Elizabeth Karmel, chef and author of the website Girls At The Grill, wants women to break away from that paradigm. Tending open flames (and expertly searing meat to perfection), she says, is as simple as learning to prep and differentiating between direct and indirect heat. Okay, and a few more tricks of the trade. Commit her simple advice to memory and, come this weekend, the backyard crowd will be singing your sizzling praises.
Direct Vs. Indirect
Knowing the two grilling methods is key. If your food takes less than 20 minutes to cook (that would include burgers and veggies) you should opt for direct heat, which means the flames are directly under your eats. For bone-in chicken pieces, roasts, whole chickens, and turkeys, you should use indirect heat: flames on either side of the food. Barbecue should always use the slow-cook, indirect method. Also, never forget to preheat the grill. Karmel says that not turning the heat on beforehand is just like trying to bake a cake by sticking it into a still-cool oven. Not. Good.
Keep Marinades Simple
Karmel is all for flavor, but if you're a newbie to grilling, she recommends keeping it simple. "As long as you know the difference between direct and indirect heat," she says, "all you need is olive oil, salt, and pepper." For a quick shortcut, place the ingredients in a Ziplock bag with your veggies and massage them gently before cooking.
Soak The Skewers
When grilling kabobs, always soak the wooden sticks overnight to avoid burning. Karmel pre-soaks, wraps in aluminum foil, and then pops in the freezer for whenever she might need them. She uses the ladder method for preparing kabobs, which is skewering along the left and right sides of the chunks (rather than a single stick up the middle). This makes for more even cooking.
Unless a recipe calls for numerous turns, avoid flipping cuts of meat more than once. And, always use proper tongs instead of moving things around with a fork or knife. You don't want any juicy goodness to slip out. For really accurately timed flips, have a thermometer on hand.
Barbecue Sauce At The End
Since sugar is in barbecue sauce, it'll burn if you put it on too soon. Always be sure to glaze during the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, depending on the meat. For grilling shrimp, Karmel puts on a pepper jelly at the last minute.
Watch For Flare-Ups
We're all about living on the edge, but flare ups aren't thrilling in the least. Meats, like burgers, sausages, and steaks, contain quite a bit of fat (which is flammable). If the flames get a little out of control, simply close the lid to cut off the oxygen — don't reach for a water bottle and douse your chances of a good dinner.
Let It Rest
The smaller a piece of food, the less time it should rest. In general, though, everything you cook should sit at least 5 minutes before serving. This allows the juices to re-absorb. Plus, cutting a piece of meat too soon will make all the gory-looking juice run all over your cutting board, which is a mess and a waste.
For even more secrets (and the 411 on charcoal versus gas grills), head over to Karmel's site. Then, pick out your favorite outdoor apron and take your throne as king of the grill.