here are the top grilling questions people as us time and again
frequently asked questions
Which type of grilling is better-charcoal or gas
Grilling with charcoal or gas is up to your taste and desire for convenience. Grilling with charcoal is the traditional approach. Charcoal can add great smoky flavors to the food, and tends to be more inexpensive than gas grilling. The downside of using charcoal is that it takes longer for the grill to get hot, it can be more difficult to control the temperature and clean up is more involved. Propane grills may be a bit more expensive than charcoal grills. But they are more convenient and easy to set up. Heat comes on with a touch of a button and temperature control is as simple as turning a dial. Clean up is quick and easy. Many gas grills cannot achieve the maximum heat levels of a charcoal grill, but the average cook doesn’t need the highest heat. Grill specifications vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so please refer to your grill’s user manual for more information.
What is indirect-heat cooking? What kinds of foods are good for this type of grilling
With indirect-heat cooking, the heat radiates from coals or flames at the sides of the grill, rather than directly under the food. Indirect heat is the best way to cook foods requiring a long, slow cooking time, such as whole fish and larger cuts of meat. Using indirect heat ensures that these foods do not burn or dry out before the inside is cooked. To set up your charcoal grill for indirect-heat cooking, once the coals are hot, push equal amounts between two opposite sides of the grill. Place a disposable aluminum foil pan between the piles of coals. Food is placed on the grill above the pan rather than over the coals, thereby preventing flare-ups. To set up your propane grill for indirect-heat cooking, turn all the burners to high, and close the heat for 10 minutes before using. Then turn the center burner(s) off and place the food in the middle of the grill, not over the heat.
How do I start a charcoal grill
Before you start, examine the grill to ensure that all grill components are properly placed. Be sure that the ash pan is properly attached to the legs underneath the grill. The charcoal grate should be resting inside the bowl to hold the briquets (do not place briquets directly in the bottom of the grill). There are several ways to start a charcoal grill: Charcoal chimney: The charcoal chimney is our recommended way to start a standard kettle grill. Stack briquets inside, on top of two wadded sheets of newspaper or a few pre-treated briquets, then light. You’ll have burning coals ready to use in about 30 minutes. You’ll know that the coals are ready when they’re coated in white ash residue. Remove the chimney and spread the coals. Pre-treated briquets: Stack the briquets in the desired arrangement and light in several places. The embedded lighter fluid will ensure that the coals light relatively quickly. Do not add additional pre-treated briquets to the coals once the fire has started. Be sure to let the lighter fluid burn off the coals before adding food to the grill, about 45 minutes. Lighter fluid: If you use lighter fluid, be sure it’s a product intended for charcoal. Some volatile substances, like gasoline or alcohol, are very dangerous. Don’t pour any liquid lighter fluid on hot coals, even if they seem to have gone out, because the coals could suddenly flare up. Be sure to let the lighter fluid burn off the coals before adding food to the grill, about 45 minutes.
How do I know if the grill is hot enough and ready for cooking
An adequately preheated grill is essential for good results. Preheating ensures that the grill grate is hot enough to sear the food, and can help loosen old debris. Always cover your grill during the preheating process. A charcoal grill will generally be ready about 30 minutes after the coals are lit. A gas grill will be ready after about 15 minutes of preheating. To gauge the temperature of either a gas or charcoal grill, measure the amount of time you can comfortably hold your hand above the fire. Place your hand as close as possible to the grill without touching it. Use caution and care when doing this to prevent accidents and burns. Be sure that sleeves are pulled back, and that nothing flammable will approach the grill—you may want to remove jewelry. Count the number of seconds you can comfortably hold your hand there, being sure to pull your hand away before it hurts. Use the following chart as a guideline for grill temperature: Very hot (you can hold your hand just above grill level only 1 to 2 seconds) Hot (you can hold your hand just above grill level only 2 to 3 seconds) Medium-hot (you can hold your hand just above grill level only 3 to 4 seconds) Medium (you can hold your hand just above grill level only 4 to 5 seconds) Medium-low (you can hold your hand just above grill level only 5 to 6 seconds) Low (you can hold your hand just above grill level 6 to 7 seconds)
How are the vents on the grill supposed to work
With a charcoal grill, air circulation keeps the coals burning. Even the largest pieces of food can be cooked just the way you like, because you control the fire temperature by opening and closing the top and bottom vents. If the food is cooking too fast, lower the heat by closing the vents a bit. To raise the heat, open the vents to let in more air. While preheating the grill, keep the bottom vents open to help start the fire. Many charcoal grills are equipped with a lever that can be pushed to sweep the bottom vents clear of ashes, which should be done occasionally throughout the cooking period. When you’re finished cooking, close the vents completely to snuff out the fire (do not pour water into the grill). With a gas grill, leave the lid closed at all times in order to maintain temperature. Gas grills work best with the lid closed during cooking, so that the heat circulates around the food. Keep in mind that a windy day will make a charcoal grill a bit hotter (because it will oxygenate the coals), while a gas grill will run slightly cooler. Choosing a location that’s sheltered from strong winds can help maintain grill temperature.
Should I keep the lid on or off during grilling
Always cover the grill while it preheats. For gas grills, it is essential to keep the lid on during cooking to maintain the level of heat needed to cook foods. For charcoal grills, follow the instructions for your particular recipe. The general standard is that indirect cooking on a charcoal grill requires a covered grill, while direct heat cooking on a charcoal grill is best with the cover removed.
How can I minimize flare-ups during grilling
Flare-ups occur when splattered grease or fat makes contact with the heat source and sparks into a flame. To prevent flare-ups, make sure your grill is clean before you start—even old grease splatters can cause flare-ups and charring. Make sure you perform the regular maintenance check-ups recommended by your grill’s manufacturer. When cooking meats, trim off as much fat as possible before grilling. This will prevent excess fat from causing flare-ups during grilling. To tame flare-ups on a charcoal grill, keep a spray bottle of water handy and squirt the coals as necessary. If flare-ups occur more frequently than you’d like, temporarily move the food so it’s not directly over the heat. Do not use the spray bottle to contain flare-ups when using a gas grill. Move the food over indirect heat temporarily to avoid further charring. Close the lid and reduce the heat to control the flames.
Why do I need to soak the skewers and cedar planks before using them
Unless wooden skewers and the cedar plank have been thoroughly soaked in water, they may catch fire when they’re on the grill. It is recommended to soak wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes. Cedar planks must be soaked for at least 2 hours before use. Metal skewers don’t need to be soaked.
How many charcoal briquets do I need to start a typical charcoal grill
Using the proper number of briquets is important to ensure that grilled foods are properly cooked. If too few briquets are used, food may not cook evenly. To calculate the necessary number of coals, cover the fire grate with an even layer of charcoal briquets, edges touching—the number of briquets needed to cover the grate is the number you’ll need to get the fire started. If you’re using direct-heat cooking for more than 40 to 50 minutes of cooking time, you will need to add more charcoal. A good rule is to add 5 to 6 briquets every ½ hour to maintain a constant temperature. Place the briquets directly on hot coals, spacing them evenly over the existing fire area. If using indirect heat (coals evenly divided), add 5 to 6 briquets to each side. Never add briquets that have been pretreated with lighter fluid to a fire that is already lit. Use regular, non-treated briquets instead.
Many traditional chicken and turkey recipes call for 180F internal cooking temperature. Your Wine-Steamed Beer Can Chicken and Grilled Herb-Rubbed Turkey Breast recipes are done at 160°F. Will the meat really be done at this lower temperature
According to the Sunset Test Kitchens, turkey or chicken will have different temperatures throughout the body when perfectly cooked: at the breast bone, it will be 160F; in the center of the breast, 170F; and at the thigh joint, 175F to 180F. Where you take the temperature reading is crucial. The most reliable place to take the temperature is all the way through the thickest part of the breast to the bone. All meat continues to cook after you take it off the heat source. Large cuts will continue to cook longer than small cuts of meat. Take this into consideration when you measure doneness.
Why do I need to use an instant-read thermometer? How do you use an instant-read thermometer
Using an instant-read thermometer is the best way to be certain that thick cuts of meat are cooked to the desired doneness in the center. It measures the internal temperature of the meat. To use an instant-read thermometer, consult the directions on the packaging. To measure the temperature, insert the thermometer into the center of the thickest part of the meat. Wait until the thermometer reaches its final reading.
If I am unable to use a thermometer because the cut of meat is too thin, how do I test for doneness
The best way to tell if a thin cut of meat is done is to make a small cut into the middle and do a visual test. Insert a small sharp knife into the center of the meat and spread apart slightly to check the color: Beef (Steaks, Flank Steak, Skirt Steak, Boneless Cubes, Burgers) • red at the center; gradually becomes pink away from the center (Rare) • pink at the center with no blood-red areas (Medium-Rare) • pink at the center; gradually becomes gray-brown toward edges (Medium) • gray-brown with a hint of pink in the center (Medium-Well) • gray-brown without any pinkness at the center (Well) Pork (Chops and Cubes) • opaque with slight pinkish tint Lamb (Chops, Cubes, Burgers) • red at the center; gradually becomes pink away from the center (Rare) • pink at the center with no blood-red areas (Medium-Rare) • pink at the center; gradually becomes gray-brown toward edges (Medium) • gray-brown with a hint of pink in the center (Medium-Well) • gray-brown without any pinkness at the center (Well) Chicken (breast) • no longer pink Fish (Steaks and Fillets) • opaque but moist at the center of the thickest part Shrimp • bright pink outside and opaque inside
How long can raw meat be left out before grilling
Do not leave raw meat out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature. On hot days (more than 90°F), throw away any raw meat that has been left outside for more than 1 hour.
What is the best way to transport raw meats to a tailgate or beach barbecue
Pack raw meats in a cooler with enough ice packs to maintain a chilled temperature. It’s a good idea to use one cooler for raw fruits and veggies and another cooler for raw meats. In addition, be sure to place meat in sealed zip-lock bags to prevent leaking juices that will endanger all of your food.
Is it possible to grill frozen foods
It’s possible to grill frozen foods, but only in particular circumstances. For most cooks, it’s best to thaw foods to room temperature before grilling.
The only food I've ever grilled is a hamburger. Can you recommend a good starter recipe for someone like me
Our Pesto-Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breasts are particularly easy to make; the recipe is designed to keep the chicken moist even if the cooking time isn’t perfect.
Do I need to clean my grill
Most grill manufacturers recommend cleaning your grill after every use. Refer to your grill’s user manual for specific instructions about cleaning your grill. Using the “burn off” method after every grilling session is a good place to start: For a gas grill: turn all burners to “high,” close the lid, and let the grill run for 15 minutes. This will cook off most of the debris on the grill. Afterward, use a long-handled grill brush to scrub the grate while it’s still hot. For a charcoal grill: Scrub the grate with a long-handled grill brush while the grill is still hot. When the grill has cooled, empty the ash pan into a fireproof bag and discard. What are proper cooking temperatures for grilled meat, poultry and fish to make sure they’re safe? Cooking foods to high enough internal temperatures is important to kill harmful bacteria that may cause food-borne illness. Some examples of proper internal temperatures are: 160° F for ground beef, 165° F for poultry parts, and 145° F for fish. Always test foods with a meat thermometer to make sure they’re done. This step not only helps ensure the safety of grilled foods, but enhances flavor, too.
I heard that "cross-contamination" is a common food safety mistake people make when grilling out. What is it and how can I avoid it
“Cross-contamination” of foods occurs when bacteria from raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs transfers to ready-to-eat foods such as cooked meats and fresh fruits and vegetables. Cross-contamination increases the risk for food-borne illness. To help avoid this risk, wash cutting boards, plates and utensils used for raw foods thoroughly with hot, soapy water before using for ready-to-eat foods. Or, keep two sets of tools in your kitchen--one for raw and one for ready-to-eat foods.
Sometimes foods get charred when I grill them. Is this harmful
Charring causes compounds called “heterocyclic amines” (HCAs) to form, which are linked to increased risk of certain cancers. To help avoid this risk, don’t overcook meats or eat blackened areas on food. Also, avoid exposing foods to smoke caused by fat dripping onto coals—smoke may deposit harmful compounds onto foods. To help minimize smoke, trim visible fat from meat and drain off high-fat marinades before cooking.
I like to marinate meat and poultry before grilling them. Is it safe to use the leftover marinade as a sauce for cooked foods
Leftover marinade can contain potentially harmful bacteria from the raw meat or poultry. If you wish to use leftover marinade on cooked foods, the USDA advises to kill bacteria by bringing the marinade to a rolling boil before using it. You also could make a double batch of marinade—use half to marinate the food and the rest as a sauce or dip. Another safety tip: Always marinate foods in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter. Bacteria thrive at room temperature.
What are some tips for safely transporting perishable foods to our picnic site
Pack perishables in a well-insulated cooler with lots of ice or frozen gel packs to keep the temperature below 40° F. Put foods you’ll use first on top and pack perishables and drinks in separate coolers. Transport the cooler inside your air-conditioned vehicle, not the hot trunk. Once you arrive, keep the cooler in the shade or shelter and open it as little as possible to keep cold air in.