A Beginner’s Guide to the Barbecue
Now that it’s officially summer, it’s time to get outside and grill.
You’re new to grilling?
You’re afraid to light a barbecue?
Well, have no fear. It’s not as complicated as it looks. If you’re thinking about buying a barbecue, we’ll break down the pros and cons of charcoal and gas grills. For those just finding their way around a grill, we’ll follow up with some of the first steps to throwing some food on the barbie. And for those who are already all fired up, we’ve got some recipes ready to go, as well as a slew of barbecue tips and tricks. And even if you’re a city slicker like Kathy, and outdoor grilling isn’t an option, try indoor grilling!
Which Barbeque to Use? Charcoal or Gas?
Despite what some fervent grillers say, one isn’t necessarily superior to the other. There are pros and cons to both grilling methods, so it’s really your call! Here’s a rundown of some of the pros and cons:
- There’s a full range of prices: inexpensive grills are easy to find, and upscale models are available too (+)
- Gets very hot (+-)
- Needs to be manually lit and preheated for a minimum of 20 minutes (usually much longer) (-)
- Cleaning is more complicated due to ashes (-)
- Smoky flavor every time you grill (+-)
- Tough to keep a constant temperature (-)
- You get to play with real fire (+)
- Typically pricier than charcoal, though inexpensive models are available (+-)
- A more complicated grill means more parts that can break (-)
- Easy to clean (+)
- Has the option of smoky flavor or not, with use of wood chips in a smoker box (+)
- Convenient (+)
For more details about the differences between gas and charcoal grills, check out chow.com’s objective and clear breakdown.
- If you’re using a charcoal grill, empty the ashes from your last grilling session.
- Both types of grills need to be pre-heated before you start cooking. Gas grills turn on easily (make sure the lid is open while you’re lighting the grill!), but if you’re new to lighting one, here’s a video demonstration. To light your charcoal grill, you’ll need a chimney starter. Please don’t light your charcoal with lighter fluid! It seems like a quick fix, but it can make your food taste “chemical.” Let the gas grill heat up for at least 10 minutes, and your charcoal grill for at least 20.
- After your grill is preheated, use a brass-wire brush to scrape the charred goo and gunk off of the grate. You’ll need to give it a good scrape at the beginning of grilling season. Then, during grilling season, a quick brush before and after grilling should do. After you grill your last meal for the summer or fall, leave the grease on the grate to prevent rusting over the winter. (If you don’t have one of those brushes, you can use some aluminum foil to do the trick!)
- Once your grill is clean, oil the grate by grabbing an oiled paper towel with some long tongs, and wiping it over the bars. You’ll need to use an oil with a high smoking temperature, like canola oil.
- Now that your grill is hot and the grate is clean, your food won’t stick to it as much, and you’re likely to get those classic grill lines!
Sure, everyone knows steaks and burgers can go on the grill, but did you know that it’s also great for sandwiches and pizza? Here’s a list of recipe ideas to get you started.
- Truly GRILLED grilled cheese.
- Vegetables are easy to grill, just pick your favorite vegetable and give it a try!
- Or try these vegetable kabobs if you prefer yours on a stick.
- Corn on the cob comes with its own “packet”… the husk! It’s perfect for throwing on the grill, once you have these simple directions!
- Grilled sweet onions wrapped in bacon would make a great appetizer or party food.
- Grilled pizza doesn’t have to be complicated!
- Beef tenderloin sandwiches with a garlic mayonnaise topper sound like a great lunch for a lazy summer day.
- Pork chops and caramelized onions are simple to make on your grill!
- You know how good the chicken is at fairs, right? This “roadside chicken” recipe will help you recreate the same succulent flavor at home, with any pieces of chicken you’d like to use.
- Grilled Teriyaki Beef Kabobs are seriously tasty, especially if you make your own teriyaki sauce! Yum!
- Salmon is a firm fish with a naturally high fat content – perfect for grilling. Leaving the skin on during grilling protects the flesh from overcooking and falling apart.
- Who can resist Classic Baby Back Ribs!
- Each Friday, Coconut & Lime posts a new grill recipe. June brought us pomegranate-mint pork chops made with pomegranate molasseses. Check back for more of Rachel’s unique and delicious recipes!
- To avoid losing juices during turning, always flip your meat or vegetables using tongs or a spatula, rather than a fork.
- Try to limit the flips. Ideally, you should flip each item once during the grilling process.
- Whatever you do, don’t press down on burgers or chicken (or anything) with a spatula while they’re grilling! This squeezes out the juices and once they’re gone … they’re gone! If you’re bored and need something to do with your hands, learn to juggle (but not too close to the grill, please!).
- For great smoky flavor, soak some wood chips (hickory, oak, or other hardwoods but not treated lumber!) in water for a while, then throw them onto your charcoal and cover the grill, or if you’re using gas, put them into your smoker box following the manufacturer’s instructions.
- To infuse grilled foods with herb essence, toss herbs directly onto the charcoal while you’re grilling. Or, if you’re using a gas grill, soak the herbs in water, and place them on the grate before putting your food on top of them.
- If you want to baste your meat or vegetables, save this step for last. That way the sugars in ,your marinade or sauce won’t have time to caramelize or burn.
- If this all sounds too complicated, or if it’s raining or cold outdoors, you cangrill indoors with a contact grill or use a grill pan.