Grilling, as we all know, is one of America’s greatest Spring and Summer pastimes. Whether we grill for our holidays (Memorial Day and the 4th of July), or whether we throw some chops or baby backs or even a few hot dogs on the grill for a fun family get together, it’s a tradition that will never go out of style. But, while we are cooking and celebrating, it never hurts to review a few food safety rules, learn some great tips to improve our techniques, or to incorporate delicious new recipes in our grilling menu. I know I love to learn anything new that can improve my grilling experience!
So, for all of you grillers out there, be you aficionados or beginners, I’m going to recap some great grilling knowledge.
Let’s begin with food safety.
Food safety is always a priority. The USDA gives us some simple common-sense guidelines to follow:
- Use separate cutting boards, cooking utensils, and platters for raw and cooked meats to avoid cross-contamination.
- Refrigerate while marinating to prevent bacteria, and never baste or sauce with the used marinating liquid.
- Cook meats to the proper temperatures. Temperatures will vary depending upon the type of meat and the cut. For example, pork cuts are to be cooked to a temperature range of 130°F to 160°F. If you are grilling a fully cooked ham, the internal temperature should reach 130°F-140°F, while pork chops and pork tenderloins require 145°F, and ground pork should always be cooked to 160°F. Check your meat’s internal temperature by using a digital, instant-read thermometer.
Next, it’s always good to start out with a clean and properly heated grill.
Begin preheating your grill at least 15-25 minutes prior to cooking, so you can give the grill time to reach the desired temperature. After you preheat the grill, simply scrape off the grate with a grill brush. It’s always easiest to remove the remains of a past meal while the grill is hot. Once the grill is clean, bring it to the necessary temperature. For high heat, aim for 400-450°F, medium-high at 350-400°F, 300-350°F for medium, and 250-300°F for low heat.
This next tip encompasses food safety, personal safety, and grill maintenance.
Avoid flare-ups and put them out properly! Flare-ups occur when fat drips down onto the coals (or whichever heat source you are using) and catches on fire. These fires can cause the formation and accumulation of carcinogenic PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and the flames can also affect food taste or cause charring. By selecting leaner cuts of meat and trimming excess fat, you can reduce your chance of having a flare-up.
If a flare-up does happen, make sure you put it out in a safe way. Some grillers keep a squirt water bottle handy, but grilling pro and author Elizabeth Karmel suggests that extinguishing the flames by putting the lid over the grill is simpler, safer, and more maintenance effective. Using this method eliminates water splatter that can cause burns or crack the finish of your grill.
Now that I’ve covered food and personal safety, I’ll share some quick grilling tips with you:
- Properly preheating the grill aids in searing the meat and helps with caramelization.
- Foods can still stick to a clean grill, so you can reduce sticking by oiling your grill rack with vegetable oil. While some grillers suggest applying the oil to a hot grill rack by using a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel, it’s much safer to just apply the oil before heating the grill, especially if your grill is already clean.
- Choosing your grilling method can be tricky, but the problem is easily overcome. Direct heat (or cooking directly over the heat source) is best for quick cooking cuts. Indirect heat is mostly and appropriately used for meats that take longer to cook. Elizabeth Karmel’s rule of thumb: Anything that takes less than 20 minutes to cook should be grilled with direct heat, and anything over 20 minutes requires indirect heat to cook properly. Using indirect heat is much like slow cooking—the process is slower, allowing the inside of the meat to thoroughly cook without burning the outside.
- If you have marinated your meat, pat off most of the excess moisture. The idea is to give the meat flavor yet get it to sear instead of steam.
- If you are basting, do so during the last 30 minutes of cooking to reduce the chance of burning your meat.
- Do not use sharp utensils to turn the meat. Use spatulas or tongs that will not pierce the meat and release juices. You do not want to lose moistness and flavor. The only exception is if you do not have a digital thermometer and are checking for doneness. If you pierce the meat and the juices are clear, the meat is done.
- Letting the cooked meat rest before serving allows the juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat and mete out flavor. Yummy!
- Grill tools can come in handy. If you like grilling vegetables or foods that can fall through the rack, try using a grill basket.
- Don’t be afraid to improvise. Don’t have a grill brush to clean the grate? Karmel has used a wadded-up piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil (to act as a brush) and a set of tongs (as a handle). But this tip doesn’t only extend to grilling tools. Improvise on flavor, techniques, and experience. Don’t be afraid to explore the possibilities!
Now that I’ve went over safety and cooking tips are you ready for some recipes to try out? I know I am!
- Grilled Asian Pork Chop with Peanut Sauce: My family and I love Asian food, and this recipe is definitely a winner in my book!
- Chocolate Coffee Pork Tenderloin: Who doesn’t like chocolate or coffee? And together in a rub, they are scrumptious! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did!
- Pork Chops with Blueberry Mango Salad: Tender pork chops with a bit of sweetness and spice! Yummy!
- Teriyaki Grilled Pork Chops: This recipe incorporates a delicious yet simple glaze composed of soy sauce, cornstarch, honey, and ginger. Thinking about it is making me want to fire up the grill right now!
This grilling season try something innovative, whether you try out a new recipe or a new technique or follow up on a new tip. I know I plan to! Circle B Ranch takes pride in helping to continue and build up the American grilling tradition.
For more great grilling and barbecue tips, look over this helpful infographic from BroBBQ:
and Williams-Sonoma blog "How to Grill Pork Chops" @ williams-sonoma.com