To the self-proclaimed backyard grill master: We know, we know—you know what you’re doing. But, you might want to keep reading to touch up on your game or learn some healthy grilling techniques. On the other hand, if you’ve been too scared to touch the grill all summer, letting others man the meat, this advice is just what you need for some added confidence. Here are some tips and techniques from a true master, Joe Sasso, Executive Chef of The Great American BBQ Co., the pop-up barbecue joint that operates at Sam’s of Gedney Way in White Plains every summer.
1. Move It Around
If you are using a gas grill, do not turn all the burners on high. From left to right, you should keep the left burner on low or off, the middle burner on medium, and the right burner on high. You start grilling on the right side and move the food over to medium, and then to low or no heat.
2. Don’t Forget the Flavor, Before and After
Remember to season your grill with oil before placing food on the grill in order to reduce sticking. A lot of people season meats liberally before cooking them to get that delicious caramelized flavor, but are too eager to dig in to take the time to season on the way off the grill. Take a minute to sprinkle some sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and herbs to give it an extra fresh kick right before serving.
3. Let it Rest!
The most important tip we got from Sasso is to let meat rest for five minutes before eating or slicing.
4. Avoid Cooking Chemicals Into Your Barbcue
The lighter fluid you use to fire up a coal-burning grill can cause you to burn lighter fluid into your meal. Sasso’s method for avoiding this is called “The Chimney Starter.”
He explains his method: “You load up the space on the bottom of the grill with a piece of newspaper or two, pile coals in from the top, then light the newspaper. The fire and heat from the newspaper ignites the bottom coals, and then the fire builds up. When the top coals are covered with gray ash, you're ready to go.
If you find yourself without a chimney starter, you can apply a similar method without the added equipment. Simply bunch up a couple pieces of newspaper and place them in the middle of the charcoal grate. Then build the coals up around the paper in a pyramid fashion, light the newspaper, and let it go. This will take longer to fully light than with a chimney, but the fire should still be ready in less time than it would take to burn off all traces of lighter fluid.”
Tips for Healthy Grilling
1. Remember that one serving of meat is only about three to four ounces and be sure to pair it with grilled vegetables. The healthiest options for meat are grass-fed beef, heritage breed pork, organic poultry, and wild seafood (rather than farmed).
2. Some veggie ideas: grilled artichoke halves served with roasted garlic and lemon aioli; grilled corn bites tossed with cilantro, lime, red chili flakes, olive oil, and queso fresco cheese; grilled whole leeks and sweet potatoes with salsa verde; grilled asparagus with chimichurri sauce; grilled Portobello mushrooms with barbecued onions; grilled jalapeños, scallions, and tomatoes for a flavorful salsa.
3. Dense root vegetables like potatoes, carrots, yams, beets, and rutabagas should be thinly sliced, tossed in oil and fresh herbs, and grilled with the cover closed. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce, which you can make by puréeing any favorite delicate veggies like asparagus, scallions, red peppers, and tomatoes.
4. For dessert, try char-grilling fruit like pineapple slices, peaches, mangoes, watermelon, apples, oranges, plums, or ripe pears. Toast lightly buttered slices of angel food cake on the grill and serve with fresh berry “salsa.”