July is National Grilling Month. Cooking outside is a great way to keep your kitchen cool during the hot summer months. Cooking on the grill is a great way to get rich, flavorful meats and veggies.
Grilling uses direct heat to cook foods and requires a watchful eye to keep from burning. The direct heat sears the surface and caramelizes food to give a distinct flavor and texture. The food is crispy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
The terms “grilling” and “barbecuing” are often used interchangeably, but actually mean different things. Grilling is cooking over an open flame. Food is placed on a pre-heated metal grate or grill, and dry heat and flames come from below the food. This can be done at a high heat, over 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or by grill-roasting already tender foods at lower temperatures (300-400 degrees Fahrenheit). Barbecuing on the other hand, is when you cook foods low and slow. The heat and smoke created by cooking slow enhances flavors. Foods are usually cooked between 225 and 300 degrees when barbecuing and can be cooked from one hour up to six hours.
For best results, follow these grilling and barbecuing tips:
- Make sure grill racks are clean. Prior to heating, coat them with canola or olive oil or non-stick cooking spray to keep foods from sticking.
- Heat grill for 10-15 minutes before adding food so that food will be seared instead of steamed or baked.
- Leave 3⁄4 inch between food items to ensure even cooking and to prevent them from steaming.
- Use tongs to turn solid pieces of meat. This will keep the juices inside.
- It is best to turn or “flip” the food only once during cooking to sear food.
- All pieces of food may not cook at the same time. To avoid overcooking, remove the cooked pieces as they finish and keep them warm while remaining foods cook.
- Use a dry spice rub for flavor; add any sticky sauces just before serving or pass the sauce around the table to avoid foods charing.
- Add salt after the food has finished cooking to reduce moisture loss.
- Cook fish at a lower temperature than other meats because it tends to dry out faster.
- Put small food items that could fall through the grates, or tender foods like fish that fall apart easily, on a piece of aluminum foil to keep them from falling through the grate.
When you’re ready to put your grilling skills to the test, try this marinade recipe for your chicken, meat, and veggies. Enjoy!
Certified Nutrition Education Ambassador