Friday, March 4, 2011

Perfect Grilling, Every Time

I know it's only March, and the summertime days are still a bit off, you'll still want to be ready when it's time to grill!  How often have you gone to a friend's house for a little backyard get-together, only to be served a piece of charcoal drenched in barbecue sauce?  Worse yet, how often have you been that guy (or girl!) serving your friends the charred something-or-other because you don't know how to grill properly?  Well, worry no more; I'm here to help you out.

First things first - cooking on the grill is like any other talent or hobby - the more you do it, the better you'll get, so practice, practice, practice.  Any good chef tests his recipes out before trying them on company; you should do the same with your cooking technique.

Second - all across the US, "grilling" and "barbecue" are used synonymously - this is not the case!!!  "Grilling" is what I do most often, because it is quicker and requires less effort - it involves a fast grill (hot) and short cooking times.  "Barbecue" is much more involved, and takes a lot longer.  Meats will be cooked or smoked for several hours over a low heat in a true barbecue.

Third - I almost exclusively use a propane grill for grilling.  I recognize and readily admit that charcoal gives a much more flavorful end product, but I am a lazy bastard, and so the convenience of propane wins out.  I do have a charcoal grill that I use on occasion, but it's hard to beat pressing a button and throwing the meat on the grill 5 minutes later.

And so away we go!

For this demonstration, I will be cooking boneless/skinless chicken breasts.  Very convenient, they require little preparation for the grill, and can be purchased for $1.87 a pound at our local Sam's Club.  I suppose that in later blogs, I can show you the fancy, but for this one, chicken will have to do.  Since boneless/skinless chicken has no bone and very little fat, you might want to use a rub or marinade.  In a pinch, I'll use the commercial marinades, but here I used my own rub mix - mostly paprika, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.
rubbed chicken in a bag

You don't necessarily have to let the rub sit on it for a while before cooking; I just have these in a bag because I also pounded them to an even thickness (another good grilling tip).  I recommend pulling the meat out of the refrigerator for 10 or 15 minutes before throwing it on the grill, but if you're scared of bacteria growth, you can pass on that.

Get your grill good and hot, and make sure to scrape any old leftover bits off.  You must have a clean grill grate!  Once you've let your grill warm up properly, you need to oil it.  I find that the best way to do this is to fold up a paper towel, dip it in a little vegetable oil, and use tongs to wipe the oiled paper towel across the grate, but since we've established that I'm a lazy bastard, here's an easier method:
 too lazy for my own good
Use non-stick cooking spray.  Of course, it will flare up if you use waaaaaaay too much or spray the flame directly, so do it right!

Now that you've got a hot grill properly lubed (did I say 'girl' or 'grill'?), it's time to put the meat on it.  (again, did I say 'girl' or 'grill'?)  You'll start presentation side down (for these chicken breasts, it means top-side down).  I recommend doing it diagonally, too:

Why diagonally?  When we grill, we grill to impress!  How do we impress?  Well, after a suitable interval (which is why you practice - you'll need to find the hot spots on your own grill so you can adjust times accordingly), approximately 3-5 minutes, you'll rotate them 90 degrees:

And then you'll let them cook for a few minutes more.  I recommend drinking a beer while grilling to help you kill time as well as keeping you cool and refreshed while standing at the grill, but whatever you do, DON'T PLAY WITH THE MEAT!!  (at least not in public)  A lot of people flip and rotate and check way too often because they are scared of serving charcoal, but you need to let your tools do their job properly.  If you have a high grill and you let that hot grill cook properly, when you flip the meat over after those few minutes, hopefully it looks something like this:
I know you're jealous!

This is why we start presentation side down; hopefully you have good crosshatch marks that will impress your girlfriend.  If you don't, though, there is still time for recovery mode - depending on how bad the top looks, you can try to sear it again, or if it must be abandoned, you can try to get good marks on the bottom.  Keep in mind, though, that you won't be able to cook the second side for as long as the first without overcooking the chicken!

If your presentation side does look good, then you are on the downhill slide.  Make sure to cook the chicken for another 5-7 minutes (or until cooked through!) on the other side; you can give it grill marks if you'd like, you can move it around a bit, just be careful not to let it char up!  At this point, you can also lower the heat and allow it to finish more slowly.  Once the chicken is done, pull it and let it rest for a few minutes under foil:
 I realize that the chicken isn't under foil in this picture, but did you really want a picture of aluminum foil?

After resting (it allows the juices to redistribute; if you cut into meat right off the grill, all your juices will wind up on your cutting board), feel free to cut or serve!

Juicy, delicious, nutritious, AND properly cooked!


  1. dude I love you for posting this, will follow the advice.

  2. Good stuff to know, I hardly ever grill, and when I've tried in the past its ends up burnt or raw in the center.

  3. This is a very informative blog. I love the post, I think I'm going to get some brews and have a bbq tomorrow.

  4. A perfectly grilled chicken! I, too, is still in the process of mastering the grill. One of the most important tip I ever received was to resist the temptation to constantly open the lid to check on the meat.

    Great blog btw. Following.

  5. Yes its time for a barbecue. Unfortunately its very cold here...

  6. I just had a grilled fish in dinner .

  7. I live in Australia, every day is bbq day.

  8. Excellent blog. I love grilling.

  9. That chicken looks great! I grew up with charcoal grilling so it's hard for me to move away from it.

  10. Getting chicken that looks (and tastes) as good as what you posted takes a lot of practice, I'm sure.

  11. Wow, im really impressed by the final result. I grilled up some angus burgers last night... it left me reminiscing of summer. Great post man!

  12. I love cooking with the grill, thanks!

  13. Woah, this looks awesome. I'll definitely give this a try when I get some free time on my hands. Thank you!!

  14. Without grilling, life would be a mistake!

  15. Amazing, i'm so hungry now! thanks for the pics

  16. Now I'm hungry. Thanks a lot.