When preparing food for the grill, the greatest challenge for home cooks is that grilling is an intense form of direct heat cooking, and controlling the heat can be tricky. Although most people see it as easy, grilling is actually one of the most challenging of the basic cooking methods. If cooking is like driving a car, grilling is like being strapped to a rocket ship! Now more than ever, creative home cooks are looking for the best cooking tips for gas grills. As the weather starts to get nicer and the great outdoors beckons, attention starts to turn to outdoor cooking – and gas barbeque grills can’t be beat for simplicity and convenience. But grilling only becomes EASY when you know these important cooking tips for gas grills that are guaranteed to improve your results. Grilling, like any basic cooking method, can be mastered. These cooking tips for gas grills will get you started on the road to expert grilling any time of year.
Preparing Recipes for the Grill
Cooking all recipes for the grill starts with understanding how the grilling method acts differently on different types of foods. Because grilling is an intense heat form of cooking, careful product selection is extremely important. The grill will not tenderize meats so you must start with a tender product if you want to end with a tender product. Marinating meats when making recipes for the grill is the best way to apply some tenderizing properties before cooking. The product itself is also an important consideration because you want to make sure it will be able to withstand this form of direct high-heat cooking. Different products will handle this differently and some are just not the best choice for standard grilling. A very delicate fish, such as tilapia, will not perform very well on the grill because the high heat may burn the outside of the fish before the inside cooks at all. Another consideration is when grilling combinations of different foods, as in skewering vegetables. A mushroom will cook faster than a carrot or potato, for example. You will achieve far better results by par-cooking the “harder” items prior to skewering so that all vegetables are the correct done-ness at the same time. Once you have considered the differences in the types of foods you will be grilling and preparing them accordingly, the basic procedure for creating recipes for the grill is:
- Heat the grill on HIGH with the lid closed to heat up the coals and grates to as hot a temperature as possible.
- Brush the food item with the oil of your choice and place it on the hot grates – presentation side (“pretty side”) down.
- For GRILLING, leave the grill cover OPEN.
- After a few minutes inspect the item. You are looking for the item to start to brown around the edges and to see pink (almost clear) moisture bubbling up to the top. This will be your signal that the item is 75% cooked on one side and that is the time to flip it.
- Do not use a fork to flip the item and do not puncture it in any way – because that will allow precious juices to escape.
- Using an instant-read thermometer – because this is the only real way to know when something is done – remove the item 5-10 degrees BEFORE the desired final internal temperature.
A Gas Grill Cooking Twist
Although GRILLING is always done with the lid cover open, gas grill cooking can incorporate additional cooking methods that make it preferable to cook with the grill cover closed. With the grill lid closed, the grill changes from a CONDUCTIVE cooking vehicle to a CONVECTIVE cooking one – more like your oven. Of course you could just use your oven for using these cooking methods, but outdoor cooking does have some advantages over indoor cooking – particularly in warmer weather. So how do you turn your dry heat, direct source cooking vehicle (the grill) into one that can utilize a moist convective cooking process? It’s actually a pretty cool technique for gas grill cooking. This is a trick I use most often with delicate fish, such as tilapia. First, I turn the heat OFF on the side of the grill that my tilapia will cook. Then, I add a pan of water to the bottom of the other side of the grill – right on top of the heat elements. Keep in mind that this “water” can be any kind of liquid you like. I use shrimp stock sometimes with fish, but you can season it with chicken broth, wine – anything that is liquid and imparts nice, complimentary flavors to the product you are cooking. Then, the fish is placed either directly on the grill (if you have a flat grate option) or you can put it in a cast iron pan and put it on the grill grates. The rest of the procedure for this type of gas grill cooking follows the normal grilling process – cook with your eyes and observations, flip after 75% done, use a thermometer to determine final temperature and remove a bit “early” to allow for the carry-over cooking that occurs. And that’s it, now you can consider gas grill COOKING in addition to standard GRILLING for great outdoor cooking results.
Gas Barbeque Grills vs Charcoal Grills
You will hear from many self-proclaimed GRILLMASTERS that the traditional charcoal grill is far superior to the gas barbeque grill, but the gas grill has many advantages that make it a great choice for any outdoor cooking situation. I will admit that the charcoal grill provides opportunity for a deep, smoky flavor that is not fully achievable with the gas barbeque grill, but after that all of the “pros” go into the gas grill’s column. For starters, the gas grill is much easier and safer to start because it uses propane as fuel and starts at the press of a button. Charcoal grills can be easily started with lighter fluid, but this can be dangerous, and can impart an undesirable taste into the food. Plus, the gas grill turns OFF as easily as it turned on! No waiting for coals to cool so that you can empty and clean the grill and no messy coals to dispose of. The other nice thing about gas barbeque grills is that they allow for consistent heat throughout the cooking process. With the charcoal variety, the cook has to really control the heat by actually moving products closer and further and this takes some practice and experience.
These cooking tips for gas grills seem simple but they truly are the difference between great grilling results and disappointing meals. The next time you get ready to grill, remember that careful product selection and a basic understanding of cooking methods is all you need to master the barbeque grill, creating outdoor meals and memories for life.