Backyard Grilling Tips
by Arleen M. Kaptur
Barbecue season is here and everyone wants to light that fire and charcoal their next meal. A few tips might prevent your entree from becoming the next "burnt offerings to the gods."
Make sure that your grill is on a flat surface away from shrubs, grass or any flammable material. Check the vents to make sure that ashes are not clogging them from any previous meal preparations. Use lighter fluid starter but never gasoline or kerosene.
How much charcoal to use - this depends on how big your grill is, what kind of food you are preparing and weather conditions. If there are strong winds, cold temperatures, or if it is very humid out, you will need more charcoal to get a good fire going. A rule of thumb - it takes about 45 briquettes to grill 6-8 burgers.
If you don't have a grill thermometer, you might try this. Do not let a child do this and be very careful as you would not want to get burned. Hold your hand, palm-side-down just above the grill. Count "one thousand one, one thousand two, and so on". If you keep your hand in place without pulling it away for 2 seconds it is a very hot fire (375); 4 seconds its a medium fire (300-350); and 5 seconds or more it is a low fire (200-300). Once again use reasonable caution when testing the heat.
If you would like to try some of the flavored hardwoods, a general rule is that a little goes a long way. They should complement and not
overpower. Always soak your hardwoods in water 30 minutes before using. When placed in your grill, they should smolder and smoke, but not burn. Grapevine cuttings give great flavor as do shells from nuts such as almonds and pecans. Small bunches of dried herbs soaked in water will add fragrance as well as flavor. Rosemary, bay leaves, and oregano are great on a grill.
To "line" your food with those great "marks" just like you see in magazines, allow the grid to heat thoroughly before adding the food.
Some food safety tips: Always serve cooked food from the grill on a clean plate - never the one that held the raw food. In hot weather
never leave food out longer than 1 hr. and the old adage keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold applies whenever you cook outdoors.
One last hint - the secret to evenly cooked vegetables on a kabob is to parboil starchy vegetables before they are threaded on a skewer.
Steaks and chops: baste with sauce after you have flipped the meat for the last time, about the last 3 min. of grilling;
Chicken - baste the last 10 mins.
Hot dogs/sausages - baste the last 5-6 mins.
However seasoned oils may be brushed during the entire time the entree is grilling.
With just a few of these hints, you are on your way to a summertime of great outdoor eating and your grilled food will make you proud.
©Arleen M. Kaptur 2002 April
Arleen Kaptur has written numerous articles, cookbooks, and the novel: SEARCHING FOR AUSTIN JAMES
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