A Beginner’s Mini-Guide to Outdoor Cooking
Whether it’s warm, cold, summer, or winter, people love outdoor cooking. If you’re a beginner, you’ll need to know the difference between grilling and barbecuing. Additionally, pick up some cooking tips for optimal results.
What is Grilling?
The distinct grill flavor occurs when food is cooked at a temperature above 310 degrees Fahrenheit. Grilling is cooking food fast, hot, and directly over a fire. Meat needs to be cooked for less than an hour or it will burn. Examples of cuts that are great for grilling include steaks, pork chops, seafood, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Vegetables also taste great when grilled.
Grilling involves using a charcoal or gas grill. Both types need to be pre-heated. It’s a bit more difficult to get a charcoal grill started. Don’t make the mistake of starting it with lighter fluid; it makes food taste horrible. Allow a gas grill to heat for 10 minutes and a charcoal model to preheat for 20 minutes.
Once the grill is heated, used a brass-wire brush to get rid of caked-on residue. The only time it’s good to leave the residue is after the last cookout of the season; doing so helps prevent rust. Once you brush the grate, grease the bars with oil. Canola oil is preferable since it has a high smoking temperature. The canola oil helps the food cook and prevents it from sticking to the lines.
What is a Smoker?
A ‘smoker’ is a large pot used to cook meats. Most models are ready to use out of the box and require little to no assembly. Cooks hang chosen meat on hooks within the drum. The size of the barrel dictates how much food you can cook at once. Some drums are as large as 55 gallons. Contrary to grills, there is no need to flip meats while they cook. If interested in learning more about such devices, visit the Pit Barrel Cooker – BBQ Smokers site.
What Does it Mean to Barbecue?
Rather than fast and intensely, barbecuing involves cooking low and slow. Meats are cooked for anywhere between two and 18 hours. Rather than the actual flame, barbecued foods are cooked by the smoke and heat produced by burning wood or coal. Those who like to barbecue seek different types of meat including ribs, pork shoulders and butts, beef briskets, mutton, and whole chickens or turkeys. Aside from turkey and chicken, barbecued meats are coarser due to the amount of fat and connective tissue.
Cooking meat between 225-249 degrees Fahrenheit makes it tender and juicy. Traditionally, it’s a bit more complex to barbecue, and added patience is needed, but those who do it know it’s well worth it.
- Avoid using a fork to turn meats and vegetables. Using tongs preserves the juices, which adds to the taste. Don’t go overboard with the flipping; ideally, you’ll only need to do it once.
- Don’t press down on burgers, chicken, or any foods with a spatula. Doing so gets rid of tasty juices and can make the food taste dry.
- Those who like food to have a ‘smoky’ taste, soak wood (hickory or oak) chips in water before placing the wood on the charcoal. If using a gas grill, place the chips in a smoker box while consulting the manufacturer instructions.
- Place preferred herbs directly on the charcoal while grilling. If using a gas grill, soak the herbs in water and place them on the grate before placing the food on the grill.
- If you want to baste food with sauce, sugar, or marinade, do it last so the toppings won’t burn.
People prefer meats cooked at different rates. The USDA recommends ground meat be cooked above 160 degrees. For those who like their meat medium rare, it’s suggested to grind it and then cook it immediately. While some people prefer to keep flipping to a minimum, the Journal of Food protection advises that store-bought meat be flipped frequently. One study found that a burger flipped more often had one-fifth the amount of E.coli.
Get familiar with your grill or chosen device. For example, some areas of the grilling surface flare up or get hotter than others. Move food to cooler parts of the grill until flare ups subside to prevent burning or charring the meat.
Consider the cut of the meat regarding the need to pay close attention. Cubed and sliced meat cooks faster. Similarly, fish and shrimp does not require a lot of time.
If you’re a vegetarian, don’t dismiss the notion of grilling peaches, asparagus, and bread. Fruits and veggies make a great side dish or main course for vegetarians. If you’re a fan of pizza, make your own and throw it on the grill!
Freya Griffin’s goal is to create great memories and great meals by further enhancing your barbecue experience through the quality products and services at PitBarrel Cooker Co. Freya enjoys sharing is tips and tricks online.