Barbecue season is on the horizon for those in the colder states, and it's already arrived for those fortunate enough to enjoy barbecue season nearly year-round. In any case, now is a good time to get prepared with some new ideas and new skills to make this year's first outdoor grilling party your best ever! Who better to look to for some grill-savvy tips than a top chef. The following 7 tips for a better barbecue season are courtesy of professional chef, Jamie Oliver.
It's no surprise that most chefs prefer charcoal grills for their ability to add that unique smokey flavor to your meats and veggies. (There's nothing wrong with grilling on gas -- it just won't add as much of the "smoke factor".) A good charcoal grill needs a cover in order to properly melt cheese on burgers, and most importantly, to lock in flavor.
2. The Fuel Matters
If you can find it, buy lump charcoal -- which looks a bit like pieces of burnt tree. It gives the best flavor boost, by far. You can also add wood chips to your charcoal for an extra flavor boost. Use oak or hickory for fish or pork entrees, and apple or cherry wood will add a bit of sweetness to most meats.
3. Wait for Right Moment
Good grilled food requires both patience and concentration, according to Chef Oliver. Wait until the flames have died down and the coals are grayish-white and glowing before putting your food on the grill. That's the hottest, most even heat.
4. How to Control the Temperature
Since what you're using is essentially a crude oven, you'll need a way to test the heat since different foods call for different levels of heat -- low, medium, or high. The best way to test is with your hand. Hold your hand about five inches above the grill and assess the heat level by how long you can hold your hand there ...
- 6 seconds = low heat
- 4 seconds = medium heat
- 2 seconds = high heat
It's a good idea to push all of the coals to one side of the grill so you have one side for direct heat and one for indirect heat. This makes it easier to grill foods with different temperature requirements at the same time.
5. Skip the Pre-Made Hamburger Patties
Patties you make yourself taste better, even if you make them with nothing but the basics -- salt and pepper and good quality meat -- they'll still taste better than the machine-made store-bought version.
6. Marinades and Grilling Go Together Like Bread and Butter
Make your favorite marinade, and before adding the meat, reserve a little for basting while grilling. Marinate for as long as possibly -- preferably overnight, and then use the reserved marinade to baste the meat every 10 minutes or so. This will lock in flavor, keep it moist and help your meat to caramelize as you grill.
7. Don't Forget About the Sides
Side dishes make up two-thirds of your meal, so they shouldn't be an afterthought. Corn on the cob is great on the grill, a potato salad is always great at a grilling party, and try Chef Oliver's favorite, grilled flatbread, which he says is awesome on the barbecue and excellent for mopping up marinade and meat juices.
For some awesome charcoal grills and patio accessories, be sure to check out the offerings at Today's Patio, and get ready for your best outdoor grilling party ever!