50 Quick Tips for BarBQ Success

Entertaining

• Expecting vegetarians? Cook meat and vegetables on separate skewers, so guests who don't want meat can pick up a stick of veggies.

• Kebab party! Place meat and veggies in separate bowls and let guests assemble their own skewers.

• Take it easy. When grilling for a crowd, plan for make-ahead sides and desserts. Or ask guests to bring their favorite potluck dishes.

• Not sure about the weather? Consider kebabs. If you have to move the party inside, you can broil them in the same time it takes to grill.

Food Preparation

• Be careful not to overmix ground meat — doing so will make burger patties too dense.

• Use a light hand when shaping your burgers so they don't become too compacted

• To keep meat from sticking to you as you form burger patties, work with damp hands.

• Resist the urge to press burgers with a spatula as they cook — you'll press away flavorful juices.

• Freeze uncooked burgers in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag for up to 3 months; place between sheets of wax paper so they'll be easier to pry apart.

• When grilling meat kebabs, cut meat into similarly sized pieces to ensure even cooking. Pounding chicken to an even thickness helps it cook quickly and evenly.

• Soak wooden skewers in water for 15 to 30 minutes so they won't burn on the grill.

• No amount of seasoning will change the essential quality of the ingredients you grill, so use fresh vegetables and the best cuts of meat and fish.

• Wash hands thoroughly with hot soapy water before and after handling raw seafood, meat, and poultry.

• The most effective way to apply rubs is to place the mixture in a zip-top bag, then put the food inside and shake.

• You can store unused marinade in the fridge in an airtight container for up to a week.

• A heavy, zip-top plastic bag is ideal for marinating food. Always marinate in the refrigerator.

• Know in advance how long you expect to grill the food and set a timer to alert you to check it.

• Take marinated meats out of the fridge and let stand at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes before grilling to avoid ending up with a cold center.

• Add salt after the food has been cooked; otherwise, it will dry the meat.

Grill Preparation

• Before you place the rack on the grill, always coat it with cooking spray so the food has less chance of sticking.

• As a general rule, give your grill 10 to 15 minutes to heat up properly.

• Check for gas leaks by mixing a little dish detergent with water, brushing it onto all connection joints, and then turning on the gas and looking for bubbles.

• Always make sure before you start that the cooking grate is hot, lightly oiled, and clean.

• Preheat the grate with the cover down, coat it with cooking spray right before you cook, and then scrape it clean with a wire brush before it cools.

• For charcoal grills, use chimney-type starters to help coals heat quickly with a match and a few pieces of newspaper.

• Check the tank on your gas grill each week. You don't want to run out of fuel mid-cookout.

• Prevent flare-ups by maintaining a clean grate, trimming excess fat from meat, and keeping oil in marinades to the minimum needed.

• Natural lump charcoal lights quickly and burns cleanly, without producing the acrid smoke you get with briquettes.

• If you have a self-cleaning oven, use it to kill two birds with one stone. Put dirty grill racks in the oven before you clean it.

• Clean the grate with a wire brush after every use. A hot grate is easier to scrape than a cold one.

Cooking
• Use medium fire for seafood and vegetables, more intense fire for meats.

• As a rule, cover the grill when doing slow, indirect grilling with large pieces of food.

• Start cooking with a clean, hot surface. Preheat the grill before adding food to ensure even cooking and to reduce sticking.

• Leave the grill uncovered when doing fast or direct grilling with smaller items that cook quickly.

• Make sure your food is ready to grill when the coals are. If you wait too long and the coals have cooled, fuel the fire by adding more briquets.

• To avoid overcooking seafood, go with a medium-hot fire rather than a really hot one.

• Test a fish's flakiness by making a small cut in the flesh. Done fish is firm to the touch and opaque; undercooked fish appears shiny and semitranslucent.

• Avoid moving food around the grate until it has had time to sear. This will prevent sticking and help create the grilled "crust."

• Food shouldn't burn. When dripping fat produces a leaping flame in one spot, move food to a different area, at least temporarily.

• For bold seasoning, use dry-rub spice blends rather than marinades. Go light on sugar in homemade rubs. For a less assertive touch, try salt and pepper alone.

• With steaks and chops, it's OK to make a small cut and peek inside just before you're ready to serve. Alternatively, use an instant-read meat thermometer.

• Cook whole fish, fish steaks, or fillets in a grill basket to ease turning. Coat the hinged wire basket with cooking spray before placing the seafood inside.

• To prevent burning wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before preparing.

Gear

• Use pastry or basting brushes made of natural bristles (not nylon) for dabbing on marinades and sauces.

• Don't use a fork for grilling, since puncturing the food will release its juices.

• Long-handled tongs and spatulas are wonderful for turning hot foods.

• Grilling goes quickly, so it's important to have everything you need — from seasonings to tools — in place and handy before you begin.

• Grilling in the dark? Use a flashlight instead of a brighter outdoor fixture to cut down on bugs near the grill.

• When turning chops, chicken breasts, and the like, use tongs rather than a meat fork, which pierces the food and lets juices escape.

• Always place grilled foods on a clean platter or cutting board.

• Keep a spray bottle full of water handy to extinguish flare-ups that can char your food.

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