Take the guesswork out of summertime grilling and serve up the tastiest, juiciest dishes every time.
1. Flavor It
When it comes to backyard grilling, there are several ways to add extra flavor to your food. The quickest way is with glazes, which are syrupy coatings often made with honey, maple syrup, or molasses that are brushed on during the last few minutes of grilling. Similarly, wet and dry rubs require little preparation time. Apply these blends of herbs and spices (wet rubs incorporate moist ingredients, such as oil, mustard, and yogurt) up to a few hours before cooking to create a savory crust. To more deeply infuse foods with flavor — and tenderize them, too — immerse them in marinades that are made with acidic liquids, such as lemon juice, vinegar, and wine.
2. Add Smoke
Whether you grill over gas or charcoal, use hardwood logs, chunks, briquettes, or chips to impart a smoky flavor to foods. Different wood varieties add subtle nuances; try applewood for sweetness, mesquite for tang, or hickory for a baconlike taste.
3. Create Heat Zones
On a kettle grill, bank coals in its center. Sear food in the middle, where heat is highest, then move it to the outer edges of the grill to perfectly cook without burning. On a gas grill, leave one burner on high, another on medium.
4. Get a Clean Start
Prior to grilling, scrub the hot grate with a long-handled wire brush. This keeps it clean — and ensures neat grill marks.
5. Grease the Grate
Prevent food from sticking by brushing the grill grate with oil. Grab a small wad of paper towels with tongs, then dip in a bowl of canola or vegetable oil and rub lightly to evenly coat the grate.
6. Keep It Separate
Use fresh plates, utensils, and cutting boards to prevent raw meat, poultry, and fish from contaminating cooked food.
7. Line It Up
When grilling, lay food on the grate in orderly lines, moving from left to right. Or for quick-cooking items, such as shrimp and scallops, arrange in a circle going clockwise. This will help you keep track of which foods hit the flames first as well as allow you to group raw items away from cooked ones.
8. Don’t Touch
When checking for doneness, resist the urge to repeatedly poke, stab, or flip your food. Instead, give food time to sear and develop a crust; turn only when grill marks form.
9. Time It
Food continues to cook after it comes off the grill, so it’s best to remove it just before it has reached the desired doneness. A digital instant-read thermometer gives the most accurate results, but you can also gently poke steak and chops with your index finger; the firmer meat feels, the more well-done it is. With seafood, look for opacity; well-done fish fillets will be opaque all the way through. For chicken, make a slit in the thickest part of the cut. Any juices that escape should run clear.
10. Take a Break
Let food rest before serving — a few minutes for small cuts, up to 15 minutes for roasts.