Your guide to this post today is by Expert Daniel MK Stevert
The warm season has come; time for grilling! They are a must for gatherings in the company of friends, when four spare ribs, two sausages, three chops, and a couple of beers are enough to party immediately!
Besides, it is a straightforward cooking method that enhances the flavors of meat, fish, and vegetables without adding fats, removing them as they drain on the grill.
In the gallery, all the secrets of becoming real barbecue magicians and getting the most out of this type of cooking are to call friends and relatives, buy the ingredients, and start setting the table! You grill!
What are the secrets to an excellent barbecue? Excellent quality meat, the right company, excellent wine to eat, and a little experience that never hurts.
What to do if you are a beginner? Don’t worry; small but precious precautions will be needed to transform the convivial moment into an excellent meal.
For a good barbecue, the ideal would be to have all types of meat available, from beef to pork to chicken, to make the meal more lively and surprising.
On average, about 300 g of meat should be calculated per guest.
Barbecue cooking can be of two types: direct or indirect.
The indirect cooking, or spit, is to cook the meat near but not directly in contact with the heat source, and the temperature must not exceed 120 ° C.
Often a container is placed under the skewer, called the dripping pan, which collects the juices, melted fats, and meat seasonings that can be constantly reused to moisten the surface.
For this type of cooking, therefore, the preparation times are quite long.
Direct cooking or grilling is the most widespread in Italy and involves cooking the meat in contact with a high heat obtaining the immediate cooking of its outer layer.
If you use charcoal, it is good to make sure that it is of excellent quality charcoal, but the ideal would be to cook with olive wood, ash oak, or acacia because they burn faster allow quick cooking at 220 °.
Regardless of whether you use charcoal or wood, the embers must be lit at least an hour before you start cooking the meat and must be at least 4 or 5 cm thick.
This thickness will ensure that the temperature is maintained longer. When a light glaze of ash has formed on the embers, it means that we are ready to cook our meat.
The grill, dry and hot, must be placed 10 cm away from the embers, which must be feed constantly to allow homogeneous cooking.
First, choose your barbecue. Choosing it is essential for the success of your summer evenings. There are many models on the market, and it can be difficult to buy the perfect barbecue for your needs and abilities.
There are various types: from gas or electric to charcoal, from portable to cast iron, from open to one with a lid.
The choice depends on various factors: space and time you have available for cooking, the use you want to make of it, but also the taste, because, for example, charcoal barbecues give food a unique aroma, especially if you use charcoal.
Discover the best Gas Grill on the market.
In addition to choosing a barbecue, it is also important to prepare all the equipment you need in advance:
If you have never tried grilling, you could start by cooking hamburgers: they must not be too thin or become hard and dry.
You can season them before putting them on the fire simply with salt and pepper.
If you prepare them with minced meat instead, add a touch of flavor, and add a few drops of Tabasco. Put them on the hot grill and ask the diners at what level of cooking they want them.
Turn them only once so that the cooking is uniform on both sides.
Now you are ready to prepare a tasty and healthy barbecue! To help you, we decided to ask a barbecue enthusiast, Daniel MK Stevert, to reveal his tricks and secrets!
Let’s start it with marinade!
The marinade is important for softening the food before cooking and flavoring it, and during cooking, it ensures that the food remains moist.
Tip if you are on a diet: Making marinade meats and fish in advance with spices and flavors (chili, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and cinnamon) allows you to flavor them without the use of added fats. In this way, your dishes are lighter.
Types of Marinade
There are two types of marinating:
1. Cooked marinade: Ideal for meat with an intense flavor, where the main ingredient – vinegar or lemon – is boiled together with aromas.
2. Raw marinade: Perfect for most foods to be grilled. The ingredients are mixed cold with extra virgin olive oil.
Usually, the rest time in marinades depends on the type and thickness of the food.
If you have chosen a charcoal barbecue, the first step is to prepare the embers.
Roll up some newspaper sheets without squeezing them too much, arrange them over a few pieces of wood and form a sort of star, on top of which add thicker logs.
Light the fire and then add the charcoal. Please wait for it to turn reddish and try to blow on it with a bellows’ help.
At this point, add more charcoal and wait for it to become hot. Let your embers rest: after about 10 minutes, you should notice a veil of white ash.
You are now ready for cooking! Arrange the embers trying to form a layer more or less 5 cm high, more or less as wide as the grill’s edges.
To make your grill special, you can burn herbs or spices, such as bay leaf and rosemary, which are good for all foods.
On the other hand, sage is excellent for poultry, mint for fruit and vegetables, and juniper for fish.
To avoid health damage, whatever the food you need to grill, the important thing is to prevent it from burning, freeing drops of fat on the embers, being wrapped in smoke, or left to cook for too long.
For cooking at the right point, the embers’ temperature must be inversely proportional to the size of the food.
The most suitable vegetables for cooking on the grill are tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, or those rich in water.
But try experimenting with different combinations, for example, with fennel and onions.
How to do it: Cut into thick slices and marinate them or grease them with a little extra virgin olive oil.
A tip: Sprinkle with zucchini and eggplant and let them rest for half an hour, then dry them with paper towels and place them on the grill. Grill the whole tomatoes and cut the radicchio in half.
Prick whole vegetables with a skewer during cooking and turn them frequently. If they have a peel, such as pepper, make the skin dark.
Once drained by the marinade, lay the meat on the grill: try not to prick it to let the juices come out.
When you cook the hamburger, pay attention to the exudation: if the liquid is pink, the meat is in the blood; if it is clear, it is cooked if it is brownish, it is well cooked.
Whole birds are cooked when the liquid that comes out during cooking is colorless.
To cook red meat, press on the surface: if it is spongy, it is very bloody; if it gives a lot, it is blood; if it is not very elastic, it is cooked; if it is firm, it is well cooked.
Cook small fish, for example, sardines, with the double grill, while large ones have an excellent yield on the traditional grill.
Do not scale the fish because the scales protect the tender meat from the embers and, for the same reason, also cook the whole shellfish.
If the fish are without scales, pass them in the flour to obtain a tasty crust.
How to do it: Cut large fish with transverse cuts along the sides, but they must be shallow to ensure perfect cooking.
The Mollusca, on the other hand, must be engraved in the same way but along the bags.
When the skin becomes dull, and the meat begins to flake, the fish is cooked.
Bread: Use stale bread, cut it into slices of about 2 cm, cook over medium-high heat for 2 minutes per side. Your slices of bread are ready to be seasoned and served.
Cheeses: Cut the cheese into slices about 2cm high, place them on the hot double grill away from the embers and turn repeatedly.
Take them as soon as they are ready; the best are those cooked and spun. Wrap the cheeses that melt quickly in aluminum foil.
Fruit: Fruit must be cooked with double grids or in foil. While cooking, brush it with honey or sugar to caramelize.
Try cooking pineapple, bananas, and figs in their skins: the taste is unique!
At this point, you are ready to BBQ your food.
The secret lies in placing the chosen piece in the lowest position of the grid and keeping it for 5 minutes, turning it once on each side.
In this way, the so-called Maillard reaction is allowed, the most evident effect of which is the formation of a crust on our meat’s surface and the release of volatile aromatic substances that give flavor to our meat and whet the appetite.
If the crust did not form within 5 minutes, it means that the temperature was too low. If instead, it takes less, better, as long as the meat is not burned.
Once this time has elapsed and the crust has formed, which will have sealed our meat on all sides, we must move the grill to the high position and let it cook for another 10 or 20 minutes, depending on the thickness and personal taste.
This second phase is the one that regulates internal cooking. If the crust becomes darker during this phase, the temperature is too high, and the embers must be moved to lower it.
When the temperature is right, the meat must cook without changing the color of the rind anymore.
Note: To turn the meat, you must not use pointed tools but the appropriate pliers. If the meat is pierced during cooking, it loses all its juices and risks becoming too dry.
Our cooking expert Daniel MK Stevert suggests to take care these BBQ tips and techniques for a succulent taste and texture.
The most important thing in grilling is the temperature. If you really want to become the barbecue king, you need to have a thermometer with you.
So you measure the heat and understand when the time has come to cook your dish: usually, we talk about 260 ° C for direct cooking, i.e., with exposure food a short distance from the heat source whether it is fire or embers and is typical of the common grill.
In this case, we must be cautious not to burn the meat and marinate it, but we will talk about this later.
The indirect cooking instead requires a temperature of about 150 ° C and is a more gentle and lightweight grilling method; however, it serves a barbecue with a lid.
Indirect cooking, an important step to make before putting the meat on the fire to obtain a crisp and tasty result, is to marinate the meat.
You can do it in many ways; the quickest and easiest one is to make a sauce with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and aromatic herbs such as rosemary, parsley, sage.
Then massage the meat by dipping your hands in the oil and let it rest for half an hour before placing it on the fire. The effect will be delicious and crunchy.
Marinating is important on dry meats, such as chicken.
Before placing the food on the grill, check that it is totally clean. When you have finished cooking, clean it in the best way. So as not to leave burnt residues that can give a bad smell and spoil the meat next time.
Never make a double grill, meat, and fish, unless you have two distinct grills.
Even if you keep the two types of meat divided, the smell of one will compromise that of the other.
Fish cooks faster, but the risk is also that it spoils: remember always to grill whole fish with skin. If you have a sprayer for oil (or you can also use a brush), distribute it over the fish during cooking so that it does not dry out.
The high temperature allows the steaks to form that delicious crust and keep all the juices that make the meat soft.
The biggest mistake? Turn it by skewering it with a pitchfork: it will pierce the crust and let the juices come out, thus risking a hard and chewy effect. Organize yourself with pliers that don’t ruin it.
Some leave it immersed for a few minutes in a sauce based on olive oil, sesame seeds, freshly ground pepper, and a little salt before serving to give softness and flavor to the freshly cooked meat.
After following these bbq tips for beginners, you will never go wrong with grilling.