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Gas Grilling Tips

Quick tips and techniques to help you master your gas grill

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Grilling, like most forms of cooking is more art than science. You can follow a few basic rules but after that it is your skill and style that will make you a great griller or a not so great griller. These tips will help you with many of the problems most people have. As you will notice, maintenance and grill care as a big part of the process. So follow these techniques and avoid the most common mistakes people make when they fire up their gas grill.

1. Keep a Clean Grill

A dirty grill flares up, smokes incessantly, and leaves a bad flavor on your food. Keeping your grill clean will reduce all of these problems. This means more than turning your grill on high for 10 to 15 minutes before or after you use it. Certainly much of the grease will get burned off during these high temperature "cleans", but not all of it. Food that falls into the grill, ash deposits, and other gunk remain until you get down in there and clean it all out. I recommend that you take out the grates and burner covers at least twice a year to thoroughly clean your grill. If you grill frequently you should do this more often. You really will notice a difference.

2. Control Flare-Ups

You fight a fire when you want to put it out. You control the fire when you want to use it. Flare-ups should be controlled, not fought, so put a side the spray bottle. Keep a portion of your grill empty so you can move food should a flare-up occurs. When you do have a flare-up, move the food away from it and let it burn with the lid up. If the fire spreads you might need to evacuate the grill, but the trick is to let the fire burn off the grease and get rid of it as quickly as you can.

If your fire gets out of control, remove the food, turn off the burners and gas at the take. Leave the lid open and let the fire die down on its own.

3. Heat and Sugar

Sugar burns at 265 degrees F (130 degrees C). If you are cooking foods with sauces or rubs that contain sugar you need to keep your grilling temperature below this temperature or your food will burn and blacken.

4. Watch your Grill

Almost every story I've heard about someone burning food on the grill starts with, "I just stepped inside for . . ." Trying to catch the score of the game, put together a side dish, or just hang out with family or friends can leave your grill to get out of control and burn whatever you are cooking. Successful grilling means paying attention to what you are cooking. This is particularly true for foods you cook hot and fast like burgers, chops, and steaks. Make sure you have all your preparations done before the food hits the grill and stand by to keep an eye on your grilling.

5. Have Plenty of Fuel

Ever run out of gas while grilling? Ever done it while you have a house full of hungry guests waiting for dinner? If you have to run out to refill a propane tank you are going to be gone for a while. If you have a spare, full propane tank available it will take you a couple of minutes to get cooking again. Keep extra fuel on hand you and will never have to worry again. The trick is refilling the empty tank while you still have a full one hanging on the grill.

6. Food Safety

Successful grilling means safe grilling. Make sure that you practice food safety with everything you cook. This means simple things like bringing food in on a different plate than it went out on. Making sure that you cook meats to a safe temperature, particularly ground beef (see Meat Temperatures for more information). Also keep your cooking area clean and sanitized.

7. Use the Correct Temperature

Just because your grill goes to high doesn't mean you have to cook everything at that temperature. Thin cuts of lamb, pork or beef including burgers should be cooked hot and fast. More delicate items like fish, vegetables, and chicken should be cooked at medium on your grill's dial. Roasts, whole chickens, and thick, large cuts should be cooked at lower temperatures, indirectly. Use the temperature for the food you cook and be patient with the cooking times which will be longer at lower temperatures.

8. Searing

Searing is the secret to great grilled flavor. It doesn't lock in juices like many people say but what it does do is caramelize the surface of meats making a flavorful, crisp surface that. This process works with most any cut of beef, lamb of pork. To achieve this, start with a grill has hot as it will go. Put the meat on and wait one minute. Flip and reduce the heat. The high temperature will caramelize the surface of the meat. Once this is done you want to cut back on the heat and continue cooking until the meat is done.

9. Indirect Grilling

Indirect grilling is the secret to untold versatility with your grill. While direct heat is great for cooking hot and fast, indirect grilling lets you grill whole chickens, large roasts, and even bake bread. All you need to do is turn off the burners that sit directly under what you are going to cook. If you have a large multi-burner grill this might mean the left and right most burners with the middle burners off, or one side on, one side off. Meats can be seared first by direct heat, then moved to indirect heat to slowly roast. This will give you the ability to cook moist, tender meats at lower temperatures without burning the outsides.

10. Maintain your Grill

Performing regular maintenance on your grill will not only keep it working better, but will help keep it working longer. This process starts with a good clean out of your grill and continues on to a full inspection of all the internal parts. Check the burners particularly to make sure that the ports (holes where the flames come out) are not plugged. If they are use a thin wire or pipe clean to clear any obstruction. Blocked ports cause uneven flame and can cause your burners to fail. While you are in there check the igniters to make sure that you are getting good spark so your grill lights properly.
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