Gas and charcoal each offer a different grilling experience. While some find it easier to grill with gas, charcoal has advantages of its own that you should consider. Whichever you choose, here are a few rules to make sure your grilling experience is a good one. Above all, make sure you follow safety precautions. NEVER grill in an enclosed area. In the event of a grease fire, use baking soda to control it, not water. ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher, bucket of sand or dirt on hand. And be sure your grill is on stable ground before firing it up.
Here are a few more helpful tips:
- Always keep your grill clean. This is essential for good-tasting food and general safety.
- Preheat your grill. Make sure your grill is good and hot before putting anything on the grates, otherwise food will stick.
- Always keep a close eye on what you're grilling. Food can burn quickly, so be on guard and check food frequently.
- Leave an unheated space on the grill. Leave a small space unheated so that you have somewhere to move food if you have a flare-up or if something is cooking too fast.
- Keep the lid off. The lid traps moist heat and smoke, which makes vegetables lose their crunch and take on a “dull, sooty look and taste.” Cook vegetables and fruits at the outer, cooler edges of the grill since they tend to burn more quickly than meat.
- Grease your grates. When grilling low-fat meats and other foods that can stick, apply oil or nonstick cooking spray to the grill grate before placing it on the grill and before the grill is heated. This will make for an easier cleanup later.
- Turning food is essential to even cooking. However, turning too often slows cooking and can result in tough, dry food. Ideally, most fish and meats should be turned only once during cooking time.
- Add spices to your food at least an hour or two before grilling. This marinating time allows the food to absorb the flavors.
- Don't apply sauces prior to grilling. Not only do they tend to drip onto the coals and cause flare-ups, but most also contain sugar, which will burn quickly and give the food a burnt taste.
- Always check for proper doneness with an instant-read thermometer or try using the finger test to ensure your meats on properly cooked. Always use separate platters for cooked and raw foods for proper food safety.