How do I grill with skill?


Summer is here, and it’s time to fire up the barbecue. If you are a novice griller, here are tips to grill with skill.

When it comes to buying a barbecue, gas or charcoal is a personal choice. Each has advantages, but gas is easier. You don’t need all the bells and whistles, such as infrared burners, unless you intend to make this your career, but a barbecue with at least three burners will serve you well.

There are many gadgets for the grill, but ones that I find indispensable are long-handled tools to make turning the food easier, an excellent brush for cleaning the grates, a basting brush and a thermometer (the Thermapen has served me well). For veggies, a grill pan or griddle is very handy, and All-Clad makes several good ones.

Time to cook? Marinate your meat, poultry or fish outside of the refrigerator for up to an hour. Longer marinating should be done under refrigeration. And let your protein come to room temperature for more even cooking.

Always oil the grill or the food before cooking to prevent sticking, and preheat the barbecue and grill with the lid down for faster cooking. When the lid is closed, the barbecue acts like an oven as well as a grill, cooking foods more quickly.

Tender cuts of beef, lamb and pork are wonderful on the grill and need no embellishment. Meat that is tough should be marinated and only cooked to medium-rare. Chicken is tricky because the skin tends to burn – use medium heat and turn off one of the burners after the chicken is seared. Place the poultry on the turned-off side of the grill, skin-side up, and finish cooking. This is cooking by indirect heat.

Fish on the bone is another winner. The bones help the fish to cook quickly and they make it easier to turn. Best to buy a fish basket or a grill pan with open holes if you barbecue a lot of fish. Always cook fish fillets, such as salmon, with the skin on – the skin helps hold the fish together and can be removed afterward, if desired.

Vegetables should be sliced the same size for even cooking. All vegetables can be grilled, even ones you may not expect. Radicchio, Brussels sprouts and green beans are delicious grilled simply with a little olive oil in a vegetable basket or open-holed grill pan.

And remember to keep an eye on the food in case of flare-ups if the fat catches fire. Keep a spray bottle of water handy to put out the flames.

A final note: A new cookbook from barbecue maestro Steven Raichlen, Project Fire, published by Workman, is an indispensable guide to all things grilled.

Click here for my recipe to grill seasoned cabbage steaks on the barbecue.