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First-of-the-Season Tips for Successful Grilling

Fine Cooking Issue 58

Whether you’re just dusting off the grill or you’ve been cooking over fire all year, now is as good a time as any to freshen up your grilling skills. Here are some tips for steering around common grilling blunders.

Be organized

• Have everything you need in place on a table alongside your grill: salt and pepper, olive oil, sauces or other ingredients, a good pair of long-handled tongs, a timer, an instant-read thermometer, platters for food coming off the grill, a dishtowel, and a spray bottle filled with water.

Prevent sticking

• Keep your grill grate clean and free of debris—scrub with a wire bristle brush or crumpled foil (held with a pair of tongs if grill is hot), and then wipe the grate clean with a piece of cheesecloth or paper towel dipped in oil. (You can order an 18-inch, hardwood-handled Weber brush at Weberstuff.com.)

• Turn the food as infrequently as possible. Typically, it only needs to be turned once.

• Wait until the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking to brush on barbecue-sauce.

• Close the lid after grilling. This will help burn some of the residue off the grate.

Prevent flare-ups (or at least limit them)

• Empty the drip pan in your gas grill. Built-up drippings can catch fire. 

• Trim excess fat from meats and fatty fish.

• Let excess marinade or oil drip off foods before setting them over the fire.

• Put a lid on any flare-ups and, when necessary, shut the air vents (fire feeds on oxygen).

• Keep a spray bottle of water nearby to extinguish flames.

• If you can do so safely, relocate foods that are causing flare-ups so that they’re not directly over a flame.

Avoid cross-contamination

• Keep a separate, clean platter for cooked foods. Don’t reuse the container that held raw meats or fish.

• Keep two pairs of tongs on hand—one for handling raw meats and fish on the grill and another for removing the cooked food. Grilling instructor Elizabeth Karmel keeps track by wrapping colored tape around the handles of her-tongs—red for raw foods, green for cooked.

• If reusing a marinade for basting, first boil it for at least 1 minute to kill any bacteria it may have picked up from the raw meat.

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