Grilling 101

Grilling Guidelines from the Master Griller:  Bobby Flay

Rule #1:
Don't start testing the food the minute you put it on the heat! This includes picking it up to see if it's done on the bottom, moving it around, and turning it over every ten seconds. Put the food down and give it a chance to cook. This will also give it a chance to sear on the bottom so that it naturally pulls away from the grates and doesn't stick. If you try to move the food before it's seared on the bottom, it will definitely stick.

Rule #2:
Don't cut into your food to see if it's done. For one thing, it doesn't really work, since you can’t get a good look at the inside. For another, it lets the juices come pouring out and the food dries out on the grill. The best way to test food is by poking it with your finger. As it cooks, it becomes firmer and firmer. A rare steak feels squishy; a medium steak feels more springy; a well-done steak feels as taut as a trampoline. The rule of "the longer it cooks, the firmer it gets" also holds true for fish and poultry. As you get more and more experienced, you'll learn exactly what your favorite food should feel like when it's done.

Rule #3:
 Meat and poultry should rest for at least a few minutes before slicing or serving. What does this mean? Well, without getting too technical about anatomy or chemistry, if you cut into the flesh right as it comes off the heat, the hot juices will run out all over your cutting board. If you wait a few minutes to let them thicken just a bit, they'll stay in the meat. You may feel like the food is getting cold, but actually it's still cooking. Cover it up with foil and let it rest for at least 5 minutes. Fish does not need to rest and should be served immediately, as it loses heat very quickly.

Rule #4:
When in doubt, it's better to undercook than overcook. You can always put food back on the fire if you need to.
Note:  The safest way to test for doneness is with an internal meat thermometer.  The following are the temperatures each food should be before they are considered safe to eat according to the FDA.

  Cook beef, veal, and lamb roasts and steaks to at least 145° F (63° C).  
  Cook pork roasts   and chops to at least 160° F (71° C).
Ground Meat
Cook ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork to at least 160° F (71° C).
Cook ground poultry to 165° F (74° C).
Cook all poultry to minimal safe internal temperature of 165° F (74° C).
Cook pork to an internal temperature of 160° F (71° C) for medium or 170° F (77° C) for well done.

Grilling Burgers
Start with fresh ground chuck. Chuck is the most flavorful type of ground beef, and comes from a single cut of beef. Plain "ground beef" can include meat from all over the animal.
Make sure the chuck has a fat content of at least 15 to 22 percent to ensure juiciness. If you prefer your burgers well done, ask your butcher for a higher fat content. This will allow you to cook them more without drying them out.

Chill the beef well before forming patties. Wash your hands well, and then form the patties.


Make each patty by forming about ¼ pound of ground chuck into a tight ball. Firmly press ball into a flat cake, first between your hands, then onto a clean cutting board.
Use a spatula or other straight-edged tool to "pull in" the sides of the patty so that they remain together and tight.

Form patties about ½ - to ¾ inch thick. Make the diameter about ½ inches larger than the bun to allow for shrinkage.
Build a hot fire in the grill. Lightly oil the bars with vegetable oil - pour oil onto a paper towel, then hold the towel with tongs to wipe the oil onto the grill bars.
Season the burgers on both sides with salt and pepper. Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper give the best flavor.
Place the burgers on the grill over direct heat. Cook about 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once. Do not press down on the burgers with the spatula during cooking - this only squeezes out the juices, encourages flame-ups and dries out the burger.
Check doneness by using an instant-read food thermometer inserted into the center of the patty. Or by poking it with your finger; as it cooks, it becomes firmer and firmer. A rare burger feels squishy; a medium burger feels more springy; a well-done burger feels as taut as a trampoline.
Serve on fresh buns with any toppings you prefer: tomatoes, lettuce, onion, pickles and condiments such as ketchup, or mustard

Grilling Chicken
Choose the type of chicken you want to barbecue. Some people only like boneless, skinless chicken breasts while others prefer thighs or legs. Cooking times will vary if you have a variety of chicken pieces.
Decide on the method you want to use to get the chicken ready for the grill. Either marinate the chicken in Basic Marinade (listed below), Rosemary Marinade or set it in a salt water brine for several hours to impart moistness into the chicken.
Preheat a gas grill to a medium heat or start coals in a charcoal grill and let them burn until there is a white coating of ash on all the coals.
Remove chicken from marinade or brine solution and rub with the seasoning of your choice. Salt and pepper are the most common ingredients but there are a variety of seasonings available.
Place seasoned chicken pieces on the grate in the grill. Cover with the grill lid and check in 10 minutes. Turn chicken pieces over and grill another 10 minutes.
Move chicken pieces to the sides of the grate, away from direct heat. Brush with barbecue sauce if desired. Cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and remove from the grill.
Allow barbecued chicken pieces to rest on a platter for 10 minutes before serving.
This will help keep the chicken juicy and not let all the juices run out when the chicken is cut into.

Grilling Salmon (and other fish):
Heat grill to high, brush grates with canola oil or brush salmon on both sides with canola oil and season with salt, garlic powder, onion powder and pepper. Grill from about 4- 6 minutes per side (depending on the thickness).  And remember, it's better to undercook than overcook.
From The Kitchen of The Renegade Chef  

Alton Brown's Great Salmon Grilling Techniques
Grilling Steaks
For best results, make sure the steaks are no thicker than 1½ inches. Steaks that are best for grilling have thin streaks of fat running through them. This soft internal fat partially melts during cooking and keeps the steak from drying out.
Start a hot grill fire. If using a gas grill, turn the gas as hot as it will go. If using charcoal, let the charcoal heat up until it is coated with ash, then spread it out so you have an evenly hot bed of coals.
Season the steaks on both sides with kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Let the seasoned raw steaks rest for a few minutes.
Place the steaks on the hot grill. The grill should be hot enough for you to hear a sizzle when the steaks touch the grill grate.
Cook for 3 to 5 minutes per side. To create attractive cross-hatched grill marks, give the steaks a quarter-turn halfway through cooking on each side.
For best results, move the steaks to other parts of the grill if flame-ups occur.
The best way to test food is by poking it with your finger. As it cooks, it becomes firmer and firmer. A rare steak feels squishy; a medium steak feels more springy; a well-done steak feels as taut as a trampoline.
When done, allow the steaks to rest for a few minutes before cutting them. This helps them retain those great juices.
Grilling Vegetables
Choose vegetables that take well to grilling, such as peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, summer squash, onions, potatoes, corn on the cob and asparagus.
Clean and trim the vegetables. Cut large ones into halves or slice them into large sections.
Parboil small, waxy potatoes until tender before grilling. Remove silks from corn but leave husks on, and soak in water for about 1 hour before grilling
Marinate (listed below) vegetables for 15 minutes before grilling. Or just brush them lightly with oil so they don't stick to the grill.
Prepare a medium-hot fire in the charcoal or gas grill.
Put the vegetables directly on the grill grid, on skewers or vegetable basket. Begin with the vegetables that take the longest to cook - denser vegetables such as potatoes or peppers will take longer than moisture-filled ones such as tomatoes.

Turn the vegetables often, brushing on more marinade as needed.
Remove the vegetables when they can be easily pierced with a fork.

Basic Marinades
Combine ¼ cup olive oil and ⅛ cup white wine vinegar or the juice of 1 lemon, ½ teaspoon each of the following, salt, granulated garlic, granulated onion and ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili peppers.

To the basic marinade, try adding fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and cilantro. Or try using different oils like grapeseed and sesame.  Also use different vinegars i.e. rice, red wine and balsamic.
From The Kitchen of The Renegade Chef