Although many people think of barbecuing as simply cooking meat on a grill, the true definition is a little more elaborate. Barbecuing means using indirect heat and long cooking times to imbue food with the flavor of smoke, spices, and more.
This cooking style has been popular in America at least since the 1800s, when it took off among Southerners. Today, it’s still beloved by everyone from baseball fans to keto dieters. However, whether you’ve been barbecuing for years or are just starting out, everyone could use a few BBQ tips.
Ready to take your barbeque techniques to the next level? Then these tips are for you. Keep reading to learn how to make your barbecues the best in the neighborhood!
Marinating your meat or other barbecue ingredients can make a huge difference in the final outcome. But how do you marinate to get the best results?
Most marinades use a base of either dairy, such as yogurt, or acid, such as vinegar. These types of ingredients do more than just impart flavor to your foods. They help make the meat more tender, so even a cheap cut can come out great. A great marinade will actually start breaking down tissue in the meat, so it’s tender and the juices can get in.
Of course, you’ll also want your marinade to add the perfect flavors as well. You can buy pre-made marinades, or experiment by adding herbs, spices, oils, and other ingredients to get the taste you want.
Marinade as long as possible, and try pricking a few holes in your meat to speed up the process before marinating. Add the meat and marinade to a freezer bag and massage it occasionally to help it soak in. You can also marinate other ingredients like vegetables to add more flavor.
If you decide to use wood chips for grilling, make sure to soak them with water before you start barbecuing. You can soak them for a whole night if you have time, but make sure you give it at least one hour.
Drain the water and wrap the chips with foil before you add them to your grill. If your grill has a metal smoking box, you can also use that. In a charcoal grill, you don’t necessarily need foil — you can just put the wood chunks on top of the coals. You can also buy a pellet smoker: compare here to choose the best one.
The water the wood absorbed translates to more smoke, which helps get the flavor from the wood chips into your food.
When choosing your wood chips, consider trying wood from fruit trees. Trees like peach or apple have wood with mild but delicious flavors that add something special to your barbecue. Of course, more traditional choices like hickory or mesquite also work well.
You’ll want to use wood chips for gas grills, but bigger chunks for charcoal grills. For each hour of smoking, use one cup of wood chips, or two big chunks. If you plan on more smoking time, add more wood periodically.
Make sure to keep the grill lid closed as much as you can so the smoke stays inside.
It’s always important to clean your grill before using it. If you can clean it after you’re done grilling, it will be much easier to start with a clean grill next time.
A dirty grill can catch on fire, but even if it doesn’t, it can still result in a sub-par finished result. When the grill’s surface is clean, the heat can transfer to the food more effectively, so you’ll get nice, even cooking.
To keep a clean grill, just take a grill brush to it before it’s had time to cool down and get the residue caked on. This is much simpler than trying to scrape off a cold grill later.
Getting organized before you start cooking sounds simple, but it’s actually a key to grilling success.
Make sure to arrange your space so you have somewhere to keep all your cooked and uncooked food. Plan ahead for separating out raw meat so it doesn’t contaminate anything. Make sure to keep things at proper, safe temperatures until you cook them so there’s no risk of food poisoning.
You might feel like you need to rest after a long day of grilling — but more importantly, you should let your meat rest before you eat it!
When you let the meat sit after taking it off the grill, it has time to absorb the juices so it won’t taste dry. Wait to cut the meat until it’s ready to get served.
The time you start your grill also affects your results.
However, it helps if you start your grill early, especially if you have a charcoal grill (gas grills heat up faster). However, even with gas grills, it still takes time for the grill surface to reach the proper temperature.
The exact heat you’ll need depends on what you’re cooking. However, for many items, you’ll start by using a super-hot part of the grill to sear the surface, then you’ll finish the process on the cooler edge of the grill.
However, if the grill isn’t hot enough to begin with, you can’t get the searing process done (or get those coveted grill marks). Don’t forget that each item you add to the grill cools it some, too. Give your grill ample time to get hot enough for everything you plan to cook.
You’ll need higher temperatures for things like steaks and lower temperatures for things like sausage or chicken. Cook things separately and use different temperature zones to get results.
Ready to Try These BBQ Tips?
Successful barbecuing involves much more than just throwing some meat and veggies on a grill and calling it good. With these basic BBQ tips, you’re well on your way to becoming the neighborhood’s favorite cookout spot.
What’s the perfect complement to home-grilled food? Homebrewed beer, of course! Check out our guide to brewing with fruit so you can pair it with your barbecue dishes.