Grilling 101

May is National Barbecue Month—time to get your grill on. Whether you’re a rookie or a veteran who just needs a refresher course, consider these grilling guidelines when you fire up this season. They may keep you from getting raked over the coals (badum chh).


Keep it hot. Preheat your grill, otherwise your food will stick. The Cook’s Illustrated Guide to Grilling and Barbecue says that when your grill is ready, you will be able to hold your hand five inches above the grate for two seconds if the fire is “hot” and three to four seconds if the fire is “medium-hot.” (A little oil on your grates will help prevent sticking as well.)

Apply barbecue sauce later.If you brush on sauces at the beginning of cooking, they may burn by the time the food is done. Wait until the last few minutes to apply them and you’ll get a nice glaze instead of a black, charred mess. If you marinate your meat, be sure you keep it refrigerated the whole time. The longer it marinates, the more flavor the meat will retain.

Test for doneness. The best way to tell if your meat is done is to cut it—just be sure to cut into the thickest part of the meat. Depending on how much it bleeds, you can determine your preference of doneness. If you don’t want to serve a steak with a big slash in it, serve that side plate down.

The drawback of cutting is that you risk loosing precious juices, so if you prefer, you can also use a digital probe thermometer. The digital thermometer gives provides an accurate measure, plus you can set it beep at you when the meat has reached your desired temperature.

With poultry, always be sure it’s cooked through—“rare” chicken or turkey is never healthy. Save $1.00 on Butterball frozen turkey burgers now.

And while chicken, burgers and steaks are often the center of attention, adding some veggies to the menu could infuse an element of “healthy” into your backyard barbecue menu. Here are a few tips for grilling veggies.

Prepare your grill. Veggies don’t behave the same way on the grill as meat—they don’t have the same natural juices and fat. Be sure to prepare your grill to prevent them from sticking to the grates.

Choose the right veggies. Some of the vegetables that cook best on a grill include asparagus, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, corn on the cob (either with or without the husk) and mushrooms, especially portobello.

Add flavor. Sprinkle grilled vegetables with fresh herbs. Small vegetables like cherry tomatoes or sliced veggies work best threaded through kabobs. You can also wrap vegetables in heavy-duty foil, though cooking in foil cuts back on that appealing smoky flavor.