10 Safe and Simple Grilling Techniques

The start of the summer season means many of us will be taking our kitchens outdoors and enjoying the unique flavors and experiences of cooking on the grill. With these handy tips, you will soon be delighting friends and family with delicious food at your next backyard cookout.

  1. To ensure your grill is at the right temperature, preheat it for 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking. If the grill is heated properly, food is seared on contact, improving the flavor, preventing the food from drying out, and making it less likely to stick.
  2. For charcoal grilling, use additive-free lump charcoal, if you can, as ordinary briquettes may contain stuff like coal dust, sodium nitrate, paraffin or lighter fluid. Lighter fluid can be dangerous, and it also releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can leave a nasty residue on food.
  3. Once the grill is hot, use a long-handled wire grill brush to clean off any burnt residue from other meals. The burnt-on mess is easier to clean when the grill is hot.
  4. Oil the cleaned, hot grill rack with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs. Lean foods are less likely to stick on an oiled grill. (Never use cooking spray on a hot grill.)
  5. Avoid nasty stomach upsets by using separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods. Ensure foods are refrigerated while marinating; and never use the marinating liquid for basting. (To use marinade for basting, make extra or boil it first.)
  6. To ensure your meat is properly cooked; use an instant-read thermometer to check its internal temperature. Safe temperatures range from 145° F for a medium-rare steak to 160° F for burgers and 165° F– 180° F for chicken wings and drumsticks.
  7. A handy way to cook foods that might slip between the wires on the grill rack or that are too awkward to turn individually (vegetables and fish) is with a grill basket. These are available for between $10 and $25 at many retailers.
  8. You can check the temperature of a grill by placing your open palm about 5 inches above the grill rack: If you have to remove your hand within 2 seconds, the grill is hot; 5 seconds is medium; and 10 seconds means the heat is low.
  9. Flames caused by fat dripping onto the gas or charcoal not only make food taste unpleasant, they also create carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that can accumulate on your food. Reduce flare-ups by choosing lean cuts of meat and removing any excess fat and poultry skin. Quench any flare-ups quickly with a squirt bottle of water kept by the grill.
  10. Once your meat is cooked, allow it to rest for 10 minutes on a clean plate with a loose covering of foil. This allows the juices to redistribute evenly, making the food taste better.