Soaring temperatures offer an excuse to bring mealtime out of the kitchen and into the backyard. With summer in full swing, decks and patios across the country fill with family and friends as well as the smoke, sizzle and aroma of grilled steaks, burgers, hot dogs and more. Take note of these simple tips to get the most out of this summer grilling season.
- Defrost meats and poultry in the refrigerator rather than on the countertop. The same rule applies when marinating food. Bacteria just love to multiply in warm temperatures.
- Whenever possible, use one cutting board for fresh fruits and vegetables and a different one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Never put cooked food back on the same cutting board or platter used for raw food.
- Be sure to season your food with salt and pepper to bring out its natural flavors. You can also experiment with marinades and dry rubs to add extra flavor to pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, and more, but remember that rubs and marinades need time to work their magic.
- Take the chill off your cuts of meat by removing them from the refrigerator 30 to 60 minutes prior to cooking, depending on the size of the meat. Allowing the meat to reach room temperature before grilling means it will cook more evenly.
- Your grill needs time to come up to temperature before you toss the food on the grates. A great sear on your steaks and burgers locks in the juices, so you’ve got to start with a hot grill. While wood and charcoal fires take the longest to prepare (up to 30 minutes), even gas grills should be left to heat up for a few minutes. In the meantime, you can clean the grates with a grill brush and prep other ingredients for your meal.
- Keep a lid on it. The grill’s lid helps to maintain a steady temperature. Resist the urge to fiddle with the food—flip meats just once and keep the grill covered. Besides, frequent turning leads to flare-ups that can char your food.
- Turn your steaks, chicken, etc. with a spatula or tongs rather than a fork. Piercing the meat lets those all-important juices escape.
- Hold the sauce. The sugars in barbecue sauce have a tendency to burn if you sauce your meat too early. Apply barbecue sauce just a few minutes before the meat or chicken is due to come off the grill.
- Even though your mouth is watering at the sight of that steak with the perfect grill marks, don’t tuck into your meat right away. Let the meat rest for a few minutes after it comes off the grill to give the juices time to redistribute, which keeps it moist and tender.
[Photo from Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license]