If you haven’t checked off all the items on your list just yet, take a look at this collection of tips and recipes that will make your get-together a grand slam:
Gas vs. Charcoal
Which side are you on? Convenient Gas or Smokey Charcoal? The debate over the superior grilling style has waged on for decades. If you’re thinking of buying a new grill, there’s a lot to consider.
Are you drawn to the iconic image of cooking over an open flame? If so, charcoal is probably for you. On the other hand, if you plan on grilling frequently, a gas grill could be a better option.
Charcoal grilling tends to be messier and more involved because of the left-over ashes and grease. There’s also the challenge of lighting and controlling the heat of the coals. Some say that charcoal lends a deep, smoky flavor and a searing effect that gas grills can’t match. But not everyone agrees.
Others argue that the characteristic flavor of grilled food comes from the drippings, not the fuel. When drippings hit the heat source below, the oils, sugars, and proteins burst into smoke and flame. It’s those complex molecules in the smoke that imbue the meat with rich flavor.
While flavor is a personal preference, there are some straightforward differences between Gas Grills and Charcoal grills that could change your opinion of which is better. Let’s look at the pros and cons:
- Easy to use. Gas is easily turned on or off. Temperature is controlled by a dial and heat builds quickly.
- Easy to clean. Gas Grills don’t need starter fluid or messy charcoal. Simply brush them down when you are done and you are good to go.
- Easy to maintain. A propane tank can carry fuel for 10 – 20 hours depending on the size. Because gas grills require very little setup, you can use them throughout the week sort of like a second oven.
- Gas Grills are more expensive. A standard gas grill ranges between $150 - $400. Premium models can easily exceed $1000+.
- Complex Design. Gas grills have more different parts and smaller pieces. If you skip a grilling season or two, you might have to spend money on repairs.
- Flavor. Charcoal grills create more smoke and therefore create a broader range of tasty flavors.
- Temperature. Charcoal grills can reach temperatures that gas grills simply can’t. This allows you to sear your meat more effectively. Searing is the process of browning the surface of meat, usually steaks, to create chemical reactions and caramelization that add extra complex flavors.
- Cost. You can get a charcoal grill for as little as $25 dollars. A kettle usually lands around $150, but you can also go with a deluxe model for $600+
- Clean up. Each time you use your charcoal grill, you will have to clean out the ashes and brush the grates down. Charcoal itself can be messy if a bag tears or spills.
- Difficulty. Regulating temperature is much harder with a charcoal grill compared to their gas counterparts. You may need to add more charcoal and start over if you are inexperienced. However, one you have plenty of practice you can use advanced techniques like maintaining hot and cooler zones on the grill.
- Prep Time. Charcoal takes at least 20 minutes to heat up depending on the method.
Charcoal Starters, also known as Chimney Starters, are a great way to get your coals going. They are basically metal cylinders with holes and a basin to hold your starter. You can use either newspaper or a lighter cube to start your coals. Use two at a time to get ahead on your grilling festivities!
Check out the video below for a quick guide on using charcoal or chimney starters.
How to Prep Your Grill
Give It a Check Up
If it’s been a while since you grilled last, and your grill has been sitting idle, make sure all the small pieces are working properly. Check hoses for cracks and leaks and replace them if necessary. Make sure your burners, tubes, and knobs are in working order. If they are clogged, you may be able to unblock them with a toothpick for pipecleaner.
Clean Your Grill
An important step in making the perfect piece of meat is making sure your grill is clean and well maintained. To prepare a gas grill, you’ll need a stiff brush, canola oil, a bowl, and a kitchen towel.
Turn up the heat so that the grates are easier to clean, but not so hot that you can’t safely work. This should make it easier to scrape the residue off with your brush. If you don’t have a brush, you can use a ball of aluminum foil.
When you are ready to cook, dip the towel in canola oil using your tongs and swab the grates until they shine all over. This will help keep your food from sticking.
If you are preparing a charcoal grill follow the same steps, but first clean out the ash catcher so it doesn’t end up on your grates and your food.
Preheat Your Grill
You’re almost ready to get cooking! Pre-heat your grill so it cooks even better. To preheat a gas grill, light the grill with the lid open, then turn the heat all the way up and close the lid. When you are ready to grill, you can adjust the temperature where you need it.
To preheat a charcoal grill, light the charcoal and let it burn until the coals start to turn white and ashy. Next, replace the lid and preheat for about 15 minutes. Go ahead and open the dampers so air can flow.
How to Marinate Meat
Marinating your meat can yield delicious results, but you’ll need 2 to 5 hours for the meat to absorb the marinade. If you have the time to take the scenic route to flavor town, try this marinade recipe on steaks or brush on hamburgers:
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon garlic power
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon thyme
Mix these ingredients together and pour over your meat. Refrigerate for 2 or more hours and then grill meat as desired.
Acidic liquids soften and increase the water-holding capacity of muscle fibers, resulting in improved texture and juicier meat. Try orange juice, wine, vinegar, or lime juice instead of lemon juice to unlock new flavors.
Don’t marinate in metal containers. Most marinades contain acid that can react chemically with metal and affect the flavor.
Barbecue purists might argue that marinade overpowers the natural taste of the meat. Here are some seasoning tips to keep in mind when using dry spices:
Be careful when adding salt. Salt can dry out your meat by drawing out the moisture. Since it is easy to use too much salt, we recommend salting cautiously right before grilling and adding salt to taste afterward.
Let steaks sit at room temperature for half an hour and then press salt and pepper into both sides of the meat. Before placing the steaks on the grill, brush them down with vegetable oil.
The Perfect Original Burger Recipe
We use 80/20 ground chuck so the burger is plenty juicy. Leaner ground beef/sirloin can dry out easily when grilled.
- Preheat your grill for high heat and lightly oil the grate.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together egg, salt and pepper. Place ground beef and bread crumbs into the mixture. With hands or a fork, mix until well blended. Form into 4 patties approximately 3/4 inch thick.
- Place patties on the prepared grill. Cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side, or to desired doneness.
Tired of dry burgers? Try folding an ice cube into the middle of the patty for a juicy, melt-in-your-mouth burger.
Dimple Your Burgers. Meat tends to puff up when cooked at temperatures over 140 degrees. Simply make an indentation in the center of your burger to prevent flying-saucer shaped patties.
Give it a Rest. Let your meat patties “rest” and cool so they retain their juiciness. When you let meat rest water pressure drops, fibers relax, and the juices stay inside even after biting or cutting in.
A Meatloaf Recipe Everyone Will Love
- 1½ lbs lean ground beef
- 3 eggs
- 1½ sleeves crushed Ritz crackers
- ½ cup finely chopped onion
- ¼ cup finely diced green pepper (can be omitted if you prefer)
- 4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- ½ cup milk
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp mustard
- Preheat oven to 350 ℉. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.
- Mix the topping ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs then add the cracker crumbs, onion, green pepper, milk, salt, pepper and cheese; stir to combine.
- Add the ground beef and mix well. Turn out the meatloaf mixture onto the prepared pan; shape into a loaf.
- Bake for 30 minutes then spread topping on top of the meatloaf. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until the center is 160 ℉.
- Let stand for 5-10 minutes to rest, then slice and serve.
Crockpot BBQ Ribs
- 2 pounds pork baby back ribs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1(18oz) bottle of bbq sauce (I used Sweet Baby Rays)
- 1-4 tsp hot sauce (depending on how spicy you like it. Since the girls were eating this, I only did 1 tsp)
- 1/2 cup ketchup
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Season ribs with salt and pepper. Place in a shallow baking pan. Brown in oven 15 minutes. Turn over, and brown another 15 minutes; drain fat.
- In a bowl, mix together the bbq sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, oregano, and Worcestershire sauce. Set aside.
- Place ribs in slow cooker.
- Pour sauce over ribs.
- Turn to coat.
- Set crockpot on LOW for 6-7 hours. I would recommend 7 hours.
- Stir once during cooking time so ribs don’t stick to sides and burn.
Grilled Eggplant with Herbed Quinoa
- 3-4 medium eggplants (maybe 2 larger ones, 4 smaller ones)
- Sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Za'atar seasoning
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- Half of a small red onion, sliced thin
- Generous handful each of fresh basil, dill and cilantro
- 2 Tbsp. capers, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. honey or agave nectar
- 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
- Cut the eggplants into 1 1/2'' rounds. Sprinkle with salt and set aside for 30 minutes to release water.
- Add quinoa to a pot with a pinch of salt and 3/4 cup water or stock. Bring it to a gentle boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat, fluff with a fork, cover again and leave it to steam another 5 minutes.
- Heat up your grill or pan and press the eggplants between paper towels to absorb the excess moisture. Brush both sides with olive oil and grill for about 5 minutes per side until it darkens and the texture seems soft throughout.
- Move the eggplant to a plate, drizzle a bit more olive oil and sprinkle with za'atar to taste.
- Finish the quinoa, toss in the onions, all the herbs, oil, vinegar, honey or agave and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Taste and adjust as you like.
- Put the eggplants on a plate, top with the quinoa and garnish with the toasted pinenuts.
The Best Chicken Salad Ever
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 cups chopped or pulled chicken meat
- 1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans
- 1 stalk celery
- Salt to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (Optional)
- 1 teaspoon dill
- 1 small onion, finely chopped(1/2 cup)
In a medium bowl, mix ingredients. Refrigerate until serving
Use grilled or rotisserie chicken. This makes a HUGE difference! For something a little spicier, add hot sauce before mixing.
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