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Fourth of July Grilling Tips, Part 2

Is it the Fourth yet? Because I'm ready to grill!

Charlie is bringing you a batch of grilling tips leading up to Independence Day. Yesterday we covered how to set up and light your fire in Part 1. Today we'll talk about tips for grilling different types of meat to great results.

Stokin' the Fire

You've got your charcoal grill lit and your propane bad boy is blazing. Now where do you go from here?

For most grilling applications, you'll want to do what's called a warm

up. Essentially you want the temperature in your grill to come up to

and hold at its hottest for about 15 minutes. This should be plenty of

time to get your cooking surface -- i.e. the grill grates -- nice and


Some metals are better conductors than others. Cast iron

grill grates, which Charlie recommends, are actually very poor

conductors of energy. For this reason, it takes longer for them to heat

up than other metals. But as a result, they retain heat much better

too. That's why your cast iron skillet at home can get so much hotter

than your Teflon skillet.

Hot grill grates are key to grilling.

Not only do you want good grill marks, but a warmed up grill will

actually cook more evenly than one that isn't.

For coals,

you're going to want to let them burn until they're covered in white

ash. At that point you'll get excellent, consistent heat, but not so

much that you'll get flare ups every five seconds.

Flare ups, by the way, are bad. You don't want fire licking your food -- you're just going to end up with meat that's burnt.


once you're all heated up, determine the hottest part of your grill.

New grills with multi-zone burners tend to have pretty even heat areas.

But there are lots of outside factors involved, like wind and

cleanliness of your unit. Float the palm of your hand a few inches

above your grill grate (don't burn yourself!) and determine what spot

is the hottest. Every grill is different.

Meat Techniques

Here's how I like to handle individual cuts of meat on the grill:

Chicken breast:

can approach this two ways: If you're planning on slicing the cooked

chicken into strips for fajitas or pastas, then it's best to cook

whole, boneless breasts over medium-low heat.  Make sure your grill is

warmed up properly, then turn the heat on your gas burner to about the

medium level. Position the chicken over indirect heat, meaning not over

the hottest part of your grill. For charcoal grills, you can push the

heated coals to one side of the grill. Place your chicken on the grill

at a 45 degree angle to the grates. Close the lid. Wait two minutes,

then turn the chicken 90 degrees so that the grill marks on the bottom

with criss cross. Close the lid again. Wait another two minutes, then

flip the breast over. See that? Nice grill marks! Repeat the process on

that side. After you've turned it for the third time, give your chicken

the old finger test to determine its doneness.

What's the

finger test? Simple. Poke the meat with your forefinger. Does it give

to pressure, like poking your chin? Or does it resist your finger and

bounce back, like poking your forehead? Chicken should be cooked

thoroughly, so you want it to feel more like your forehead. Getting the

result where you want it without drying out the meat is the hard part.

It takes practice and confidence -- trust yourself not to over or

undercook it!

For chicken like you would put on sandwiches or

serve as cutlets, you'll want to prepare it by slicing each breast in

half so the meat is thin. This gives a great surface-area-to-meat

ratio, and that means a lot of flavor!

For thin cutlets, you

want high, direct heat and an open grill lead. Find the hottest part of

your grill and place your cutlets there at a 45 degree angle to the

grates. Wait one minute this time, then turn the cutlets 90 degrees to

get that purdy criss cross pattern. Wait another minute, then flip the

chicken over. By this point, you're probably only going to need 30

seconds to 1 minute to finish the meat off. Don't overcook it!

Overcooked chicken is horrible. The finger test also applies here.


is another meat that works best cooked slow. That will give it plenty

of time for the fat inside to render down slowly, creating a succulent,

juicy piece of meat. Medium to medium low heat works best with an open

lid. You want to position your sausages over indirect heat if possible.

Watch for flare ups. As sausage cooks, it releases fat and juices,

which, when they hit your heat source, will flare into a burst of

flame. For charcoal, a little squirt bottle full of water can put these

out quickly. That can help for propane too, if you have a metal splash

guard. How long to cook them? Until they look plump and juicy without

being burnt. It could take 20-30 minutes depending on the type of

sausage you buy. The most important thing is not to burn them. Also, if

your sausage bursts and starts spraying juice everywhere, that's pretty

much a sign that they're completely done. Get em off before you

redecorate your grill.

Pre-cooked sausages like kielbasa and

some chorizos don't require so much cook time. I like to split these

and half and basically cook quickly over medium, direct heat until they

have nice grill marks. Then get them off post haste.

Tomorrow: Tips for steak, burgers, and shrimp!  

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John Linn

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