There’s something special about grilling. Put just about anything on the grill and its status gets elevated to some sort of greatness. Grilling also brings people together. Standing around the kitchen watching food cook isn’t all that exciting, but pull out the grill, and suddenly there’s an interested audience. So fire up your grill, gather your family and friends, and enjoy the SIZZLE.
Why Does Grilled Food Taste So Good?
Most of what we perceive as flavor actually comes from the way food smells. Whatever you’re cooking smells amazing, your mouth starts to water, and you can actually almost “taste” the aroma. Heating food changes its chemistry. Toss vegetables on the grill and they get sweeter. Grilled meat becomes more savory.
Creating a Flavor Explosion
Sometimes if we manage to get brats or a few pieces of chicken on the grill and cook them to beautiful perfection instead of charring them to an unappetizing pile of ash, we consider it a good day. But besides simply keeping an eye on the grill, there are several things we can do to amp up the flavor of grilled food.
Dry rubs/seasonings can consist solely of salt and pepper, but numerous spices, herbs, and flavors can be layered on to add even more flavor. These seasonings are added to all outside surfaces of meat to create a “crust,” enhancing flavor as it cooks.
Marinades are great flavor enhancers. Marinades are a mixture of oil, acid, and herbs or spices. Marinades penetrate the outer layer of meat with flavor and can act as a tenderizer for some tougher meats. Just a few hours in a marinade can transform your dinner. Because of the acidic ingredients, never marinade in an aluminum container, and marinade seafood only 15 to 30 minutes.
Searing is another fantastic way to enhance flavor, but meat grilled over high heat will lose moisture, as fat and juices are pushed out. Meat can go from medium-rare to medium, or from medium to medium-well quickly, so don’t walk away from the grill when you’re cooking, and maintain moisture by taking it off the heat before it becomes too dry.
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- Pre-season meat. Season meat at least an hour before grilling to lock in flavor. No time to let it set that long? Then just season immediately before grilling.
- Temperature matters even before you grill. Allow thick cuts of meat to come to room temperature before grilling; thin cuts can go straight from the fridge to the grill.
- Keep burgers moist with butter. Shape raw burger patties around a couple small pats of cold butter. As the butter melts, it helps keep the burger juicy.
- Double-skewer food. To prevent food from spinning on skewers when flipped, use two side-by-side skewers instead of a single skewer. This is especially helpful when grilling chunks of fruit and vegetables, small pieces of meat, meatballs, or a combo when grilling kebabs.
- No thermometer? If the meat lifts off the grill grates easily, it’s probably ready to be removed; if it sticks, leave it on a little longer.
Temperature Guide for Grilled Meats
Meats and seafood should be cooked thoroughly for safe eating. Cooking times in recipes are always approximate when cooking outdoors; the actual time required may vary due to the size and shape of the food, personal preferences, and the weather. In cool or windy weather, it may be necessary to cook food longer.
Use of an instant-read thermometer can help prevent under- or over-cooking meat. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the cut to get an accurate reading. Remember that foods will continue to cook for a few minutes after being removed from the grill.
USDA guidelines recommend cooking foods to the following minimum internal temperatures to kill any harmful bacteria:
145° Whole meats (like beef and pork roast and steak)
170° (well done)
160° Ground beef and pork
165° All poultry
Tender or thin cuts of meat can be placed directly over slightly higher heat to be grilled quickly (less than 30 minutes). Cuts of meat that are tougher or larger need to be cooked more slowly using lower temperatures and moisture to become tender. It is also helpful to soak these cuts in a tenderizing marinade before grilling.
Many meats benefit from resting or standing time. After removing meat from the grill, cover with a foil tent and let stand 5 to 15 minutes before slicing. This allows the internal temperature to rise adequately and juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
Quick & Easy Honey-Dijon Chicken
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
¼ to ⅓ C. Dijon mustard
3 T. honey
3 T. snipped fresh parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
Preheat your grill to medium heat and brush the grill grate with oil.
In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, and parsley; set sauce aside.
Place chicken between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap and flatten each with the flat side of a meat mallet to an even thickness of about ½ʺ. Season with salt and pepper.
Set the flattened chicken pieces on the grill grate and cook about 3 minutes. Flip chicken and brush generously with the set-aside mustard sauce. Grill 2 to 3 minutes more or until golden brown and juices just run clear.
Transfer chicken to a platter and cover loosely with foil; let stand about 5 minutes.
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