Barbecue season has officially begun and our Save A Lot test kitchen is sharing its very best secrets to getting the perfect burger, steak, chicken or pork chop every time. (Hint: good equipment maintenance and prep is key!) Check out our list of top tips below.
General Grilling Tips
- Create two heat zones on a gas grill by adjusting the burners. Use direct heat (all burners on) to sear the surface of foods or create a crispy outside. Indirect heat (center burner off) works for cooking foods through and cooking at lower temperature.
- If you’re cooking skin-on protein, such as chicken, start on indirect heat then move to direct heat to prevent sticking and help it cook evenly.
- Consider investing in a grill-safe meat thermometer to track meat temps while you cook.
- Remove proteins from the grill before they are completely done. Let them rest when they are 5° degrees below temperature. Example, when cooking chicken remove it from the grill at 160 °F and allow the protein to rest and rise to 165 °F.
- If the flames in your grill are too high DO NOT add water! Water will make the fire grow, whereas covering it will cut off the oxygen and kill the fire.
- When grilling vegetables, wrap them in aluminum foil. They still develop grill marks and cook evenly without falling through the grates.
- Make sure grill grates are clean and oiled. An oiled grill grate creates even grill marks and no sticking. Use grill safe cooking spray or lather a paper towel with cooking oil and rub on the grates. If the grill is already turned on, then use a kitchen towel with oil. Brush the towel on the grill with tongs so you do not get burned.
- After turning on your grill to the desired temperature wait 5 or 10 minutes for the grill grates to reach temperature. Hot grill grates equal even cooking and grill marks.
- Be mindful of your grill’s hot and cold spots. When your grill is hot, you can identify the hotspots by the white areas on your grill. The other areas on the grill will be considered your cold spots.
- Place the grill on a flat, level surface to prevent tipping.
- Chimneys and lighter fluid will accelerate the heating of the coals.
- If using a chimney, have kindling, paper, or a fire starter on the bottom side. Then stack the coals in the chimney up halfway. Soak with lighter fluid, then light the bottom. Once the coals are lit, let the coals burn off for 15-20 minutes.
- If using charcoal but no chimney, here are a few ways to arrange the coals.
- Single- Level- Create a single even layer of coals, this is perfect for quick foods like burgers or hotdogs
- Double Banked- arrange the coals on two sides of the grill, creating two different banks. This method has no fire in the middle of the grill, creating a lot of indirect heat. Perfect for whole chickens, whole roasts, or just general larger cuts.
- Half Grill- Arrange the coals on one side of the grill. This allows two separate sections of the grill. One with high heat and one with low. Ideal for searing then moving over to the colder side. Also allows vegetables and proteins to be cooked on the same grill.
- Two-Level- Allows for two areas, one to sear and the other to cook food through.
Wood plank Grilling
- Using a wooden plank for grilling can give you subtle flavors which can boost any meal. It works perfectly with vegetables and fish.
- Soak the plank for 2 hours in water before grilling. Soaking eliminates bitter flavors from the wood.
Bratwurst Grilling Tips
- Simmer your brats in beer and water first for 15 minutes. Use equal parts beer and water and throw in a few sliced onions.
- DO NOT puncture brats when grilling
- DO NOT bring the liquid to a roaring boil, simmer gently at a low boil to ensure the casing is intact. Boiling them at too high a heat will cause the casings to burst creating a flavorless and dry bratwurst.
- Once the Brats have been boiled, grill them on a medium to high heat for about 5-7 minutes, just long enough to create a crispy char on the casing.
- Serve brats immediately. They have the best flavor fresh off the grill. Make sure your sides are ready to serve.
- Serve on a toasted bun, DO NOT serve on untoasted soft buns. They will absorb all the juices and become very soggy.
Hamburger Grilling Tips
- To ensure your burger has a little bit of pink inside, let your patty sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes.
- Let your burgers rest after cooking, this keeps them juicier and more flavorful.
- Resist the urge to move your patties once on the grill. Constant motion loses juices and creates a very bland / dry finished product.
- Season at the last second, meaning if salt or other seasonings are added too early then your meat will dry out. Season minutes before the patties go on the grill.
- Create a small divot in the center of the patty when grilling. This combats the burgers urge to swell up in the center during the cooking process.
- Adding an ice cube into the divot adds moisture to the burger as it cooks, keeping it juicy and preventing overcooking.
Burger Cooking Temps
- Rare – 125° F
- Medium Rare – 135° F
- Medium – 145° F
- Medium Well – 155 °F
- Well done – 160°F +