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Mastering the Barbecue

Learn the basics to cooking on the grill

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By Naz Cavallaro

There are so many ways to help make your next barbecue burst with flavour, and so very few reasons why anyone can’t master the grill. It really is not that complicated. To put it simply, anything you can cook inside your range or on the stove can be prepared just as easily outside on your grill… and then some. Think of your grill or smoker as an outdoor appliance, an extension of your kitchen. All it takes is practice, patience, and a desire to get it just right.

Fundamentals: Remember these basic steps when cooking outdoors with a grill

  1. Keep it clean. Always make sure your grill is free of carbon buildup on the grates. Remove excess grease, ash, and black gunk to avoid infusing your foods with black smoke. Not only does it taste bad, but it’s not good for you either. Ensure the grill is on a level surface, away from wooden fences, overhanging trees, or anything flammable. This brings us to our next point: always keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
  2. Use the right tools for the job. Keeping a few clamshaped tongs on hand is good practice. Specifically, have one for raw and one for cooked food, as well as one for poultry and one for meats. Cross contamination is a very real possibility. Also, invest in a good-quality, dense, soft metal bristle brush. The extra few dollars you pay for a better brush will go a long way, and helps keep those grates free of debris and buildup. Not only will it keep food from sticking, but you’ll get beautiful sear marks. After all, people eat with their eyes!
  3. Use fresh ingredients. Frozen burgers may be easy to buy, but give the burger taste test a try and compare a fresh homemade, stuffed patty to the frozen variety. The proof is in the pudding! Also, always use fresh herbs and spices when preparing rubs or marinades. Marinating promotes effortless tenderizing and levels of flavour that will erase doubts over whether it is really worth the time and effort. If you are feeling adventurous, think about using a brine to add moisture to proteins; the longer grilling time helps avoid drying out the meat or poultry. Lastly, remember you can always add more seasoning and spice, but you cannot take it away.

Make notes. If you try a new recipe or create one of your own and it works, write it down so you do not forget it. Likewise if you tried something and it fails—write that down, too, so you avoid making the same mistake twice! Record tips, recipes, and the choice of woods you used or mixed to get those great flavours. Keep track of how you set up the grill, the temperature you used, and how long you cooked the food. If you are going to spend time learning the art of the grill, writing everything down is worth the effort.

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