Optimize your gas grilling this summer

By: 
Vicki Hayman

There’s nothing quite like cooking food over an open flame! The techniques are simple, cleanup is easy, and grilled food tastes amazing. There are a few basic rules, but after that, it is your skill and style that will make you a griller.

Keep your grill clean

Many people simply turn the grill on high for 15 minutes to let the heat burn off the grease or then scrape off any residue from the grill grates. Using a grill brush will help remove stuck-on food. Lightly coat cooking surfaces with cooking oil when clean. Wad up a piece of paper towel dampened with a little vegetable oil and use tongs to rub the towel along the grill grates. Additionally, remember to empty the grease tray. Deep clean the grill at least twice a year.

Have plenty of fuel  

Have you ever run out of gas while grilling? Always check your tank level and have a backup. Keep extra fuel on hand and you will never have to worry about running out of gas. 

Be organized

Have everything you need for grilling such as the food, marinade, basting sauce, seasonings, and equipment on hand and near the grill before you start grilling.

Be food safe  

Practice food safety with everything you cook. Wash your hands with soap before and after handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Don’t cross-contaminate. Use separate, clean cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat foods. When in doubt, use a new plate or fork. Keep your cooking area clean and sanitized to avoid any cross-contamination. 

Stand guard

Grilling is an easy cooking method; however, it demands constant attention. Once you put something on the grill, stay with it until it is cooked. A short moment away from the grill is enough time for it to get out of control and burn your food.

Get it hot

 Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature

Make it sear

Grill marks are like badges of honor throughout the world of barbecue. You probably already have what it takes to improve your grill-mark game. Cooking spray or oil is the secret ingredient to gorgeous grill marks. To sear, start with a grill as hot as it will go. Spray or brush oil on the meat. Put the meat on and wait one minute and then rotate it 1/8 of a turn (45 degrees) and sear again.  This will give it an attractive crosshatch pattern. Flip the food and repeat. The high temperature will caramelize the meat’s surface. Once this is done, lower the heat, or move the meat to a cooler spot on the grill and continue cooking until done. 

Gauge grill temperature

Thin cuts of beef, lamb, pork, and burgers should be cooked hot and fast. More delicate items like chicken, fish, and vegetables are best cooked at medium. Roasts, whole chickens, and thick, large cuts of meat need to be cooked at lower temperatures. Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium, and 250-300°F for low heat. Follow these guidelines for whichever food you cook and be patient with the cooking times, which will be longer at lower temperatures.

Flip it

The proper way to turn meat on a grill is with tongs or a spatula. Never stab (no forks!) the meat with a fork unless you want to drain the flavor-rich juices that leave you with dried-out  meat. 

Tame the flames

Flare-ups are a result of a cooking fire and should be controlled. Always try to keep a portion of your grill empty so you can move the food should a flare-up occur. When you do have a flare-up, move the food away from it and let the flare-up burn off with the grill lid up. 

If your fire gets out of control, remove the food from the grill and turn off the burners and the gas. Leave the lid open and let the fire die down on its own. If this does not work, close the lid to starve the fire of oxygen. Salt, baking soda, and a fire extinguisher will smother the flames. When the fare up is over, you can resume cooking. 

You’ve heard the adage, “Oil and water don’t mix?” Well, that is especially true for flare-ups. Spraying water on a flare-up can cause grease to explode. NEVER spray water on flare-ups or any grease fire.

Cook thoroughly

Take the meat out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking. The cooking time will vary based on the grill temperature and how you like your meat cooked. Use a food thermometer to know when the food has reached a safe internal temperature and when it’s time to take it off the grill. Insert the thermometer from the side of the meat. 

U.S. Department Of Agriculture Recommended Minimum Internal Temperatures:

• Beef, Lamb, Pork (steaks, roasts, chops) - 145°F

• Fish - 145°F

• Ground Meats - 160°F

• Poultry (whole and ground) - 165°F

Give it a rest

Let food rest before serving to ensure tender and juicy results. Allow five minutes for small cuts of meat and up to 15 minutes for larger steaks and roasts. 

While grilling is easy, you want to make sure that you have the essentials down. It is important to follow food safety guidelines to prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying and causing foodborne illness. Use the simple guidelines above to optimize your gas grilling!

 (Sources: www.fsis.usda.gov; www.thespruceeats.com; www.usda.gov

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