Everyone loves tips and tricks, but sometimes, you just need to know the essentials. Hate "puffy" burgers? Tired of overcooked chicken? How long should you marinate that meat anyway? Whether you're a veteran grillmaster or a first-timer in the backyard, this list has got you covered.
1. Avoid "puffy" burgers
Burgers tend to "puff up" when you cook them, but there's a way to avoid this nuisance. Simply press down into the middle of the meat with your hand or the back of the spoon during prep. This way, they'll be more level when cooked through. Easy peasy.
2. Know when to use direct vs. indirect heat
Can't decide on whether you need to use direct and indirect heat? It's simple. If it takes 20 minutes or less to cook, use direct heat. If it takes longer, use indirect heat. In simple terms, diced chicken needs direct heat, whereas whole chickens need indirect heat (we recommend a smoker and some killer grilling gear, obviously).
3. Boneless vs. Bone-in? that is the question
For indirect cooking (see indirect heat in #2), boneless chicken pieces should be grilled quickly over direct heat but bone-in meats take longer and direct heat could burn them. In short, use indirect heat for bone-in meats. And, of course, use quality tongs to pick up the protein.
4. Create a killer brown sugar marinade
If your marinade requires brown sugar, make sure it's moist and easily spreadable. Basically, if you're using brown sugar, it's important to make sure it's fresh and not old. Old brown sugar doesn't mix well and has a texture like hard pebbles. Just toss it. Life is too short to ruin your delicious protein with bad brown sugar. The same is true for quality rubbing brushes.
5. Season meat just right
When applying a dry rub, make sure to apply the spices gently to the meat. If you rub seasonings in too hard, you can actually damage the meat fibers and texture of the meat. No one wants that! Use a shaker to spread the spices around, and if you do use your hands, be gentle.
6. Keep kebabs juicy
If you've ever had dry chicken kabobs, you know it's no party. But, whether you prefer meat or veggie kebabs, make sure you spread them where the ingredients are somewhat touching each other but aren't crammed. This way, they stay juicier longer.
7. Grill ribs the right way
If you like tender ribs (who doesn't?), make sure to maintain a low temperature for several hours and always use indirect heat (in fact, don't even sneak a peek—just let 'em cook). Consistent low temps mean soft and succulent ribs. No cheating!
8. Know when to add sauce
No to break our own rule, but if you do decide to add sauce to your ribs (or other meats), make sure to be patient. Don't add the sauce too early. The sweeter the sauce, the quicker the sugary sauce could actually burn on the meat. Add the sauce in the final 30 minutes of a long cook and then cover in aluminum foil. And, of course, only remove your meat with high-caliber tongs.
9. Use the right bowl
The bowl you use to marinate your meat in is kind of a big deal. It's possible you've never heard the phrase "non-reactive bowls," so let's break it down. Basically, when you're creating a good marinade, there's a good chance you're also using some acidic brines and bases. Stainless steel mixing bowls are the way to go. They're easy to clean, odorless, and they don't react with acidic ingredients, unlike plastic bowls. Basically, they're a must for your kitchen.
10. Shortcut your glaze
Glazes give a glossy look and add subtle flavor to your meats. For a shortcut, consider a few tablespoons of melted jam as a glaze to sweeten savory foods. Brush the glaze on at the end of the cooking or moments after the food comes off the grill. And, of course, always consider upping your glaze game with our badass silicone brush.
11. Build your marinade
As you figure out which marinade you enjoy most, consider starting with the basics. Choose something acidic, like lemon juice, vinegar, or mango chutney, then add some oil, and a ratio of 1:3 acidity to oil flavors, sort of like a salad dressing. The acid (we like balsamic vinegar for steaks) tenderizes the food to make your meats moist and rich. Of course, picking up a bottle of Zesty Italian salad dressing is a solid shortcut for a steak marinade.
12. Don't overdo it…
A lot of people overdo it with their marinades thinking the longer they marinate, the better. Wrong! In reality, it's best to try short soaks, like 30 minutes or so. In fact, if you marinate your meat for more than two hours, the food could over soften, turn into mush, or end up tasting rough in texture. A general rule of thumb: the smaller the food, the smaller the soak.
13. Let the meat rest
Beyond the cook, meat needs to rest too. It's vital to give cooked food time to rest, so it remains juicy and perfectly cooked. The resting process allows the juices to redistribute through the meat, making it that much tastier. Depending on the source of heat, consider letting the food rest uncovered because the steam can actually make the crust of the meat somewhat soggy. Follow your recipe and allow the cooked meat to rest based on thickness and type of protein. It if says "rest for five minutes," rest for five minutes. It'll be worth it. Good tastes come to those who rest.
What tips did we miss? Let us know your favorite kitchen hacks to boost your grilling game.