Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Secrets to Grilling

All of you who feel like they've mastered the art of grilling, there is no need to read any further. But for the rest of you, mere admirers of Gordon Ramsay and other celebrity chefs - I strongly advise you to keep reading because I am about to share with you the secrets to grilling the right way. And every amateur cook has to know at least the basics of grilling - otherwise all that meat will go to waste. Well, not to waste as long as you don't burn it but you can't really reveal the full potential of the protein if you lack the necessary skills and technique. Without further ado, let us dive right into the delicious world of cooking!

I will share with you plenty of useful tips but if I was limited to only giving you one advice then I'd tell you this: practice! The right way to grill is what really works best for you, and the only way to completely master grilling is to practice a lot. What is the key difference between a professional chef and a home cook? Chefs spend a good eight hours on their feet preparing one dish after another, while a home cook prepares meals one or two times per day. If mastering cooking techniques is one of your priorities then you have to be prepared to fail a few times and even possibly throw out some fine cuts of meat. Eventually, you will feel more comfortable experimenting and you'll reach a point when you know exactly what is going on in front of you. Practice really does make perfect!

By getting into the more technical details, I'd like to point out that there is a difference between grilling and barbecuing. People often think that they are both the same thing but the difference is huge. While traditional barbecue relies on a lot of smoke and low cooking temperature, grilling depends on a higher temperature in order to sear what you are cooking and preserving the juices.

Grilling is similar to broiling. Both methods use direct heat but the main difference is that broiling uses heat coming from above, while in grilling the heat comes from below. Both methods are suitable for cooking tender cuts of fish, chicken, and beef. When it comes to cutting meat, there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to do it but you have to be sure that you're not cooking a piece that is too thick. If you do, the exterior will be overcooked by the time the middle is done. One of the good sides of grilling is that it is a relatively healthy way of preparing meat since most of the fat will drip into the fire but you have to be careful and avoid flare-ups from fat - there is a chance to burn what you're cooking.

By now, you are probably asking yourself what is the best fuel source for grilling. A lot of people use charcoal and make the common mistake of not using enough at the start or adding more when it burns down. As a result, they get food that wasn't seared properly so it overcooks. And what do I mean by overcooking? As soon as you lose the juices, you're done - game over. If the meat is dry then you know you've failed. Using self-starting charcoal briquettes can give food an awful chemical taste - use them as a last resort. You can buy real lump charcoal without any additives - the difference is from here to the moon.

Cleaning your grill is also very important. You always have to start with perfectly clean grill. Can you imagine cooking a fine cut of salmon on a grill that hasn't been cleaned for two or three sessions? If cleaning is a nuisance to you, then you can order grill cleaning for your home. If you think you can live through one grill cleaning then remember to remove all food residue with a wire brush while the grate is still hot at the end of the cooking session. It is clever to always spray some vegetable oil on the grill in order to avoid sticking.

Now, let's start cooking. It is vital to have your grill on the right temperature before you start cooking. Many home cooks, especially those using gas grills, wait until right before they start cooking but this is a common mistake. The grill has to be preheated 15 to 30 minutes before the first cut of meats "steps on the dance floor". Have all your cooking tools on standby including sauces and seasoning. It is always useful to have a spray bottle with water for accidental flare-ups. Also, you have to be very familiar with your grill. Knowing where the hot and cooler spots are can sometimes make or break your performance.

The preparation of ingredients is something you're probably familiar with but we can't really skip it. If you're cooking a steak it is best to remove most of the excess fat and season with some salt before you start. With fish, I prefer to place it in a zip lock bag with some olive oil and herbs. In most cases, you'd want to precook chicken in the oven to lessen cooking time which will give you control over browning. No matter what ingredients you're cooking with, always bring them to room temperature before you start! This is a law!

Marinades can make a huge difference in adding taste. Personally, I never cook without marinade. There thousands of recipes for marinades so you better check your cookbooks and find out what sounds tasty to you. Just remember to pat dry the meat when cooking with marinade in order to avoid flare-ups. Barbecue sauces are often used in grilling and people often prefer the commercial products but it is best to always cook with fresh ingredients. The most basic barbecue sauce includes tomatoes, onion, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar. You can create your own versions of this by adding ingredients. Personally, I love using red wine instead of vinegar.

The most frequent question when it comes to grilling is "how often you cook the meat?" and I will address this as well. So, how can I tell when my meat is done? You will find thousands of guides but it comes down to experience. Follow the guides in your cookbooks, but always touch the meat at difference intervals so you can become familiar with texture and firmness. Master cooks are often able to determine the condition of a cut just by seeing its colour and touching it. Cool, huh?

This is only the just of grilling and there is a lot more to learn, but if you are a newbie you can't get any better if you don't roll up your sleeves and light up the grill. Grilling is always a good alternative to cooking indoors during the summer. With time and a lot of practice you will surely master this cooking method.

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