Barbecuing 101: How Not to Burn the Burgers This Summer
No one is born a BBQ master. But with our Barbecuing 101 guide, you’ll have everything you need to ensure it’s a success. We’re giving you everything from shopping checklists to preparing and seasoning your grill to our top tips and tricks.
So, without further ado, let’s turn your barbecuing skills from drab to fab. You’ll never need to worry about burning the burgers ever again!
The Grilling Guide for Beginners (or Masters Looking for a Refresher)
First thing’s first, you need to learn the basics. And that’s exactly what we’re going to give you right here.
Follow these steps to prepare your summer BBQ for success:
#1 Know Your Grill
You’ll be dealing with propane, gas, electric, or charcoal, depending on your grill. If you aren’t sure which type of grill you have, take notes.
The simplest kind to identify is the electric grill. Basically, if you have to plug it into an outlet, it’s electric.
Sure you don’t have an electric grill? Then look underneath the grill unit. If there’s a tank, it’s like a propane barbecue.
Can’t see a cord or tank? Have a look at the grill face. If there are knobs and buttons, it’s likely a gas grill. It’s a bit different from the propane type because it uses your home’s natural gas supply to run. With this type, you never have to worry about running out of cooking fuel!
Finally, if you have a super basic grill (i.e., no knobs, buttons, or tanks) and it looks like a hollowed-out bin, you probably have a charcoal grill. You risk running out of cooking fuel, so remember to buy extra for back up.
#2 Prep Your Grill
Once you understand the type of grill you have, you can begin prepping it for your bbq extravaganza! Here’s our step-by-step guide to preparing your grill:
1. Clean the grates — The best grilling starts with a clean barbecue. If you have a steel or cast-iron grate, use a stiff bristled brush to remove grime, rust, or gunk. For porcelain-coated cast-iron, avoid scratching by using a nylon bristled brush. Some grills could have a special cleaning tool attached to its side, so use that if it exists.
2. Clean the bottom — Ensure the grill drum is clear of debris. Sometimes, debris can block the heat source and ruin your cooking.
3. Season the grill grates — If you don’t have a porcelain-coated or pre-seasoned grill grate, you need to season them to create a non-stick surface. To do this, apply a thin layer of canola oil to the grates before you start heating the barbecue. The easiest way is to purchase a spray oil. That way, you’ll ensure an even layer. Just be sure to wipe off any excess with a paper towel. After all, too much oil can create an unwanted build-up or burn your precious food.
#3 Whack Up the Heat
Now you’ve cleaned and seasoned your grill, it’s time to turn it on!
If you have a gas grill, ensure the gas line valve is open. Similarly, for propane grills, you need to open the valve on the top of the propane tank to ensure it flows to the drum.
For electric grills, all you need to do is plug it in and turn it on.
Lastly, for charcoal grills, add the fuel to the bottom of the drum, underneath the grates.
Consider this stage the same as preheating an oven. Ideally, you need to check your barbecue’s manual and follow the starting instructions. But if you can’t find it, follow our basic step-by-step guides below:
Starting and Pre-Heating Electric Grills
1. Plug it in.
2. Turn the plug on.
3. Use the power knob to turn the grill on.
4. Adjust the heat setting. Turn the dial to high, shut the lid, and allow it to wait for your grill to reach your ideal temperature.
Tip: be patient! It might take a while.
Starting and Pre-Heating Propane or Gas Grills
1. Turn one of the knobs (each one corresponds to a burner) to high.
2. Press and hold the ignitor button. You’ll hear a click, followed by a whooshing sound. This is the gas igniting.
3. Upon hearing the whoosh or seeing the flame, release the ignitor.
4. Keep the temperature on high, and fire up the other burners you plan to use by repeating steps one to three.
5. Close the lid.
6. Leave for 10-15 minutes or until you’ve received the desired temperature.
Starting and Pre-Heating Charcoal Grills
1. If you’re using match light coals (the bag will tell you), simply light them with a match.
2. If they aren’t match light coals, apply lighter fluid before introducing the flame.
3. Don’t use too much fluid, and make sure you light your coals straight away after putting the lighter fluid on.
4. Once the coals have a light, ash-grey tone to them, spread them around.
5. You’re ready to cook!
#4 Cook with Your Grill Type in Mind
Electric, gas, and propane grills are simpler to cook with because you can easily adjust the temperature by turning the knob.
With charcoal barbecues, however, you’ll have to work a lot harder to manipulate the temperature (but it’s not impossible).
To lower the temperature, you have three options:
· Vents — The top and bottom vents limit the oxygen. Increased oxygen means higher heat.
· Move coals — Move the coals to one side and cook the food on the other. After all, direct heat means a higher temperature.
· Remove coals — The more coals in the drum, the higher the temperature.
#5 Cool and Clean
After your meal, you need to return the grill to its former condition. To do so, follow these steps:
1. Burn off any cooked-on food by increasing the heat and leaving the lid closed for 15 minutes. After that, turn off the grill.
2. Turn the barbecue off. If it’s electric, all you need to do is unplug it. For propane or gas grills, close the various valves.
3. Let the grates and drum cool.
4. Once it’s cool, repeat the cleaning and seasoning steps we discussed earlier.
Doing the above will ensure your grill withstands the test of time by reducing rust and excessive wear.
Oh, and don’t forget to put the grill cover on to protect it from the elements!
Barbecuing 101: How to BBQ Almost Anything (A Super Simple Cheat Sheet)
You know your way around your grill now and you’ve set it up for success. So, it’s time to give you the ultimate barbecuing cheat sheet! It tells you exactly how to cook all kinds of popular grilling meats, fish, and veggies to perfection:
· Bone-in, skin-on chicken — It’s complicated to cook, but oh-so worth it when you get it right. Be mindful of it drying out. Barbecued chicken works wonders on gas and charcoal grills. Season it with salt and pepper before putting it straight over the hottest part of the grill. Turn every few moments so it develops a crust without burning. It’ll take roughly 15 minutes. After that, move them to the cool side of the grill and let them cook until they’re juicy and cooked through. This will take an extra 15 to 20 minutes. Apply barbecue sauce when you turn the chicken to the cooler side, so it reduces instead of burns.
· Chicken breasts — Use a meat tenderiser to ensure even thicknesses and, thus, even cooking. Submerge the breasts in marinade to quickly brine them in salted water. Ensure a medium-hot fire and a well-seasoned grate. Gas and charcoal grills work wonders. They cook quickly. You’ll only need to barbecue them for a few minutes on each side. Use an instant-read meat thermometer and remove them from the grates once they reach 70 degrees Celsius. Let them rest so they reach 75 degrees Celsius before serving.
· Beef, pork, and lamb — These are perhaps the easiest to cook on a grill. Simply season them with salt and pepper or a custom-made rub before putting them on the grates.
· Burgers — Choose meat that’s roughly 20% fat for the perfect burger. Season both sides with salt and black pepper. Put the burgers on a hot grill (charcoal barbecues are best here) and cook without moving them for three minutes. Flip with a spatula, and lay cheese slices on the meat (if you want to). Cook for another three minutes for medium-rare burgers. Allow to rest for a couple of moments on the top of the grill while you toast the buns.
· Baby back ribs — Leave one side of your grill free of coals or only turn one side of your gas grill’s burners on. Allow to heat while you mix one cup of water with one cup of barbecue sauce. Remove the membrane from the inside of the rack of ribs. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the ribs before placing them on the grill directly over the goals. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once every five minutes, and basting with the diluted sauce. You’ll know it’s ready when you look inside, and the meat isn’t pink in the middle. Rest the ribs for five minutes and cut into individual pieces to serve.
· Lamb chops — Trim excess fat before rubbing the meat with minced garlic, sea salt, and black pepper. Put the chops on the hot section of the grill for two minutes per side. They should be a nice brown colour. Move them to the cooler side to cook through completely (expect it to take six to seven minutes). Ensure you turn two times throughout this.
· Sausages — Sausages have higher fat contents, so use a medium, indirect heat to make sure it doesn’t burn while it cooks. They’ll be cooked in roughly 25 minutes.
· Shrimp — Shrimp cook in about two to three minutes per side. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Rub with a bit of oil, and grill over direct heat. Turn once. We recommend larger shrimp for the grill.
· Seafood — Use medium or medium-high heat for everything from oysters to smaller fillets. A properly seasoned and cleaned grill is essential here, otherwise the seafood will burn.
· Whole fish — Use a grill basket or put them directly on the grate. Choose the method you’re most comfortable with. Rub the fish with oil and salt inside the cavity. We recommend adding sliced lemon and herbs in the cavity too. Leave one side of your grill coal-free or heat one burner side. Grill over the coals until the skin is crisp on both sides and flesh has just turned opaque. Use two spatulas to turn if you aren’t using a basket. Once cooked, allow to stand off the heat for five minutes before drizzling with olive oil and serving.
· Vegetables — Asparagus, red peppers, corn, onions and okra work especially well. Coat in oil and turn frequently to avoid excessive charring.
The Ultimate BBQ Checklist
You’ve learned how to barbecue for beginners and the cheat sheet is well-and-truly under your belt, but here’s the ultimate BBQ checklist to take with you to the shop (or while you’re ordering online). We’ve listed everything from the grilling equipment to the table setting to the all-important food!
#1 The Grilling Equipment
We’ve already spoken about the differences between grill types and fuels. But regardless of the type of barbecue you have, the tools stay the same.
A great set of barbecue equipment will last for years to come. Stainless steel tongs, grilling fork, and spatulas are the way to go; they’ll stand up to the heat and the test of time. If you’re feeling really fancy, splash out on a basting brush too.
The basics are as follows:
· Aluminium foil
· Grill gloves (flame-resistant)
· Grill fork
· Gas or charcoal
· Apron (flame-resistant)
#2 The Beverages
The drinks keep everyone cool and refreshed. But you know your guests better than anyone, so have a think about what types of beverages they’ll prefer. Our suggestions are as follows:
· Beer, wine, and cocktails
· Plastic cubs
· Ice bucket
· Bottle opener
Of course, you don’t need to have all these options. Just a few will make your BBQ ultra-special.
#3 The Condiments and Sauces
From the dipping sauces to the marinade, these are the things that make your food that much better. The specific condiments you need depends on the type of meat and other food you’re serving.
That said, there are a few staples to keep in mind.
You can get loads of great barbecue sauces from the shop, but you could try to make your own to give your grilled meat a personalised touch (and a barbecue party your guests will never forget).
Here are a few recipes to try:
Burger and Hot Dog Condiment and Toppings Checklist
A menu filled with burgers and hot dogs isn’t complete without condiments. By supplying all the below, you’ll allow all your guests to build their perfect meal:
· Hot sauce
· Barbecue sauce
Special BBQ Themed Condiments
If you’re throwing a themed barbecue or are simply cooking a different type of cuisine on your grill, you should think about acquiring several special condiments. They can go directly on your BBQed items, or you can use them as dips or toppings.
The specific condiments chosen from this list depends on what you’re serving. For example, regular crisps probably work best with ranch or French onion dip, but tortilla chips pair perfectly with salsa:
· Ranch dip
· French onion dip
· Salt and pepper
· Tandoori masala (for Indian-style barbecues)
· Chimichurri (for Latin American-style barbecues)
· Spice rubs (for briskets)
· Tahini (for Middle Eastern-style barbecues)
#4 The Mains
Meat tends to be the first choice when considering mains for your barbecue party. But there are tons of vegetarian options available.
We recommend choosing a couple of mains to feature and leave your left over ideas for another gathering:
· Sausages and/or hotdogs
· Pulled pork
· Shish kebabs
· Veggies (whole onions work especially well on the grill)
Regardless of the mains you choose, it’s all about the seasoning. But we’ll discuss marinade later in the “Final Grilling Tips and Tricks” section at the bottom of this article.
#5 The Sides
The side dishes make or break the barbecue. After all, you need something refreshing to go with the grilled meat or fish. Plus, your sides can feature the season’s best produce and be prepared ahead of time so you’re not rushing around on the day.
On top of that, a few of the following may make great appetizers while your guests are waiting for your perfectly barbecued meat to cook:
· Potato salad
· Pasta salad
· Watermelon, berries, and/or other summer fruits
· Corn on the cob
· Tortillas or pittas
· Cut raw vegetables for dipping
#6 The Desserts
Even though the grill is the centre of attention, you need some good desserts to finish off your party with a sugar-induced bang.
We’ve linked some stunning (and BBQ-perfect) recipes below, but feel free to head to your local supermarket and purchase some premade delicacies:
· Slab pie
· Strawberry cheesecake (or you can buy one, of course)
#7 The Table Setting and Safety Stuff
Consider your picnic table the action hub. You can dress it however you like. Some people love to go all-out with decorations, but others opt for the more functional affair. Whatever you decide, there are several things you’ll definitely need.
The Table Setting Checklist
While disposable plates, cups, and utensils make clean-up quicker, they aren’t the most environmentally friendly options. So, we recommend choosing reusable outdoor table setting supplies to help the planet. Plus, you won’t need to buy a new set every time you want to have some grilling fun with friends or family.
Here’s everything you’ll need for your table setting:
· Plates and bowls
· Forks, spoons, and knives
· Cutting board
The Safety Checklist
If there’s an accident, the fun in the sun can quickly turn sour. Thankfully, you can be prepared and ensure you have some safety stuff around just in case.
With that in mind, here are a few bits and bobs to gather before your barbecuing party begins:
· First aid kit
· Sun cream
· Fire extinguisher
· Bug spray or candles
A Few Final Grilling Tips and Tricks
To finish off our barbecuing 101 guide, we need to divulge our top secret grilling tips and tricks that’ll ensure your BBQ goes off without a hitch:
· Don’t puncture the meat — Trust the cooking times and temperatures. If you want to know whether something is properly cooked, used a meat thermometer and food safety guidelines.
· If in doubt, use food safety guidelines — Print out food cooking temperatures so you don’t have to worry about undercooking your burgers, chicken breasts, seafood, or veggies.
· Spatulas for burgers and fish — Use tongs for everything else.
· Never push the meat against the grates — Squishing the meat against the grates promotes flare-ups. Not only are these dangerous, but they’re the number one action that causes burned burgers! And as you know by the title, that’s the main thing we’re avoiding this summer season.
· Marinate, marinate, marinate — Marinate your cuts to inject instant flavour. We recommend marinating overnight to ensure it properly permeates. However, you can also purchase pre-marinated cuts from your local supermarket. Just remember to shake off excess marinade before the meat touches the grill. Too much sauce can cause flare-ups and quickly burn the meat, eliciting that not-so-great bitter smokiness.
· Avoid fridge temperatures — Take raw meat and fish out of the fridge at least 20 minutes before you plan to grill. That way, it can get down to room temperature prior to hitting the grates. If it’s too cold before going on the barbecue, you risk burning the outside before it cooks in the middle. This is most important for sausages, chicken, and other pork products, but you’ll still want to do the same thing with steaks and beef burgers too.
· Pick your charcoal carefully — Lump charcoal is fast-lighting with an hour burn time. If you’re cooking a bunch of different meats, it’s the best choice. Briquettes, however, can burn for around three hours while keeping their temperature consistent. They’re best for grilling roasting joints. Oak tree charcoal infuses subtle caramel tones, but charcoal from orange wood infuses your meat with a deep marmalade flavour, making it perfect for duck, turkey, or chicken. You might want to soak oak wood chips in water before putting them on the hot coals once you’re ready to start grilling. The water emits steam which creates a wonderful oaky smoke that flavours the meat.
· Always rest your meat — Once it’s cooked, rest it for a few moments. Resting lets the juices reabsorb and become tender. Ideally, you should rest your cooked cuts on a warmed, foil-covered tray on the highest rack of the grill, away from direct heat. Rest bigger cuts for longer.
· Be prepared for the British weather changes — You can plan for everything but the quick, uncontrollable weather changes. So, prepare your griddle pans and oven to finish off the items if you get caught in a unforeseen shower.
The Bottom Line
You’re basically a barbecuing expert now! So, go forth and put all your newfound expertise in practice this summer grilling season.