Pick your fuel. Your choice of grill will affect the techniques you use, so keep in mind that they both have pluses and minuses. Gas is easier to control and more convenient, but more costly, and it also emits less carbon monoxide and soot into the atmosphere. While it’s not technically healthier than charcoal, it’s definitely the more environmentally-conscious choice.
That said, charcoal offers a rich, smoky flavor to summer grilling that you just can’t get with gas, so it’s often the preferred choice for those focused on taste. Lump charcoal (which is simply charred wood) is free of additives and chemicals (like coal dust, paraffin and borax which may be present in traditional charcoal briquettes), making it cleaner burning and healthier to use for food prep.
As for lighter fluid? That’s a definite no. Not only does it release toxic VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air, it leaves behind a chemical residue which alters the taste of food, and can pose serious health risks if used improperly. For an easy, quick-start alternative to lighter fluid, use an inexpensive chimney to get your charcoal going.
Always preheat. Prep your grill 15-25 minutes prior to cooking. This kills bacteria, loosens residue from previous grilling, and allows your grill to warm to the right temperature. A grill which is properly preheated will sear food on contact, prevent sticking, and caramelize the exterior of food to maintain a juicy interior. Keep the lid closed while preheating, and you’ll achieve optimum temperatures quickly.
An added tip: Use a wire brush to clean your grill surface after preheating, but before adding your food. Any debris will be charred and loosened by the heat, and far easier to remove from the grate.
Speaking of heat … Using a grill gauge or thermometer is always helpful. Ranges for cooking are as follows: 250-300°F for low, 300-350°F for medium, 350-400°F for medium-high, and 400-450°F for high. If you don’t have a grill gauge, use an instant-read meat thermometer to check your choice cuts before removing them from the grill.
Oil your food—not the grill. Oiling the grill rack is ineffective and causes unnecessary smoking. Higher temperatures and sustained exposure to heat mean most edible oils will reach their smoke point and burn off quickly on a hot grill, leaving behind a residue which makes foods taste burnt or bitter as well as releasing free radicals, which are detrimental to health.
When used improperly, some oils can even cause flash fires. So, it’s best to simply prep your foods with high-quality EVOO just prior to placing them on the grill. Meats can be brushed with a drizzle of Bellucci EVOO after marinating, while vegetables can be tossed or coated by hand before placing them on the rack.
Soak up the flavor. Marinating doesn’t just add flavor to your summer grilling, it helps infuse foods with moisture to keep things juicy during cooking. An added bonus is that the added moisture actually makes marinated meats healthier. In fact, it prevents poultry, red meat, and fish from forming carcinogens while cooking by inhibiting the development of HCAs (heterocyclic amines). According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, marinating meats can actually reduce the presence of HCAs in cooked meats by as much as 99%.
Check out our recipe section for great EVOO-based summer marinades (our Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri is delicious!), or simply add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to 1 cup of Bellucci EVOO, and add your favorite herbs or spices to taste. Remember, set aside a small batch to use for basting while your foods are on the grill. This avoids cross-contamination, and helps add additional flavor and moisture to your meal.
Close the lid. Keeping the grill lid closed as much as possible serves a few purposes. First, it helps maintain steady temperatures, and avoid overturning (which ruins a good sear). It also speeds up cooking times, and helps retain moisture—so your food is less prone to drying out. Limited oxygen means flare-ups are less likely and the trapped smoke produced by vaporized juices and fats adds that delicious, rich barbeque flavor all grilling fanatics strive for.
Keep your cool. Avoid flare-ups and fires by keeping a squirt bottle of water close at hand. A quick spritz can douse flare-ups caused by dripping fats, help maintain even temperatures, and deter charring that negatively alters the flavor and presentation of foods.
Safety is simple. Follow best practices for food prep in order to avoid cross contamination of raw and cooked foods, as well as eliminate chances of food spoilage. Designate separate prep surfaces and utensils for vegetables, raw meats, and cooked meats, and keep platters of raw foods refrigerated until just before grilling. Never re-use uncooked marinade to dress or baste foods, it can introduce bacteria or contaminants which cause food poisoning. That’s no fun for anyone!
Let it rest. We know nothing is more tempting than the smell of delicious barbeque, but resist the urge to indulge straight from the grill. Letting finished meats rest for 5-10 minutes before serving or carving allows juices to redistribute and flavor to be enhanced while also preventing the unpleasantness of scalded tastebuds, which could ruin someone’s entire meal! Simply place meats on a platter, tent lightly with foil, set the timer, and set aside.
We hope you appreciate these tips for achieving the ultimate in summer grilling flavor! We’re sure your friends and family will compliment you on your superior skills at the grill from here on out.
For more delicious recipes and tips on healthy living, Pour More with Bellucci EVOO!