frequently so as to avoid overcooking your food as well as undercooking it.
When checking the internal temperature of anything with a bone, be sure to put the thermometer into the meat near the bone to get an accurate temperature.
7. Keep the lid closed.
When you're grilling, it's important to keep the lid on as much as possible. Doing this keeps the grates hot and speeds up cooking times. Keeping the lid down also traps smoke, infusing the smoky flavor of vaporized fats and juices back into your food.
Most importantly, the lid limits how much oxygen can enter the grill, which keeps flare-ups from getting bigger than necessary. Too many flames can char your food, and not in a good way.
If you see flames, put the lid down to trap the oxygen and prevent the fire from growing bigger. If the flames get out of control, move the food over indirect heat until the fire dies down. You can also keep a spray bottle filled with water on hand to tame any flare-ups.
8. Where you place your food matters.
With a grill, you can use direct heat or indirect heat. Find direct heat right over the flame, which will sear the food beautifully. Indirect heat cooks food on the unlit portion.
If you have three burners to work with, it's helpful to place smaller cuts on the outside of the grill, leaving the larger ones in the middle to help them cook evenly. Be sure to check smaller pieces a few minutes early as they may cook faster.
9. Undercook just slightly.
It's true — your food will keep cooking once it has left the heat. In fact, it is likely to go up about five degrees once removed from the grill.
Plan accordingly, and keep your meat thermometer on hand.
10. Let meat rest.
After coming off the grill, let all meat rest undisturbed and unsliced, 5 minutes for small cuts and up to 15 minutes for the largest cuts. Resting allows the juices to redistribute, giving you the juiciest results.
Favorite Grilled Recipes
Once you know how to grill, the door is wide open for you to learn tons of dishes. Here are a few favorites:
Chili cilantro lime chicken is a staple at my house, whether it's on tacos or on its own with some good sides.
These sweet potato turkey burgers are another year-round favorite, and everyone can go to town with their favorite toppings.
For a delicious side, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus are always a hit. Who can say no to proscuitto?!