Grilling Basics

Time to dust off the barbecue and get grilling! Here are some tips and tricks to make sure you get the best results- every time.

Strictly speaking, grilling is done by placing food directly over a hot flame. In the old days, this often meant cooking over an open fire. Today, you can choose a $20 charcoal grill or a $15,000 gas grill, or anything in between. Thankfully the basics never really change; you can learn to grill regardless of the type of grill you have.

There are two types of grilling methods that are commonly used:

  • Direct heat grilling is the most basic and common grilling method. Food items are placed over direct heat in order to cook them. This can be done over charcoal, gas, or wood. The heat is usually high (400-500F) and ideal for searing to seal flavors. After searing, the food item can then be transferred to a slightly cooler part of the grill to finish cooking Hamburgers, steaks, chops, sausages and kabobs do well with direct heat. These foods usually take 20 minutes or less to be fully cooked.
  • Indirect grilling is a method where the food is cooked with reflected or indirect heat. It involves placing your food further away from a direct heat source and keeping the lid covered most of the time. If the food is placed over the heat source, the temperature will be low for the food to cook ‘indirectly’. Large pieces that take a while to cook, like whole chickens or pulled pork can be cooked in this way.

    Smoking is a way of indirect grilling that requires a specialized approach. You can ‘smoke’ while grilling with gas or with charcoal. This involves cooking food at a low temperature in a closed chamber and for a long time, hence the term ‘low and slow”. The result is usually very tender food that is infused with great smoke flavour. Specially designed equipment is available for avid smokers, but you can get great smokiness by using store-bought wood chips as well. Just remember to follow the instructions!

Time to get grilling! Remember these tips for a great grilling experience:

  • Read your recipe carefully to make sure you have the right equipment and understand all the instructions.
  • Always preheat your grill. It should be up to the recipes’ recommended temperature before you start cooking. If your grill doesn’t have a thermometer, a portable oven thermometer will work just fine.
  • Make sure you keep your grill far away from anything flammable including house siding, trees, gas cans, or laundry.
  • Invest in a good quality probe thermometer. Not only will it help keep you safe from undercooked foods, it will prevent overcooking as well.