By Jacob King
Memorial Day is almost here and soon you, like many Americans, will probably take to the deck, don that cheesy apron your spouse forbade you from wearing ever again, and fire up the grill for some good eats and good laughs with family and friends. Whether this is your first time behind the spatula or you're a seasoned grillmaster, take a gander at our list of grilling do's and don'ts so you don't make a rookie mistake like…
Forgetting to Prep: Grilling isn't a spur-of-the-moment thing. Skimp on prep-time and your grill-a-thon is more likely to resemble a Swedish Chef skit from The Muppet Show.
Instead: Prep meats, veggies, sauces, etc. beforehand and have them ready to go when you fire up the grill. Also give cold meats a chance to warm up to room temp - letting them sit for too long is unsafe, but neither should you throw frozen steaks directly on the grill.
Using Too Much Heat: Most rookie grillers assume a grill has one setting; roaring inferno. But not all items need to be under direct heat all the time; that's a recipe for flare-ups and scorched results (especially on more delicate items like chicken, fish, or veggies).
Instead: If you're using a charcoal grill, don't cover the entire grill with briquettes. Make a hot zone directly over them, but leave an area to keep items that require gentler heat; this also gives you a place to move items in the event of a flare-up.
Getting Saucy: Simple chemistry on this one; most sauces contain sugar, and sugar burns in heat. Slather that porkchop in tons of barbecue sauce when you first throw it on the grill and you're likely to char it black and disappoint your guests.
Instead: Apply sauces closer to the end of the cooking cycle for that signature, savory taste…without burning your meats to a crisp.
Cutting the Meat: Ideally, the only time you want to cut the meat is when you're sawing off a piece that's about to go into your mouth. The more you slice, pierce, etc. during cooking (even to see if it's done or to turn) the more juices escape and the drier the result.
Instead: For flipping and turning, use tongs. For checking "doneness" invest in a food thermometer. And to be sure you're still being safe, here's a list of recommended internal temperatures for all kinds of foods.
Rushing Food to the Table: You may be going crazy from hunger and your guests probably are too, but don't make the mistake of sending your perfectly crafted burgers or steaks out to the table as soon as they leave the grill.
Instead: Let them sit for a few minutes; this lets juices circulate back through the meat for that perfect punch of flavor…while letting you prep that coveted first plate for yourself…win-win.
Photos by Lisa Kyler.