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To say I love grilled food is a gross understatement. The fact that in the winter I include a snow shovel as part of my grilling equipment reveals my dedication to the sport of open-flame cooking. I love the char on the food, and the taste of smoldering fire that somehow changes ordinary ingredients into amazing food for the table. The grill is good, my friends…
If you haven’t checked out the new course Introduction to Grilling, I highly recommend that you do it now. The lesson is packed with the basics of gas and charcoal-grilling. If you’re new to grilling, it’s the best comprehensive beginner’s guide I’ve seen. If you’re a grilling-pro, you’ll find solutions to grilling problems (burnt, stuck-on food) that you may have encountered.
I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a few more tips with you. A few of these were submitted via readers of our magazines, and I’ve adopted them in my own home.
Make-Shift Grill Scraper
Garden gnome statues freak me out, and I’m pretty sure that my neighbor’s gnome is stealing my grill brushes and selling them on Ebay. Seriously.
Used to be that about once a month I’d have to hightail it to the hardware store to pick up a new grill brush. You really need to get off all that burnt-on residue (I prefer the culinary term “schmutz”) before putting any food on the grill. Lest your steak, chops, cutlets, or veg taste like an ashtray.
Well, that is until I learned that a balled up wad of aluminum foil gripped by a pair of long handled tongs will scrape the grill grate quite nicely. Take that evil gnome!
Did I Turn the Gas Tank Off?
Now, if I could only remember to ask myself that question, I’d at least go out and check the tank after grilling. Used to be that I’d remember to turn off the tank the next morning, and by then all of the propane was long-gone.
So, I really appreciate this tip. Keep a rubber band attached to the knob of the gas tank. When you turn on the gas, slip the rubber band on your wrist to serve as a reminder to turn it off later.
Another equally effective method is to write “Turn off the gas, dummy!” on your arm. But take it from me, don’t use a Sharpie, or you’ll have to explain your homemade tattoo to curious strangers for the next few days.
Keep a Bottle Handy
No, I’m not talking about a tall, cool beverage of your choice (but by all means…). Inevitably, dripping fat from food will cause pesky flare-ups. Now, a little char on food is part of the appeal of grilling, but you definitely want to prevent your grill from looking like a scene from “The Towering Inferno.”
This tip is actually featured within our grilling course, but it’s saved so many of my dinners that I thought I should mention it here. The test kitchen keeps a spray bottle full of water near the grill to quickly shoot down flare-ups as they happen. Be sure to use tongs to move the food away from the flames first (unless you like soggy burgers) and then spray the hot spots until the flames disappear.
In my home, I use ice water in the spray bottle. That way I can spray small children who wander too close to the grill. It’s very effective.
Load It Up!
Finally, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to push you to double up on the food. You spent the money on the propane gas, or went to all of the trouble to light the charcoal. Grill models are now gargantuan in size, and that’s a lot of hot real estate to go to waste.
So, in my house we do a lot of mixed grill dinners. If I’m grilling steak, I might throw pork tenderloin on the grates as well. Burgers and chicken parts sit side-by-side in flame-licked harmony. And don’t forget – leftover grilled food makes tomorrow night’s dinner really easy.
So let’s consider this thread open-season on grilling tips. I want to hear yours!
See the original version of this blog post, as well as other posts, on the America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Instructor Blog.