Cooking outdoors is a pleasurable activity and creates tasty dishes. Since the term barbecuing is often used interchangeably with grilling, many people regard the activities to be one and the same. However, experts say that they are different techniques. Per Food Fire Friends, grilling involves small foods that are cooked hot and fast, generally over high heat, with no smoke. Often there is no lid involved in the cooking process. On the contrary, barbecuing involves typically larger cuts that are cooked low and slow and with the lid on. And often there is smoke involved. Regardless of the terminology, now that warmer weather is on its way for many parts of the country, more people are firing up their grills to cook outdoors. Enjoy these great tips and tricks to make grilling and barbecuing foods easier:
For a charcoal grill:
Question: I am new to tailgating. I do not like to fuss. How can I make my charcoal grilling experience easy? Tip: Try using easy-to-light charcoal that has lighter fluid added directly to the briquettes. This is ideal for on-the-go grilling.
Question: I don’t have a charcoal grill chimney starter. When I lay the charcoal out flat and light it, the fire doesn’t spread. Tip: Try piling the charcoal into a pyramid shape before lighting the fire. This will increase contact and help the fire spread once lit. You may consider purchasing a chimney starter as they light up to 100 charcoal briquettes and get them hot using a match and single sheet of newspaper, without the need for lighter fluid.
Question: I’ve read that lump charcoal is better than briquettes. If so, why? Tip: If using products with additives is of concern, lump charcoal is the way to go. Charcoal is made by burning wood in the absence of oxygen, and lump charcoal is the product of that, and it’s in its natural form. Lump charcoal lights fast, burns hot, and is responsive to oxygen. However, briquettes are often preferred since they are less expensive, are easily available, provide a stable burn, and hold steady temperature longer.
For the gas grill:
Question: I regularly run out of propane for my gas grill. What should I do? Tip: Pay attention to your gauge range that indicates the percentage of how much your tank is filled. Understand this is not how many gallons you have left inside the tank. If you don’t have a fuel gauge, these additional guidelines can help: a) Know that the average tank has about 20 hours of running time and keep track b) Test your tank by turning off the gas, disconnecting your tank, and resting it on level ground. Pour a glass of warm water down the side of the tank. Then do the touch test. Where it feels cool to the touch indicates how high your propane is inside the tank. Where the tank feels warmer is where it’s empty. c) Keep a backup tank on hand so you’ll never run out.
Question: I like to cook fish, but it always sticks to the grill. Ugh! Tip: Fish does tend to stick to the grill. Rather than cook it directly on the grate, consider using a cedar plank or cook it on a grill-safe rack on top of a bed of lemons so that you can flip, handle, and remove your fish more easily.
Question: I need to clean my gas grill. Any helpful suggestions? Tip: It’s a good idea to regularly clean your grill after each use and empty the drip pan, too. Simply heat the grill on high for at least 15 minutes. This serves to carbonize food fragments. While it’s hot, scrape off food remnants using a metal or wood scraper. If you are using a grill brush, use only those in good condition to prevent bristles from fragmenting. Finish by seasoning the grates with a paper towel soaked in canola oil and apply carefully using tongs. Doing this will not only prevent rusting of the grates, but it will also keep foods from sticking the next time you use the grill.
Whether using a charcoal or gas grill, or grilling or barbecuing, it is a fun and delicious way to prepare food. To maximize your safety and the welfare of others near you, thoroughly read operational and safety directions that come with your grill, exercise caution near flames, and never leave your grill unattended. Happy outdoor cooking!