Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top 5 Must-Do Grilling Tips for Your Fourth of July BBQ

By Dru Chai

I love smoking a good rack of spare ribs or a fatty 12-lb brisket, but let's face it -- grilling is a bit easier to do than smoking. It takes a lot less time to set up, the meat isn't as expensive, and it's the perfect way to quickly throw an awesome July 4th backyard BBQ for your friends and family.

No grilling here, all smoking.

With hot dogs and burgers, you get the most bang for your buck -- feeding a large number people at a lower cost. But that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice quality. July 4th is right around the corner, and whether you're in charge of the grill or helping out your buddy's BBQ, here are my top 5 must-do grilling tips:

5. Clean and prep. 
No matter how lazy you might feel, always clean and prep your grates rack prior to cooking. I learned it the hard way. I would go weeks, even months before cleaning my grates -- they were an absolute pain-in-the-ass to clean. But if you make it a HABIT to clean right after grilling, you'll be good to go for the next cookout. Plus, who wants to taste all that nasty crud leftover on the grate?

Get that grill clean and hot before putting any meat on it.

4. Pre-heat and organize.
Always make sure you get the grill pre-heated nice and hot before you put any meat on it. You want to hear that sexy SIZZLE to sear the meat. One common way to find out if you're grill is ready -- put your hand about several inches over the grill. If you can leave your hands on there about 2 seconds, then the fire is high. 5 seconds for medium, and about 10 seconds for a low flame.

Organize and gather everything before you start grilling. Back when I first started, it was mess. I would run in and out of the kitchen, to and from the backyard, grabbing all sorts of tools and ingredients. I would drop stuff all over the place and lose track of what I needed to do. Now, it's more like controlled chaos. I love using a large pan so I can have all of the food ready to go.

Keep things organized -- have everything ready to go on the grill.

3. Leave it and watch it.
Here's a big one. If you can take away anything from this top 5 list, it would be "just leave it alone, dammit!" This applies especially for burgers and steaks. Once you put something on the grill, you want the meat to sear and caramelize on one side. Flip one more time to cook the other side, and you should be done. Ideally, you should only flip ONCE. Bonus tip: don't mash the burger patty on the grill just because you think that gets sear marks. This squeezes out all those precious juices, and you'll be left with a dry patty.

If you're in charge of the grill, don't run off and forget about the meat. You have to always watch it because flare-ups can occur at any time. Anything can burn really quick, even at a split second. So grab that beer before you start grilling -- one trip to the fridge could turn your burger patties into dried-up, black hockey pucks. Don't, just don't.

Surf and turf grilling at its finest.

2. Let it rest.
Letting your meat rest about 5-10 minutes after taking it off the grill will do WONDERS. It's worth the wait, especially for steaks, and yes, even for burgers and hot dogs. It lets all those wonderful juices redistribute within the meat. If you cut it too soon, those juices will start running all over the cutting board and you'll be left with a dry and shriveled up piece of meat. And who wants that? Patience is virtue, and it can certainly be applied to BBQ.

1. Go easy on the sauce.
When it comes to grilling, keep things simple. Lightly oil the meat (as opposed to directly oiling the grate), and put any seasoning on the meat in advance. You don't even need fancy rubs -- simple salt and pepper works great. You want to be able to taste the meat, and not a slathering of over-sweetened BBQ sauce on top. If you do put BBQ sauce when grilling, make sure to put it on towards the end so that it doesn't burn.

Surf & turf grilling -- keeping things healthy and simple!