Grilling tips are everywhere, and boy are they subjective. Everyone from TV chefs to your neighbor has a “thing you must do for this” or a “perfect way to grill that.” But whether you’re a charcoal loyalist, propane purist, weekend warrior, or everyday backyard chef, there are definitely some common questions that need answering. This is the definitive list of questions that we hear from our friends and customers about how to grill; i.e., your grilling questions, answered:
Your Grilling Questions, Answered:
1. What kind of grill grates are best?
This really depends on what you define as “best”. Here’s the lowdown on the most popular options.
- Ceramic or porcelain-coated steel: Very popular for its excellent non-stick qualities because it’s easy to keep clean. The downside is that ceramic coated steel will wear out eventually.
- Cast iron: Heats more evenly and hotter than other materials. It also makes excellent grill marks and if properly seasoned has good nonstick qualities. Cast iron grates will last just about forever, but you absolutely must care for them by cleaning then wiping down with oil after each use.
- Stainless steel: Conducts heat well and will last a long time if cleaned regularly. Look for thicker stainless steel rods vs. the cheaper, thinner grates found on lower-end grills. These grates look great at first, but won’t actually stay stainless for long.
2. How do I get a smoky flavor into food when using a gas grill?
Most gas grills are designed with bars or ridges underneath the grates and over the burners — these aren’t just to protect the flames. Keep the grill closed as much as possible during cooking. The juices will drip from your food and burn on the flavor bars of the grill creating smoke that will give you a similar flavor to charcoal. For a more direct smoky approach, make a foil packet of wood chips and place it in between the grates and the flavor bars.
3. Why do I get a bitter flavor on smoked meats?
The most common reasons barbeque ends up bitter is you’ve added too much smoke. You will hear arguments against this, but the general rule of thumb is to apply smoke until your internal meat temperature is around 140 degrees. After that, the smoke won’t penetrate the meat but the surface will continue to get too smoky and bitter.
4. What’s the difference between wood chips and wood pellets?
Wood chips are just what they sound like — chips of hardwood (you can usually find hickory, mesquite, apple, and a few others at the grocery store. You can use wood chips in a bullet smoker, electric smoker, kettle grill… just about anywhere. Pellets are typically wood dust compressed into a pellet shape, and are only recommended for use specifically with a pellet grill or pellet smoker.
5. What’s the best/fastest way to light charcoal?
Any grill or barbeque expert will recommend that you light charcoal with a charcoal chimney. A chimney is inexpensive, simple to use, and eliminates the need for lighter fluid. All you will need is 10 — 15 minutes and a small amount of paper to get your charcoal ready to cook.
6. How do I deal with flare-ups on the grill?
Keeping a spray bottle of water handy to douse any flare-ups while grilling. Keeping the grill closed as much as possible while grilling, especially fatty meats, will often prevent flare-ups in the first place.
7. Can I use charcoal in my gas grill?
No, you really shouldn’t. Unless it is a specifically designed combination charcoal and gas grill, adding another heat source to your grill would be dangerous.