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FRESH and Festive: Grilling Tips for Labor Day

If you attended my grilling workshop on Memorial Day weekend, you heard some of my tips and tricks for outdoor cooking.  But since I am often asked by Freshies as they approach my meat counter, questions such as “how long should I grill this?”, “high heat or low heat?”, or “marinate or not?”, I decided to write a quick tutorial that might help to provide some answers.

My August 13 blog addresses marinating so if you have specific questions on that topic, please read over it!  Below, I have set out to provide some guidelines on grilling meat, chicken, pork, seafood and veggies.  I hope you find these useful as you set out on your last few grilling adventures of the season!

First of all, be sure that you have enough propane if you are using a gas grill and charcoal if you are using a charcoal grill.  Sounds like a no-brainer but there is nothing worse than a ruined cookout because of inadequate supplies!  Light your grill and once the grill grate is hot, use a good grill brush to remove the remnants of your last cookout. Then, rub down the grill grate with vegetable oil to season and reduce sticking.  The easiest way is to ball up a paper towel, grab it with tongs, and then dip the towel in a bowl of vegetable oil.  Slide the oiled paper towel over the cooking grate. And don’t try to take a shortcut here and use vegetable oil spray.  It could ignite and really “rain on your parade”!

In general, it is best to set up your grill so that there are both very hot areas for searing and cooler areas where food can cook through without the risk of flare-ups. Putting the charcoal into just half the grill, or turning one burner down to a lower heat level are easy ways to create a grill with multiple heat levels or indirect heat.

Once you put a food on the grill, it is best to leave it alone.  The more you flip and adjust, the more likely your cooking times will be off and your chances of sticking and tearing increase.  When you pierce or cut the meat to test doneness, it causes precious juices to drip down onto the fire, making the food less moist and risking fire flare-ups.  Always use an instant-read thermometer to judge when food is done. This gadget is, in my opinion, the most crucial grilling tool that one can own.

The longer you wait to flip food, the less likely it will stick to the grill. This is especially true for burgers and fish. If you want to apply a sauce to the food while on the grill, make sure you wait until the final minutes of cooking time.  Otherwise, the sauce will char before the food is cooked through.

Always keep raw and cooked foods separate, including the platters, knives, tongs, and cutting boards used during preparation and cooking.  If you transport raw meat to the grill on a plate, wash that plate or discard it and use a clean one for your cooked product.

Here are some general cooking times for commonly grilled foods.  Remember that these are guidelines and some will differ according to the size of the cut, number of items on the grill, etc.

  • Bone-in chicken pieces – Indirect heat 35–45 min.
  • Boneless pork chop – Direct heat 11–13 min.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken – Direct heat 7–12 min
  • Lamb chops – Direct heat 12–14 min
  • Fish fillets – Direct heat 6–10 min
  • Flank steak – Direct heat 15–20 min.
  • Small whole fish – Indirect heat 10–15 min.
  • Rib-eye steak – Direct heat 13–15 min.
  • Fish steaks – Direct heat 8–10 min.
  • Pork tenderloin or bone-in pork chop – Direct heat 14–18 min.
  • Shrimp or scallops – Direct heat 4–8 min.
  • Soft vegetables (e.g. asparagus or mushrooms) – Direct heat 6–15 min.
  • Hard vegetables (e.g. potatoes and onions) – Indirect heat 40–60

Happy Labor Day!