Hot Off the Grill

Expert tips for adding a little extra sizzle to your outdoor cooking.

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Ever since man discovered fire and slapped that first hunk of meat over an open flame, grilling has been an enduring part of our culinary culture. Not only does food taste delicious when grilled—the mouthwatering aromas, the snap and sizzle when the meat hits the flame, and the play of light and shadow as the fire does its work appeal to all the senses. 
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To help you make the most of your multi-sensory grilling experience, we turned to the experts for tips. John Rivers, whose 4Rivers Smokehouse restaurants have elevated local barbecue to a culinary art, says that preheating the grill with the lid closed for 15 to 30 minutes will yield the best grilling results. “In addition to assuring a consistently cooked piece of meat, the hot grate will loosen up any debris from the last grilling that should be brushed off prior to placing the new piece of meat on the grill,” he says. 

Chef George Duran, host of TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off and author of Take this Dish and Twist It, has a nifty tip for removing the old debris: Rub the cut side of a halved onion on a hot grill. Says Duran: “The onion will loosen up baked-on grit and grime and take it right off the grill.”

Ready to start cooking? Follow these grilling tips for great results:

  • Fruit juice gives extra flavor when grilling. Rivers suggests putting apple juice in a clean spray bottle to periodically spray on pork while grilling. “The flavor combination is fantastic,” he says. Duran adds that both apple juice and pineapple juice give “better color, flavor and tenderness.” 
  • Another fruity complement to grilling is lemon, says Duran. “Grill a lemon and then squeeze it on food for a smoky lemon flavor.” 
  • Don’t transfer your meat directly from the chilly fridge to the hot grill, cautions Rivers. You’ll have a more consistent cooking temperature if you allow the meat to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes to a half-hour before grilling. Give larger cuts of meat 30 to 45 minutes of resting time. 
  • Cooked meat needs to rest, too; it will continue to “cook” even after its taken off the grill. Place cooked meat on a clean platter or tray, covered, for 10 to 20 minutes. “This allows the juices to recollect and settle into the meat and produce a more succulent result,” says Rivers. 

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