So, you recently bought or received a new grill/charcoal BBQ*. You can't wait to slap meat on the grill and invite your friends. Unfortunately, your first attempts are 'Meh.' What went wrong? You followed the recipe, after all.
* TERM EXPLANATION:
- Grilling refers to cooking at high temperatures or searing meat.
- A Grill is typically an outdoor cooking appliance using gas fuel or electricity.
- BBQ is a low and slow method of cooking typically done over charcoal or wood. It produces aromatic smoke that flavors the food.
In this article, we will attempt to answer this high-ranking web search:
When BBQ'ing, what to cook first?
Your Grill or BBQ can cook a myriad of different foods. The choices are endless, and that may be the problem. Where to start?
Beyond the obvious Hot Dog Wieners and frozen store-bought burger patties, some 'tricks' will guarantee to raise your ranking from Newbie to BBQ Pit Master in no time.
The real question is not 'WHAT' but 'HOW' to cook.
We will address the 'How' and then move on to the 'What.' Here are some 10 general short tips to get you started:
1. Do not boil meat before grilling/BBQ'ing. Boiling meat leaves the flavor in the water and ensures you will not get much BBQ flavor when cooking it on the grill. The only benefit of boiling meat is that it makes it tender. This brings us to point 2.
2. The only meat that benefits from high heat and searing is steak. Or Tandoori if you can. Every other type of meat and cut will taste better with the Low and Slow BBQ method. See the following article for an in-depth review of this cooking method. But in short, cooking at your desired finished meat temperature will guarantee a moist and tasty cut without spices! Yes, it takes a more time, but the results are well worth it. This brings us to #3.
3. Another advantage of not boiling meat before BBQ'ing is the ability of using many spices: rubs, marinade, and other flavoring agents. Right away, this will kick you up a notch in your family's eyes. But it can be overdone with the following tip.
4. BBQ sauce is overrated… If you follow the instructions above, your meal will taste fantastic. Commercial BBQ sauce is for all intent: sugar (tons of it), tomato paste, salt, and spices. Basically, designed to mask how mediocre the meat is. Fine for hot dog wieners and burgers; otherwise, you can make your own, which would be tons better. Before slathering the stuff on, try the meat on its own, if you have prepared it as above. You'll be surprised at how good it tastes.
5. Presentation is key. If you are still proofing your culinary skills, and want to pass for a pro, make it look pretty. In restaurant terms, this is called 'plating.' It's been proven that nicely plated food gets higher ratings than the identical meal served in a cafeteria. Lesson? Please don't make it look like cafeteria food. If you're gonna serve a burger or other dish, do an image web search on "how to plate (meal of your choice)". Even if your burger could be better for your guests, it will taste exceptional when properly plated.
Your friends and family have expectations. Don’t disappoint them.
6. Quality ingredients matter: If you are feeding a smaller crowd and it is a special event, then by all means, go all out. Instead of a regular steak, try a 30-day dry-aged rib-eye. Or a homemade BBQ patty with Wagyu beef and tell me if there is no difference. Expensive? Absolutely. Worth it? Also, yes. But you don't need to get that fancy. You can usually search online for the best cut of meat for a specific meal and stock up when there is a deal. Make a friend with your small local butcher. They often can provide better quality cuts of meat.
- Best to warm the meat to room temperature before cooking. If frozen, thaw the meat in the fridge first. If you don't have time, place it on your grill at 150F – 65C until it has thawed enough for regular cooking. This will ensure there is no bacterial contaminations. Or place the meat in a sealed plastic bag in cool water. It’s surprising how quickly it thaws with this method. Avoid thawing on your counter, as bacterial contamination is more likely to happen.
7. Little things matter: Let's take your typical burger, for example. You could serve it on a standard bun or an artisan bakery bun. Take it further by spreading garlic butter inside and outside the bun and gently roasting it on the BBQ with those nice grill marks.
8. Get a probe meat thermometer. You don't want to overcook and make it the consistency of shoe leather. And this brings us to our last point.
9. Food safety is no joke: Entire books have been written on this topic. Please make this a priority and visit this website: Food Safety in Your Kitchen | FDA. Parasites and food poisoning can have severe and long-term effects. But since this article is about cooking rather than prepping, we offer the following short advice.
- All ground meat should be cooked “well-done”. No kidding. 160-165F (70-75C) internal temperature minimum. Why? Surface bacteria on any cuts of meat (and they are always there) quickly get killed by heat. But when meat is ground up, all these bacteria are now mixed in throughout every meat fiber. The only way to kill them is to serve ground meat ''well-done.''
While we did not answer your initial question on what to cook first, you can see by following the above suggestions, you can make your meals taste and look like a pro!
So, what should I cook that is easy and tastes incredible for a beginner?
- Tastes like chicken! Chicken is the proverbial go-to meat for BBQs and grilling. Why does everything taste like chicken? Because chicken does not have much flavor on its own. However, properly cooked, it has a great texture and mouthfeel. And since it is bland, you can spruce it up with various marinades or spices.
- Want to kick things up a notch? Try the beer can chicken. It is super easy and spectacular when serving. Use a spice rub of your choice inside and outside, then stick a half-empty beer can in the chicken butt (I highly recommended a dead chicken for that purpose). Then put the chicken standing on a beer can on the grill. Cook at 250F until done (meat doneness in the thickest part should be at least 150F). Remember to show your guests or post pics online; they'll think you're an old pro at this.
- Earn your (chicken) wings: I know chicken wings is also chicken. But most prepared frozen chicken wings are typically pre-cooked and slathered with a cheap BBQ sauce. Most wings you buy in chain restaurants are deep fried. It means they have very little taste until they get dunked in a BBQ sauce bucket or served as is to your table for you to dip.
- But you are not that kind of lazy cook. No, my friend, you can do much better. Marinade your wings in your favorite marinade or sauce. Anything is possible, store-bought or homemade. Jamaican Jerk, curry, lemon/pepper, from mild to heart-burn spicy; you have an endless choice. Then slowly smoke them on the BBQ. If you have a grill, wrap some soaked wood chips in aluminum foil or use a smoke box. Your friends will worship you as the Grill god you are.
- Salmon: Salmon and fish easily take to BBQ smoke flavor. You don't even have to marinade it or spice it. Just smoke it and add some salt and pepper and serve. That easy. For more tips on smoked salmon, please see the following link.
- Shellfish: shrimp, crab, and lobster in their shell are relatively easy to cook on the grill and take nicely to smoke flavor. It is easy to overcook or undercook it, so you may want a few tests run on your own. Follow the following steps:
- Set up a heating zone on your grill until the grill reaches about 250F.
- Rinse the shellfish in cold water, pat dry, and brush with oil.
- Place crab or lobster bottom side down on the side where no coals or elements are.
- Grill with the lid on. It takes about 8 to 10 minutes for a 1.5-pound lobster or crab. For shrimp, it should take about 2 minutes. The lobster is ready to eat when the internal temperature reaches between 135 to 140ºF (57 to 63ºC).
- Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve.
Sausages: This is an all-time favorite. Super easy, and the choice of toppings is infinite. Just don't cook them on high. You might see the local Hot Dog food carts sell them with the sausage casing slit. I could not find any valid reason to do this except for look's sake. The problem is as soon as you slit the sausage casing, all the juices, fats, and flavor escape. And eventually dries up.
- What about Pork and Beef? Unfortunately, we will not touch on this topic in this article. Pork has a lot of different cuts that need their own approach, and frankly same with beef. Since cooking steak is an art, we will leave this for another intermediate cooking article. But if you are adventurous, check out this on making BBQ Pork Ribs you will never forget.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive review of BBQ’ing by any means. Please, we welcome your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
In the next article, we will discuss, how to get that nice back-home smokey BBQ taste even if you live in an apartment.
All the best and remember, we are here to help you become your neighborhood star pit-master!
Shop here for exciting BBQ accessories. SHOP WE LOVE FIRE®