Its summertime and we all want to the living to be easy—and that includes our grilling! Here are five grilling tips to ensure you have an easy barbecue season with delicious meals and outdoor gatherings with friends and family that satisfy your taste buds and warm your heart.
5 Things You Need to Know For BBQ Season
1. Have the right equipment (and use it right!)
As most outdoor cooks know, there are advantages to having a gas grill (convenience, better charred flavour) or having a charcoal grill (different kinds of charcoal can impart different kinds of smoky delicious flavour.
Either way, always start—every time—with a perfectly clean grill: Experts say to use a wire brush to clean the grates and remove any food residue or char on them. Then, wipe them down with paper towels or cloth using some vegetable oil. This will also scoop up any broken-off brush bristles.
Keep the grill clean by covering it with the lid when you're done grilling each time— the trapped heat will help burn off food and make the grill easier to clean
When it’s time to cook, always preheat your grill to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit, with a plan to reduce to 350 degrees F for indirect cooking—like heating up garlic bread or warming buns. Create cooking zones by keeping one section at a lower temperature for warming foods and also, as your meat and vegetables start to cook through, you can move them to a cooler area to slow down the process.
For charcoal, coals should have a slight ash covering them and when you hold your hand six inches over the grate, you should need to snatch it away in a few seconds.
Utensils and accessories: To avoid any kind of cross-contamination, chefs recommend using different utensils with each type of protein and vegetables.
Invest in a good pair of tongs to put food on the grill and to also move it around while it's cooking. Heavy-duty, long-handled, spring-loaded tongs act like an extra pair of hands. But, for even cooking and so that meat retains its juices (and attractive grill marks!), experts say, don’t move the food around too much!
And don’t forget to always stay by the barbecue. Moments away can make the difference between charred to perfection and burnt beyond recognition.
Other essentials: Get a handy meat thermometer to make sure meat and chicken is cooked just enough (but not too much!). Fill a spray bottle with water in case you get any flare-ups during grilling, which can lead to uneven cooking (and burns!). This will help keep the heat down. Water can also be sprayed on the grill after you’re done to loosen up the burnt bits and more easily clean it off with a brush.
2. Grilling great meat (and burgers)
Even though meat is increasingly sharing the grill spotlight (with pizza, vegetables, even fruit) it still has a starring role to play. Before firing up the grill, pick your cut of beef. Steaks you can simply season and grill are tenderloin, top sirloin, T-bone and New York strip steak, ribeye, top rib—meats that are naturally tender and have fat on them.
If you want to add some extra flavour to these meats, season before grilling. You can go with just salt and pepper, or add even more flavour with basil, garlic powder, or onion powder.
Undercook steaks just slightly. Carryover cooking means food continues to cook after it leaves the grill. You can expect food temperature to go up about five degrees after leaving the grill, so plan accordingly when you test the temperature of your meat with a thermometer. Allow meat to sit undisturbed (and unsliced!) for five to 15 minutes after cooking, as this will allow the juices to redistribute. Chefs stress that resting meat is an important key to juicy results!
Chefs’ tip: With a bit of practice, you can tell when meat is done just by pressing it. Raw meat feels soft, rare meat is still soft, medium rare is somewhat resistant but still yields a bit, medium springs back when you poke it, and medium-well and well will be solidly firm.
While steak is a great treat, there’s nothing like a big family cookout with burgers! Try our Lamb Burger with Feta Garlic Mayo and served on D’Italiano Crustini buns, or our juicy and flavourful Diana’s BLT Burger. Remember to flip burgers just once and resist the urge to press down to flatten the patties on the grill (we all seem to do it!) as this releases the juices and a lot of the delicious flavour.
Another super-easy one-step grill option is cooking up some sausages and tucking them into D’Italiano Original or Whole Wheat Sausage Buns, and adding your favourite fixings. Molto buona!
3. Get saucy
Meats that are leaner and less tender can also achieve greatness on the grill. The key is marinades.
Lean cuts of meat like strip steak, flank, flat iron and hangar steaks are perfect for the marinating and grilling. To tenderize and infuse meat with flavour, marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours. Before cooking, remove meat from the marinade and shake off excess. Use a paper towel to pat dry and help promote even browning. Let them rest after grilling, and be sure to slice across the grain for tender meat.
For chicken, a marinade isn’t necessary, but adding a sauce part-way through cooking can add delicious flavour. Experts recommend you don’t put barbecue or other sauce on the chicken until it is 160 degrees F—just a few minutes before it is cooked, in order to avoid the sauce burning.
For a simple-yet-delicious flank steak recipe with a pesto marinade, try D’Italiano’s Pesto Brushed Flank Steak with Grilled Vegetables.
Want to go saucy with fish? Salmon Spiedini with Lemon-Caper Cream uses a simple lemon and olive oil marinade and is topped with a lemon-caper sauce.
4. Let the grill do double- (and triple-) duty
If you’re entertaining, it’s best to keep all the cooking in one place: Rather than running to and from the kitchen, why not stay outside with your guests and do everything you can on the grill?
While your guests are arriving or having a drink, use the grill to create appetizers like the Italian Grilled Bocconcini Spiedini (Italian-style kebabs). It uses D’Italiano Thick Slice Bread, slices of prosciutto and bocconcini cheese. The result is a toasty-cheesy treat right off the barbecue. Want another appetizer perfect for grilling? Try the Italian-inspired Spicy Shrimp and Crab Bruschetta.
You can even cook pizza atop an open fire. Use a ceramic pizza stone and the next thing you know, you have a pizza that tastes like it was cooked in a wood-fired oven!
As an easy side that your guests won’t be able to get enough of, try this D’Italiano Barbequed Garlic Bread.
Even dessert can be concocted on the grill: Make slices of sweet pound cake extra special by warming them up and giving them pretty grill marks. Trust us! Add fruit and whipped cream or a dollop of mascarpone cream. Delizioso!
5. Let your veggies shine
The joy of cooking vegetables on the grill is that they are usually kept in large pieces and create a beautiful and colourful platter that can be served family-style at your table. Red and orange peppers, yellow and green zucchini, plump tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, eggplant all do well on the grill and look beautiful. They also go well with any Italian-inspired meal you are creating!
To cook vegetables on the grill, slice in large pieces and brush with olive oil. Make sure the grill is very clean. Vegetables should be watched closely and cooked four to 10 minutes. Hearty vegetables like peppers and onions should be put on the grill first or placed in the hottest area. Eggplant, squash, zucchini, mushrooms are next; followed by asparagus and tomatoes. Unlike meat, it’s OK to move these around to get them cooked right and with the right grill marks.
When they come off the grill, sprinkle with salt, drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and squeeze on a bit of lemon—just like they do in Italy!
To incorporate grilled vegetables into a main course, try this Grilled Portobello Sandwich on a Crustini with Orange Chili Mayonnaise or as mentioned above, Pesto Brushed Flank Steak with Grilled Vegetables.
In the end, the most important thing is bringing loved ones together to laugh and share delicious food!