This weekend marks what we often think of as the official start of the summer barbeque season. Generally speaking, this is the time when Dad gets to shine. Mom will prepare the salads, side dishes and dessert, but often it’s Dad who is King of the grill. Just appointing yourself King of the grill, however, is not the same as being a good grill master. There is a real science to cooking meals on the grill and making sure that they are cooked to the proper temperature and not charred to the point where they are indistinguishable from the charcoal used to cook them.
There are two basic grill cooking methods regardless of whether you are working on a $19 camping grill or a $2,000 stainless steel six burner outdoor grill: direct and indirect heat. The easiest to master is the direct grilling method, which is used to cook foods that take less than 30 minutes, and involves cooking directly over the coals. These are the meats that a weekend warrior is most familiar with preparing, like vegetables, boneless chicken, steaks, kebabs, fish fillets, brats, grilled sausage, hamburgers, and hot dogs. For even cooking, food should be turned once halfway through the grilling time. Direct cooking is also necessary to sear meats. Searing creates a wonderfully crisp, caramelized texture where the food is in contact with the grate. It also adds nice grill marks and flavor to the entire surface. Steaks, chops, chicken pieces, and larger cuts of meat all benefit from searing.
When preparing meats or foods that will take more than 30 minutes to cook, the indirect heat method is preferred. Unlike the direct grilling method, you don’t want the flame to be directly beneath the food. Instead, the food being prepared is set off to the side of the heat source or above a drip pan; as the heat rises and is reflected off the inner surfaces of the grill, the food will cook slowly and evenly. (Because the heat is constantly circulating, you won’t need to turn anything.) The indirect heat method works best for roasts, ribs, whole chickens, turkeys, and other large cuts of meat, as well as delicate fish fillets. Depending on your heat source, e.g., charcoal or gas, there are steps that you need to take to properly control the temperature while cooking.
Indirect heat with charcoal
When using charcoal for an indirect heat source:
- Bank charcoal briquets on one or both sides of a drip pan on the lower grid.
- Place food on the grill, centered over a drip pan.
- Close the grill lid to contain heat and seal in smoky flavor.
- Add water, apple juice or other flavored liquids to the drip pan to provide extra moistness and flavor to food, if desired. This will also help prevent the meat drippings from flaring up and scorching your dinner.
Use approximately 25 briquets on each side of the drip pan for the first hour of cooking time. After each additional hour, add 8 new briquets to the outside edges on either side. Move them to the center when they’re ashed over.
Indirect heat using a gas grill
To grill by the Indirect Method on a gas grill, preheat the grill with all burners on High, then adjust the burners on each side of the food to the temperature noted in the recipe and turn off the burner(s) directly below the food. To help with heat circulation and to provide a more even heat source throughout the grill, place the poultry or meat cut on a meat rack and set that inside a heavy-gauge foil pan. Adding water to the foil pan will keep your drippings from burning.
OK, are you ready to get started? As you page through this week’s Memorial Day ad, you'll notice that there are many items on sale that would be great cooked on your grill...
- Sea bass
- Cod filets
Meat & Deli
- Bobak’s and Greenridge sausages
- Angelo Caputo’s Homemade Italian sausage
- Our homemade beef, pork or chicken shish kebabs
- Perdue & Miller’s Amish Farm chickens
- Strauss veal and lamb
- Angus beef rib eye and strip steaks and roasts
- USDA Choice t-bone, porterhouse and strip steaks
- Center cut loin and rib pork chops
- Pork country ribs
- USDA ground chuck patties
- Bar-S franks
- Monterey fresh portabella mushrooms
- Sweet corn
Go ahead, you are the king of the grill! Enjoy this holiday weekend and please, let’s not forget what it is we are celebrating. Let’s all be grateful and say thank you to every brave veteran and active service man and woman we meet. Their sacrifice and the truths and freedoms that they fought to protect and preserve are what make the USA the great nation that it is, our beloved homeland.