Grilling Tips from the Pros That Will Impress at Your Next Barbecue

Kimberly Bean
Kimberly Bean
Published on July 9, 2018
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Was it starting to feel like grilling season would never get here? Finally – the chance to get outside and polish that pit master image you’ve been working hard to cultivate.

Even grilling pros look for tips and tricks, so we’re bringing you some of their most brilliant ideas.

Grill a better burger

When you grill burgers, half the battle is choosing the right meat. “Ground beef that’s too lean will be tough and dry, so you’ll want to look for meat with a fat content of at 20-30%,” recommend the pros at Miami Beef.

“Hamburger patties about 5 inches across and ½-inch thick maximize surface area (and grill flavor) and ensure that the burgers cook through quickly and evenly,” says Tony Rosenfeld, b.good burger restaurants co-owner and chef.

Then, before plopping them on the grill, use your thumb to make a slight indentation in the top of each burger. This avoids the “puff-up in the middle as they cook,” says Jamie Purviance, author of “Weber’s Way to Grill: The Step-by-Step Guide to Expert Grilling.”

You want the burgers to sear on the outside, so don’t be tempted to flip them too early. Then, plan on flipping them only once. And, never press down on the patties as they cook.

“Pushing down on the burger presses out all the natural juices,” says Eric LeVine, owner of New Jersey’s Paragon Tap & Table and Morris Tap & Grill. “Then people ask why their burgers were so dried out.”

LeVine also offers a yummy recipe for the vegetarian in the group. “Make a patty using black and white beans, steel-cut oats, caramelized mushrooms and onions, roasted red peppers, and potato,” he says. “Top that with pickled scallions, red onions, egg-free roasted garlic aioli, and toasted chia seeds — all served on multigrain roll.”

Kabobbing?

While most any meat can be skewered and grilled, chicken seems to be the most popular. And, you may want to take a “cheat day” from your diet because the pros at seriouseats.com suggest that you choose thighs over breasts.

“Chicken breasts seem like a good choice because their thickness makes them ideal for cubing, but their lack of flavor and tendency towards dryness totally undermines that one advantage,” they explain. Skinless, boneless chicken thighs, on the other hand, remain moist, which makes them ideal for grilling.

Position the chicken pieces on the skewer so that they slightly touch one another. This allows them to retain their juices better, according to Purviance. But don’t cram them together, he warns; a slight touching is all that’s needed.

Grill a killer steak

Don’t take your steaks directly from the refrigerator to the grill, cautions Jan Birnbaum partner and former chef at San Franscisco’s Epic Roasthouse. “Always allow meats to rest at room temperature for up to two hours; depending on the size of the meat,” he explains to nydailynews.com.

He suggests putting steaks “on the grill at an internal temperature of 50 to 55 degrees.”

Before that, however, consider adding your salt, pepper, or rub to the steaks as they come to room temperature.

“My secret is coating the meat with a liberal amount of rub an hour before cooking and [leaving] it out so it comes to room temperature,” suggests John Bracamonte, Pitmaster and co-owner of Brazen BBQ in San Diego.

Use a digital, instant-read thermometer to check the temperature of steaks both before grilling and while they’re still on the grill. Steaks are rare at 125 degrees Fahrenheit, medium at 135 degrees, and well-done at 145 degrees, according to World BBQ champion Chris Lilly.

“Remember that steaks will continue to cook after they’re removed from the grill,” he cautions.

Once off the grill, give the steaks time to rest. “I prefer to let my meat rest uncovered, because the covering causes the food to steam and can make the golden brown crust or skin soggy,” says Elizabeth Karmel, author of Taming the Flame.

How long should they rest? About 10 to 20 minutes, suggests John Rivers, owner of 4 Rivers Smokehouse in Florida.

Mmm … RIBS

The tenderest ribs come from long (like, several hours), slow cooking. “Spikes and valleys of heat will tighten and dry out the meat, but consistently low temps will produce soft and succulent meat,” promises Purviance.

He goes on to caution grillers to wait until the last 30 minutes of grilling to sauce the ribs.

For added flavor, Bracamonte suggests sprinkling on “brown sugar during the last hour of cooking … and let that caramelize over the top.”

Gettin’ saucy

The biggest no-no when it comes to saucing your meat is to do so before you put it on the grill.

“Brush on barbecue sauce during the last part of cooking,” says Lee Ann Whippen, chef/partner, Chicago q. “Because most contain a lot of sugar, the sauce will burn if added too early.”

If you don’t make your own sauce, check out the results of thedailymeal.com’s taste test of store-bought barbecue sauces before you go shopping.

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