Summer is here in full force, which means that you’ve undoubtedly uncovered and fired up that big, metal champion of backyard summer cooking: the grill. You may be breaking out some of your traditional recipe staples but consider shaking things up by trying some of these summer grilling secrets.
Everyone has their tried-and-true methods on the grill, but these grilling tips can take your barbecue game to the next level. Add these ideas to your summer to-do list.
Top Summer Grilling Secrets
Use Different Wood
If you typically use a wood-fired grill, experiment with different hardwoods to give your dishes the aromatic properties of the wood. If you use a charcoal grill, you can add wood chips or logs to your charcoal briquettes to get the same effect.
Have a gas grill? Don’t worry! Take your wood chips or logs and put them in a tin pan half-filled with water. Let the water and wood get hot enough to produce an aromatic smoke. Do this well before adding your grillables to your grill top to cook so the wood has enough time to warm up.
Grill masters enjoy experimenting with applewood, oak, hickory, cherrywood, and mesquite, just to name a few.
Identify Hot Spots on Your Grill
Did you know that your grill has warmer and cooler locations on its surface? You’ve probably noticed that your food cooks faster or slower in some areas, but if you’re trying to cook a lot of food consistently, this can present a challenge.
Identify your grill’s hot and cold spots by using sliced bread. Simply turn all your burners on to the same temperature or light your wood or charcoal fire and put slices of bread down on the grate at the same time. Check them after a minute or two to see which ones are toastiest. For best results, use white bread.
Thumbprint Your Burgers
You might’ve heard this summer grilling secret already, but if you haven’t, thumbprinting can turn your burgers into works of barbequed perfection.
The idea here is to make a slight indentation in the center of each burger patty before putting it on the grill. You can use your thumb to make the depression. This gets rid of that bulge in the middle that tends to rise as the patties cook, resulting in flying saucer-shaped burger patties, and who wants that?
This method could also help if you notice your burgers tend to be dry. When the burgers are more uniform in shape, it eliminates the gut instinct to press the patties down with a spatula while on the grill. When this happens, the juices are pressed out of the meat, ultimately drying out the burger.
Use a Meat Thermometer
Many amateur grillers use the old “cut it down the middle” method of checking for doneness. The issue with this is that it breaks the sear the grill made and lets the juices escape.
Instead, invest in a meat thermometer. This tool will create only a small piercing in your barbeque delicacy, preserving the vast majority of that wonderful flavor you’ve been cultivating.
Having a thermometer also helps when cooking meats other than ground beef, which reliably browns when fully cooked. Other meats like pork and poultry retain some desired pinkness even when fully cooked. Cutting and eyeballing these meats could lead to dried out, overcooked finished products.
Know your numbers:
- Beef, ground- 160F
- Beef, steak – 130F (medium-rare), 140F (medium)
- Chicken – 165F
- Pork – 145F
- Fish – 145F
- Turkey – 165F
*Temperatures according to realsimple.com
Grill Better Plant-Based Options
Traditional grilling was all about the animal-based protein sources. Not so much anymore. You can turn some heads by grilling up tasty veggies as a side or even the main course.
Grilled vegetables don’t have to be big cuts on skewers. Bring your cast-iron skillet into the mix and slap it right on your grill top. Using the skillet will prevent small pieces of veggies from falling through the grill grates and sticking to the cooking surface. Pair your grilled vegetables with a tasty homemade sauce (like this chimichurri) and you have roasted perfection.
In addition to bell peppers and onions, try grilling asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, sweet corn, eggplant, tomatoes, or potatoes.
I hope you’re able to put some of these summer grilling secrets into practice next time you barbeque. Don’t forget to clean your grill before you use it to get rid of foreign, unwanted grime and bacteria that could affect the taste of your dish or even your health! Check out our recipe for Bourbon BBQ Glazed Pork Chops and our favorite brisket recipe here.
While you’re at it, take a look at the shape of your deck and take care of any necessary repairs or maintenance before you fire up that propane!