10 grilling tips (and a shrimp cocktail recipe to use them)
This time of year, everyone asks me how they can become a better griller. It all comes down to the following 10 tips, the most important of which is knowing the difference between direct and indirect cooking.
Once you understand when to use indirect heat, you'll embrace it. I use indirect heat at least 80% of the time I use my grill.
A quick definition of the two major grilling methods:
Direct grilling means you put the food directly over the heat source -- similar to broiling in your oven.
Indirect grilling means the heat is on either side of the food, and the burners are turned off underneath the food -- similar to roasting and baking.
My general rule:
• If the food takes less than 20 minutes to cook, use the direct method -- think shrimp, asparagus, summer squash, mushrooms, burgers, hot dogs, steaks, etc.
• If the food takes more than 20 minutes to cook, use the indirect method -- think beer-can chicken, chicken pieces, flank steak, ribs, pork butts, delicate fish, potatoes, onions, hard squash, etc.
Once you've mastered cooking by direct and indirect heat, you are ready for the COMBO method. It's as simple as searing the food over direct heat and then finishing (cooking) over indirect heat. This technique works well for everything from chops and steaks to whole tenderloins and even slices of denser vegetables such as sweet potatoes and fennel.
It's the outdoor-grill version of the way most restaurants chefs cook almost everything -- searing on the stovetop and finishing the dish in the oven.
My 10 tips:
1. Know the difference between the direct and indirect grilling methods and when to use them.
2. Always preheat your gas grill with all burners on high, or wait until charcoal briquettes are covered with a gray ash.
3. Oil the food, not the grates! I like using olive or grapeseed oil, and coat the food before seasoning it. This keeps the food juicy, promotes great grill marks and helps prevent sticking.
4. Cook with the lid down -- it reduces cooking time.
5. You don't need super high heat. Most foods grill best between 350-500 degrees. Any temperature above that is a searing temperature only.
6. Clean the grill grates twice every cookout with a grill cleaning brush. This is easy to do after you preheat the grill and before you put the food on it; and after you cook. The grates are easier to clean when they are hot.
7. Use an instant-read meat or grill thermometer to make sure your food is perfectly cooked.
8. Flip only once halfway through the cooking time -- this goes for burgers too!
9. Brush with BBQ sauce only during the final 10-15 minutes of cooking.
10. Always let your food rest before cutting into it.
To get the hang of direct grilling, try my quick and easy "Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with Bloody Mary Cocktail Sauce."
• Elizabeth Karmel is a grilling, barbecue and Southern foods expert, and the author of four cookbooks, including "Steak and Cake." She has recipes on her newsletter, visit https://whats4dinner.substack.com to subscribe or visit her at www.elizabethkarmel.com.