Spring is here (well on the calendar anyways)! That means warmer weather and the beginning of grilling season. Quite honestly most Michigan grillers are die-hard and will shovel snow out to the grill for a winter meal of ribs. One of the joys of life is enjoying a late spring afternoon hanging out in the yard, grilling up delicious food for your family and friends.
But wait, you don’t know how to grill, you don’t even have a grill, or have you tried before but failed? Well, keep on reading for some basic tips and advice that will give you the basic knowledge and confidence to get out grilling this spring.
First Thing First, the Grill.
So, what is the perfect grill to start off with? The answer depends on your needs and your level of comfort. The first question is gas or charcoal? While charcoal gives extra flavor and makes all the neighbors mouths start to water, they do need more time and attention. You need to fire up the coals, get the grill to the right height for what you are cooking, and even adjust this as you cook. Flare-ups are also more of a problem with charcoal. You’ll need a water bottle close by to keep those flames down while cooking fatty meats. A much better option for a beginner is gas. You still get great flavor and setting, adjusting, and maintaining the temperature is a breeze. If you clean the grill properly, flare-ups are rare on a gas grill. Over the years, we have bounced between gas (for it’s ease) and charcoal (flavor!)
The next question is how many people do you plan on grilling for? Yes, the big fancy bar-b-que island looks awesome, but it is just overkill if you are only grilling occasionally on weekends for one or two people. Start by figuring out how many square inches you will need. This is how they measure the cooking surface. You want about 70-80 inches per person that you are grilling for. Most small gas grills start out at 430 square inches. That is perfect for a family of four or even newlyweds that are just getting started grilling. If you have a bigger family or plan on hosting big get-togethers often, you’ll want something bigger. Just keep in mind that the correct size grill will be for the majority of your use. You can cook for as many people as you want on any size grill, it will just take more time to get everyone fed, which means you get to chill outside by your grill longer.
We have settled on a Weber Performer and adore it. (That wasn’t a paid ad. Just letting you know what we’ve come to love.)
Got the Grill. Now, What to Cook?
Let’s start with the meat. Hamburgers and hotdogs are a great and affordable way to learn to grill. You’ll find your hot and cool spots and how to move your meat around to get consistent doneness. Don’t forget to toast the buns on that top rack if you have one! Once you practice a few times, step it up to steaks that have good marbling. Just ask the butcher what he has that is good to grill if you’re not sure. Turn up the heat or use the searing station on the grill for a quick sear, about two minutes per side. Then turn it down and grill each side for another five minutes per side, or until the desired doneness is reached. One great tip for steak is to set it out before grilling and let it come to room temperature.
A great alternative protein to beef that works well for beginners is salmon. Buying a fish grilling basket makes life much easier. However, you can grill right on the bars, or even use a cast iron pan set on the grill. Salmon goes with all types of seasonings, so choose your favorite or just add salt and pepper. Put it on the grill (or CI skillet) skin side down over medium-high heat until you see the white fat start to bubble up on top and the color of the meat turns light pink and flip it over for a couple of minutes to char the top a little. The skin will pull away from the meat easily so you can plate it up with or without skin.
Now for sides. A great side dish for salmon is grilled asparagus. Put one bunch in a plastic bag with oil, soy sauce, and garlic powder. Let it marinate for an hour or just shake it up for a few minutes. Grill on low until tender. Another great side dish for the grill is sweet peppers. Once again, a veggie grill basket makes cooking these much easier. Potatoes and corn on the cob reach an entirely new level when you finish them on the grill. Cook them in the kitchen like you normally do but put them on the grill with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Turn them often until they crisp up evenly. They are always a hit. Once you get comfortable cooking on your grill, experiment. There is no limit to flavor when you start using different herbs, spices, and marinades.
One more thing….think outside of normal. Make a pizza on that grill!
Need More Help?
The best way to learn tips and tricks to grilling is to ask friends and family. If you know someone who loves to grill, it’s a safe bet that they also love to talk about grilling. The internet is full of information on everything grilling.
Just remember to keep it simple in the beginning, online grilling sites can be a little overwhelming.