(BPT) - Can you smell it in the air? Yes, barbecue season is here and that means millions of people are busy cleaning their grills, stocking their freezers, power washing their decks and landscaping their yards — all to make the most of their backyard grilling experience.
Does this sound like you? You’re not alone. According to a study from gourmet grill maker Napoleon, 78 percent of Americans own a grill. This may not come as a surprise considering man has been cooking meat over an open flame for thousands of years. What is surprising, however, is research shows that after all these years, we still haven’t mastered it. In fact, the majority of grill owners consider themselves to be intermediate grillers. This lack of confidence may be based on the fact that most people taught themselves how to grill.
Andrea Alden, Napoleon’s in-house chef and the "Sultana of Sizzle," has the goods on what separates a master griller from the masses. “Grilling is an art form that requires experience, experimentation and personal expression,” Alden says. “But the first step is building a solid foundation of skills so you have the confidence to beef up your techniques.”
Here are her five rules to follow if you want to take your grilling game to the next level:
1. Be prepared.It may be the motto of the Boy Scouts, but according to research, it’s heeded most by women. When it comes to grilling tasks, men are only more likely to handle the actual grilling, while women are more likely to handle everything else. The "everything else" part is important, and it’s the first step to success. That means essential tools like long handled tongs, a chef's spatula, and a strong grill brush should be at the ready. Safety should never be overlooked, so an oven mitt and baking soda should be within easy reach of your grill in case of a grease fire. And last, but never least, the food should be cut, seasoned, marinated and ready to go.
2. Clean up your act.While it’s important to have a clean grill, it doesn’t have to be a full-on chore. Just the simple task of scraping the grids, checking the grease tray, and making sure the sear plates are clear enough to work with should be sufficient. Use a brass-bristle brush to clean stainless steel or porcelain-enameled cooking grates and a steel brush to clean a cast-iron cooking grate. If you do this every time you grill, you can prevent flare ups and your food will definitely taste better and it won’t stick to the grate.
3. Perfect preheating.One of the most common mistakes in grilling is to start cooking when the temperature is too low. When you preheat your grill, be sure to wait at least 15 minutes before throwing on food; and use the temperature gauge to your advantage. A good rule of thumb is to wait until your grill reaches about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This not only loosens encrusted food from the grate, but the high temperature is key for proper searing.
4. Don’t get burned. When it comes to grilling there are two main cooking styles: indirect heat and direct heat. Knowing when and how to use each of these styles is crucial to a perfectly cooked meal. Indirect heat is the process of cooking food away from the heat source. On a gas grill this involves simply turning all burners on except for one or two, and then cooking the food over the space where there is no flame. For charcoal grills, separate the coals to create an empty space and then place the food above it on the grids. This method is best for larger cuts of meat such as turkeys, prime rib and pork shoulders. Direct heat is the process of cooking food directly over the heat source. This method allows you to cook through the food much faster. It works best for thinner cuts of food like hamburgers and chicken breasts. Direct heat is also the technique for searing. To get that perfectly caramelized crust, the higher the heat the better. For instance, Napoleon grills have a signature Sizzle Zone. Its ceramic burner heats to an impressive 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit in just 30 seconds for a restaurant quality sear.
5. Stop stalking your meal:Patience can lead to delicious perfection, so resist the common urge to flip, press and cut your meat. Whether you’re cooking burgers or steaks, flipping them too much won’t make the process go faster. In fact, it will strip the meat of its seasonings — not to mention those awesome grill marks. The same goes for pressing; this releases the precious natural juices that give the meat its flavor. Finally, once you remove the meat from the grill — leave it alone. This allows the juices to settle, so once you do cut into the meat all the mouth-watering juices won’t run out.
For more information, including grilling tips and recipes, visit NapoleonGrills.com.