Fire up the grill this weekend with these tips and simple recipes.
Professional cooks, and our own Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen home economists, receive many grilling questions. Read on for some must-have answers.
Q: Is it necessary to preheat my gas grill?
A: Generally, you should let your gas grill preheat for 10 to 15 minutes before you put the food on it. Follow the recommendations for preheating given in the owner's manual for your particular grill.
Q: If my grill burner doesn't start right away, what should I do?
A: If the burners don't ignite on the first try, leave the grill hood open and turn off the gas. Wait about 5 minutes before trying again. Also, be sure there is fuel in the tank.
Q: Why does my grilled food become charred so easily?
A: You could be cooking at too high a temperature. Or perhaps you are cooking directly over the heat source when you should be using the indirect method of grilling. The direct method of grilling means foods is placed directly over the heat source. It's best suited for smaller, thinner cuts of meat, poultry, or fish -- foods that cook in 20 minutes or less. The indirect method of grilling means food are placed adjacent to the heat source. Indirect grilling is best suited for larger cuts of meat, such as ribs, roasts, whole birds, and longer-cooking vegetables such as corn on the cob. You might need to hold off on brushing the barbecue sauce on your foods, too. Sauces that contain sugar tend to burn quickly, so brush them on only during the last 5 to 10 minutes of grilling.
Q: When should I cook with the grill cover on? When should it be off?
A: The manufacturers of nearly all gas grills recommend that the lid should always be closed when you cook on a gas grill.
Q: If I don't have a thermometer on my grill, how do I know medium heat from high heat?
A: Although most newer gas grills come with a high-medium-low heat indicator, if you have an older model, you might not have that convenience. Here's how to tell how hot your grill is: Hold your hand where the food will cook for as long as it's comfortable. The number of seconds you can hold it there gives you an approximate temperature.
Number of Seconds Temperature 2 High (400 to 450 degrees F) 3 Medium-high (375 to 400 degrees F) 4 Medium (350 to 375 degrees F) 5 Medium-low (300 to 350 degrees F) 6 Low (300 degrees F and lower)
Q: When turning off the grill, do I turn off the gas source or the burner first?
A: Turn off the gas source first. The burner will go out, but remember to turn it off too.
Q: What kind of maintenance do I need to do on my gas grill?
A: To make seasonal cleaning easier, every time you grill, burn off any residue left on the grill rack by turning all the burners to high for 10 to 20 minutes, then brush the grill rack with a wire grill brush. Do the following at least once a season -- and be sure the grill is turned off and cold: Change the catch-pan liner and clean the warming racks and control panel with a soapy fine steel-wool pad (use a light touch to avoid scratching). This removes smoke stains and burned-on food and grease. Rinse everything thoroughly with clear water. Then remove the bottom tray from under the grill. Holding it over a trash can, carefully scrape the inside with a putty knife. Push any residue out through the bottom hole. Clean tough stuff left in the tray with a soapy fine steel-wool pad and a very light touch. Do not line the bottom tray with foil. Grease accumulates in the creases and can start a fire.
You have plenty of room for improvisation when using a gas grill, but follow these commonsense guidelines to help prevent accidents:
- Never grill indoors -- not even in the garage -- and never set up a grill on a wooden deck.
- Set up your grill on level ground far from the house, sidewalks, and places your children or pets might play. Keep it far away from any combustible materials.
- Lift the lid of the grill before turning on the gas to dilute the concentration of gas fumes, which can explode when lit. Turn off the gas before you do any maintenance.
- Disconnect the gas tanks if you don't use your grill in winter, and never store gas tanks indoors.
Although we tend to use the words barbecuing and grilling interchangeably, in recipe lingo they may mean two different -- though related -- things.
Grilling means to cook food over direct heat. On a gas grill, it means to light the grill, place the food on the grill rack directly over the heat, and cook it at a high temperature. Barbecuing means to cook food slowly over indirect heat -- often with flavorful smoke, sauces, and rubs. Bigger cuts of meat such as ribs, roasts, pork tenderloins, and whole birds are barbecued.
Beef and Poultry Recipes
Teriyaki T-Bone Steaks The tangy-sweet taste of teriyaki flavors these he-man T-bones. Serve them with steamed rice tossed with toasted macadamia nuts and thinly sliced green onions.
Grilled Steak with Martini Twist The essense of summertime sophistication, this soaked steak picks up the pleasantly piney taste of the gin in the marinade. Gin is made with juniper berries, which lends a woodsy flavor.
Beef and Blue Cheese Salad Like bread and wine, beef and blue cheese are made to be together. Substitute any blue-veined cheese -- such as Roquefort or Maytag Blue -- for the Gorgonzola.
Big-Batch Barbecue Sauce This barbecue sauce covers all the flavor bases -- and a lot of grilled food. It's smoky, sweet, tangy, spicy, and spiked. It freezes wonderfully, so you can enjoy it now and later.
Stay-Awake Steak You've heard of camp coffee -- the kind cowboys enjoyed around the fire with a good, fresh steak. Somebody got the two together, and the result is this tasty piece of beef.
BBQ Baby Back Ribs Here's the quintessential barbecue experience; the only way to improve on it would be to dig a pit and roast the whole pig.
Fish and Seafood Recipes
Grilled Tuna Nicoise Salad For company-quality presentation, arrange this classic south-of-France salad on one large platter. Accompany it with crusty French bread and sparkling water or white wine.
Wasabi-Glazed Whitefish Wasabi -- the head-clearing green condiment traditionally served with sushi -- adds a subtle fire to this fish dish. Look for wasabi powder or paste in Japanese markets or larger supermarkets.
Lobster Tails with Chive Butter Is there anything lovelier than a lobster tail cradled in its coral-colored shell and served with melted butter? Here's proof-positive that the best things in life really are the simplest.
Smoked Halibut with Hazelnut Sauce Nut butters (not the peanut butter variety, but toasted nuts in melted butter) are wonderful, simple accompaniments to grilled fish, smoked or not. Try this recipe with pistachios too.
Vegetables are terrific on the grill. They get the same smoky flavor that meats, poultry, and seafood do and are easy accompaniments. Here's how to grill them to perfection:
- If you use skewers, don't crowd the vegetables; leave 1/4-inch spaces between pieces to ensure even cooking.
- Use separate skewers for large hunks of meat that require longer cooking times and for quick-cooking vegetables.
- Cut the vegetables into uniform sizes and shapes so they'll cook evenly.
- Use a grill basket to avoid dropping half of the veggies onto the lava rocks or briquettes. Or cover the grill rack with foil. Cut slits in the foil so vegetables grill rather than stew.
Grilled Corn Relish Part salsa, part salad, this Southwest-style relish partners well with grilled chicken or pork. For a light meal, roll it up in a tortilla with black beans and shredded cheese, then warm it on the grill.