Grilling has ingrained itself into our culture so much that nowadays it is very hard for one not to attend at least one or two grilling parties. However, most of us, quite certainly great at tasting grilling, do not at all understand how the meat is made. Thus, there are times where we hope so much that we get to know exactly how things work and start grilling.
However, many people just starting out on their grilling journey may overlook some fundamentals and mess things up. Hence, we put together this article on how to grill for beginners in the hope of saving you from having to waste lots of time and effort.
As with any other cooking method, the vital parts of grilling are always in the prepping process. After all, without proper preparation, there is no way that you can make the perfect meal. To help you keep this process as quick and effortless as possible, here is a beginner’s guide to grilling preparation.
As this is a guide to grilling for beginners, we need to go through some fundamentals before actually starting working on the meat.
First, ask yourself: What Culinary Problem Is This Method Solving?
You see, ever since the old days, there have always been issues related to all forms of cooking. For instance, some cooking methods may leave too much fat, some may lose the nutritional value of the ingredient, some make meals bland, etc.
Thus, we always need to invent new ways to cook while understanding how old methods work. So, which culinary problem does grilling solve, to be exact?
To answer this question properly, we will need to focus on a chemical reaction that makes your meal delicious, the Maillard reaction. To be more specific, this highly desired process of culinary is a reaction between carbohydrates, proteins, and amino acids. Applying heat properly extends this process, elevating the taste, aroma, and the meal’s appearance.
Of course, being such a delicate process, there is no way that it can be easy to attain and then extend the Maillard reaction. In fact, you will need to work hard for a balance between internal temperature and moisture. After all, while the Maillard reaction can happen at room temp, more heat will nudge it along. However, too much heat and the food will be burnt.
Now, do you see the connection? Yes, grilling is among the best cooking methods for attaining and extending the Maillard reaction. Ultimately, a good griller will look to apply lots of heat while ensuring that the heat does not go overboard. Besides, there will always be some sort of sauce on the meat. Thus, the Maillard reaction will be in the best possible condition.
What Is Grilling?
Grilling is one of or even the single oldest way of cooking known to humans. This method requires the cook to apply dry heat onto the food’s surface, either from the side, below, or above. As a result, grilling is always involving quite a bit of radiant, direct heat, which means things will be cooked a lot quicker than other means.
To be more specific, we utilize a heat transferring process that we call thermal radiation when we grill. As we have stated above, you can practically grill from any angle of the meat. However, the most common way of grilling has been from below since its conception. In America, when we apply heat from above, we usually call it broiling instead of grilling.
The Many Benefits Of Grilling
Time: Grilling is, without any doubt, among the quickest cooking methods due to its application of high heat. In general, you can finish cooking and delve straight to the party within an hour. After all, shrimp kabobs, fishes, and thinly sliced meats take only a few minutes to be done.
Taste: As it provides one of the best conditions possible for the Maillard reaction to take place, grilling will provide you with the best looking, tastiest, and most aromatic foods.
Texture: Due to applying heat directly to the surface of the meat, grilling will sear its exterior. Hence, all the lighter fluid of the meat will be sealed in, offering you a mouth-watering, superior texture.
Nutrition: Thanks to applying heat quickly and evenly, grilling seals the nutrients such as thiamine and riboflavin inside the meat. As you may know, both of these are quite great for people who need healthy diets.
Different Ways To Grill
Being one of the oldest cooking techniques, there are actually quite a lot of options that you can use to grill.
Easily one of the most convenient grilling methods, a gas grill is among the “no mess” types of grill. After all, there is no oil dripping, no coal, no wood residue to clean up. Of course, it will cost a little bit more than something like a charcoal grill, but it sure does make up for it by being so easy to use as well as easy to control the temperature.
Additionally, gas propane grills are almost always the easiest to power up, as you only need to turn the knob after fitting the gas propane tanks into the grill. Also, there is practically no harmful smoke that can endanger your health.
The traditional way of grilling, the charcoal grill has earned this reputation thanks to it encompassing every single vital aspect of grilling in general. Being so versatile, charcoal grill made it quite easy to grill, no matter which heat application method you use. As a result, you can get some rare combinations, producing incredibly tasty foods.
Adding to that, a charcoal grill is, without any doubt, the most affordable grilling choice. Also, you can easily find some charcoal at just about any hardware or department store.
As its name suggests, this grilling method utilizes wood primarily as its fuel. Until recent times, it is purely for restaurant or fine-dining places as it requires heavy-duty wood-burning grills. However, with the advancement of technology, we are now having more portable choices, so it is no longer that hard to grill with wood yourself.
All in all, wood always burns much faster than charcoal can. However, woods of any kind will leave a deep flavor on the grilled foods, prime examples being hickory, maple, cherry, etc. Obviously, you can limit this issue by using aged wood that has been stored for at least one year.
Heat Up Your Grill … The Right Way
You should always keep in mind that a good grill must have both a cool and hot side. We all want to imprint those delicious grill marks on the meat. However, larger proteins like spatchcocked chicken just cannot handle the intense heat for the time duration it takes grilling meat.
Hence, you will need to understand how to set up the grill as well as how to grill foods of varying shapes.
Indirect vs Direct Heat
Naturally, when we talk about grilling’s goal, it’s none other than to make a piece of meat incredibly seared. We want the juiciness, the flavor, the charred look. However, grilling is in itself an intricate art, so you will need to know the difference between indirect and direct heat sources in order to grill that meat to perfection.
Direct fire: We use this type of arrangement when we want to cook food in large quantities. For example, if you want to have things like grilled burgers or steaks, etc. So, you will spread the coals evenly at the grill’s bottom so that they will create one single, super hot grilling zone.
Two-zone direct fire: If you want to get some good sear on the food and then cook it through with indirect heat, this method is simply a godsend. You keep almost all of the hot coals to one side of your grill, leaving only some in the other direction in order to keep the food warm.
Two-zone indirect fire: The perfect way of roasting or grilling chicken. You keep all of your coals on just one side, leaving the other completely empty.
Three-zone spitfire: This method is for the case if you only wanting some small grill pork slices. First, you stack all the coals against the grill’s side, then you leave an empty strip right down in the middle of the grill.
How To Grill Different-Shaped Foods
There are foods that aren’t as wide as the area between your grill’s grates, thinks green beans, scallions, carrots, etc. Thus, if you do not want them to disappear between the grates, you should set them perpendicularly on the grill. Also, this will make it much easier to flip them or scooping them up.
A grill will have to handle some berries, jalapenos, small tomatoes, mushrooms, or even sprouts eventually. However, they are all of the tiny sizes, so it is incredibly easy to drop them through the grates. Of course, you can always skewer them, but that will take lots of time.
Instead, follow our ultimate grilling guide for these little fellows. We recommend that you get a grill basket, toss them in, and sear them without any worry.
Sometimes, a grill cook needs to change things up a little, so they will look for potatoes, broccoli florets, mollusks, etc. The one connection between these is the fact that while they are larger than the space between grates, they all have unique shapes. Thus, these uneven shapes will make the foods burnt on one part and raw on another.
In addition, there are also cases where you risk losing all the good stuff should the container topple. Yes, we are talking about the oysters, which is something we all want in a grilling session.
In these cases, we suggest laying some aluminum foil on your grill’s grates, set those foods down, and just close the lids off. Sure, there will be no grill marks, but you can get the smoky flavor and it will be so easy to clean.
There will be times when you run into foods that just cannot be cooked properly on a grill such as artichokes or cubes of squash. For these, you may want to do a bit of par-cooking before slapping them onto the grill. For instance, you can halve the artichokes and then simmer it until you can gently tug the leaves free. Then, you can finish things off on the grill.
When you flip veggies or food with layered texture on your grill, be it seafood, paninis, pizzas, onions, fishes, cabbages, etc., some parts of themselves are bound to stay behind. As a result, after a meal, your grill will be easy to clean.
To solve this problem, you may want to cut complex-shaped vegetables like cauliflower and cabbage into thick pieces. This will make them hard enough to withstand the heat of the grill. Also, you can enlist the help of a tong or a spatula-tong to turn these things without destroying them in the process.
As for the task of fish grilling, you can get a fish basket and there will never be any need to worry about them breaking. Of course, if you want to do it the old-fashioned way, you need to oil the skin properly and wait patiently, as fishes release quite nicely once they are ready.
Things like salads, salsas, or even bananas are infamous for being hard to grill, not because their cooking time is long whatsoever, but because they can be engulfed in flame if left unattended for just a moment. Nonetheless, if you manage to deconstruct the recipes, you will see that they are not that hard.
For example, you can slice a banana into two halves by the length and keep the peel. Then, you use the indirect grill on them, which will give them good marks and soften them nicely.
There will always be an itch in every cook to do something completely unexpected, out-of-the-box. If you are experiencing that feeling, remember that the cast-iron skillet is perfect for these situations. After all, simply heat in over the fire directly and you can grill anything you want without worrying about them crumbling.
Of course, it is in your best interest to treat the grill like an oven and close the lid. Ultimately, these things are not at all suited for grilling and we are simply working our ways around the rules.
Whenever you pick some foods up and think about grilling it, all you need to keep in mind is that with some boldness and experiments, anything can be grilled.
Cool Down Your Grill & Clean-Up/Maintenance
Once you have finished grilling, you would want to make sure that the grill is in the same condition as before you use it. Firstly, you would want to burn any cooked sauce or even food off by turning the heat all the way, letting it “cook” with its lid down for maybe 15 minutes.
Then, turn the grill off and let it cool down. Once you are sure that it has completely cooled off, clean it properly, as this will help reduce rust and to ensure longevity.
Cleaning, Oiling And Maintaining Your Grill
Use a grill stone or dry wire brush to brush the grill’s grates routinely so that there is no bacteria buildup. Also, you would want to brush debris off the flame tamers. In addition, it is important that you clean the grill at the minimum twice each year, or after every 5 uses.
In addition, after cleaning you may want to consider oiling your grill, as it helps prevent food sticking. However, we recommend only oiling the grates when it is absolutely necessary as most of the grill ingredients are already full of fat.
Besides, if the grill usually sits on your pavements, you should place a grill mat or a tarp under it in order to catch food, grease, and debris.
Practice Patience With Your Fire
Grilling is one of the fastest cooking methods around. However, this does not mean that you can just slap a slice of meat onto the grates and it will magically become cooked.
Instead, if you want to become the grill master, you must learn to control the fire, know when is the right time to put the meat in, when is perfect to take the meat out. Last but not least, you must understand that fire is fickle, and be patient.
Organize Your Grill Space
As you may guess, the grilling process is always much faster than other ways of cooking due to its high heat output. Consequently, organizing your grill space properly will help you not fumble around and waste precious time.
Flavor Your Food
Grilling makes use of the Maillard reaction, which means if there is no salt and pepper to react, there will be no flavor. Thus, if you want to get a great grill experience, flavoring the foods beforehand is a must.
Beware Of The Fire
With so much heat coming out, it is no wonder that a grill is usually the source of a fire. Hence, one of the most important things you need to keep in mind is to be careful of its fire-starting potential.
Figure Out When The Food Is Done
Only some of us can be a grill master, so we need to find a way to tell if the meat is grilled enough. For this issue, we suggest getting a meat thermometer, as it is the most exact way to tell.
From our article on how to grill for beginners, we hope that you can now be confident and knowledgeable enough to take over the grill. The last thing we want you to keep in mind is that the most vital part of grilling is in the preparation. Ultimately, grilling is a test of confidence and preparation.