Introduction To Grilling

Strictly speaking, grilling is done by placing food directly over a hot flame. Traditionally, you would use charcoal and wood, and matches to light a fire, (or lighter fluid,not recommended)*.  Now we have the ease and cleanliness of a gas grill. Whichever you choose, the general principles are the same.  It seems there are so many bells and whistles on grills these days and I've tried them, but I always go back to the basic gas grill.  A side burner is unnecessary, because you can put a cast iron pot directly on the grill.  You can try a rotisserie, but then again, you can always turn your own meat and save the money.  In any event, what follows, regardless of what kind of grill you have, is a general guide for grilling and outdoor safety.  Always grill safe!  Once you have reviewed these safety tips and suggestions, take a look at our wonderful grilling recipes in the recipe section!!   
If you are using charcoal, invest in an inexpensive fire starter chimney.  You put paper or kindling in that to start the fire over the coals.  Its much cleaner than lighter fluid.

Grilling Temperatures

   For almost everything, my usual rule is cook it hot and fast.  Especially for the thinner smaller cuts of meat like kebabs , steaks , chops , burgers and  and hot dogs.  This will char the outside nicely, and keep the inside moist.  It is imperative that you monitor your grill for flare-ups and adjust the heat or move the food accordingly.  If your grill has a temperature guage, you will know how hot is High and how low is Low.  If you are using a charcoal grill or a gas grill with no guage there is always the a long-standing Hand-Rule:   Hold your hand a couple of inches above the cooking grate and start counting seconds-- 5 Seconds - Low, 4 Seconds - Medium, 3 Seconds - Medium High, 2 Seconds - High.  Its way too hot if you cannot even get near the grill. 

This is too hot for High!

Monitor The Grill

     It is necessary that you turn and move your food.  Contrary to popular belief, it is ok to flip and move your food on the grill - especially to get it away from heat that is too high.  Flare-ups are going to happen and you need to be prepared for them. The best way to stop them is to move food out of their path (with very long handled BBQ tools). However, do keep the spray bottle handy.  It works for me - and the meats can always use a little moisture. Just be sure you are not spraying it with a flamable marinade! 
    OK, 2 rules to flipping and moving:  1. Do not press down on your meat to try and sear it.  You will lose all the wonderful juices in it and end up with dry meat. 2. Do not move it before it is ready.  You will know this when you can lift it off the grill easily and without sticking.  After that, you can and should turn it depending on the hot or cold spots on your grill, or even for grill marks & design.  Flip when you need to. You need even cooking and you can't do that over direct heat without flipping occasionally. You also should take advantage of all that space you have on the grill.  When some foods are almost done, move them to a lower heat spot so your larger cuts can get more heat.

Example of using the space on your charcoal grill to its best advantage!

Some Foods Need Lower Heat

     It is my firm belief that everything can be cooked on a grill.  Just a plain simple gas grill with a cover.  No special equipment needed.  Now, sometimes that may mean a turkey, or ham.  Maybe a pork roast, whole chicken, beef or even...a pig!  Here are some tips for cooking larger or whole meats on the grill. 
     Control TheHeat:  If you are using a gas grill, you are lucky enough to have knobs and burners which are simple enough to turn
down - either all the burners, or turn off one or two burners depending on your goal. If you are using a charcoal grill, you will need to address this when you build your fire. Start it as usual, then push most of the coals to one side of the grill.  This way you will have a hot side and a cooler side.  If your fire must be in the center (as on round grills) you will have lower heat around the outside edges.  Then, keep an eye on your food often so you can monitor what is going on out there.
     One thing I have noticed about grilling larger meats is that once 30 minutes to hour or so goes by and the meat is heated, you will have to turn down the heat even more, because the grill is not working so hard to heat up your whole chicken, turkey, or beef, or pork, so the temperature inside the closed grill will raise.  Oh, and please, do not cook your fish this way! If you must, use an "en papillote" or foil wrapping on the fish so it will steam along with the other flavors in the foil.  
     Note: When you grill off the direct flame, you are grilling on indirect heat.  You are using your grill as an oven. So, in the event your oven breaks down, you can not only cook your meats, but also your casseroles, pizza, and anything else you can put in the oven. This is also great for smoking your meat (addressed later).

Grilled Turkey (Bobby Flay's version)
--We brined our turkey on Thanksgiving and it was gone before a photo could be taken. See the recipe grilling section for directions.

Testing For Doneness & Meat Temperatures**

   This is one of the most important issues in your grilling techniques.  You cannot use general guidelines for grilling, because every grill is different: gas, charcoal, heat levels, burners or not.  Some grills will get up to 600 degrees, others only 350. Then, of course, every steak, chicken or fish is different - even the ones in the same package. But if you remember a few simple techniques, you will be successful in cooking your food without turning it into charcoal!
   1. Watch your food and test it before you think it is done. You can cook it longer, but you can't uncook it.
   2. Use the palm test.  Its ok to touch your food.  Open your hand and touch your palm just under your thumb.  If your meat feels like that, its likely rare to medium rare.  If it feels like the area between your thumb and forefinger, its about medium, anywhere else in the middle of your palm and you better take it off the grill.  
    3. Use an instant read thermometer.  You can get a small one in any supermarket and it is indispensible, especially for a larger cut of meat.  

**It is so very important to cook your meat at least well enough so you don't get sick. If you are using beef, pork or the like from a reputable butcher and fish from a reputable fish monger, I always go with rare. But with frozen burgers, meats you are not quite sure from where they came and poultry, you absolutely must cook them until they are done. With credit to Emeril Lagasse and the following is a guide to proper food temperatures. These are the minimum required cooking temperature, with the applicable doneness. All temperatures are in Fahrenheit.

Well Done
Chicken/Duck/Goose 175 - 180
Fried, Poached, Coddled

Casseroles, Sauces, Custards
Cook until yolk and white are firm
120 - 137
Fish 120 - 137
Ground Meats
Beef, Lamb, Pork
Chicken, Turkey
Ostrich/Emu 160
Pate 170
Chops, Roast
160 - 165
Rabbit 180
Sausage 160
Inside or outside poultry 180
Boneless Roast

 If some of your batch of whatever you are cooking gets done before the rest, take it off the grill!  Do not leave it to the side until the rest of the food is done, or you will overcook it.  Have a warm plate handy to put the done meat on, and cover loosely with foil.  Give the meat a break and let it rest a bit before you serve it. 

Example of High heat on a charcoal grill.

Safety and Time Saving Tips

Always keep your grill grate clean and oiled to prevent sticking. In addition, periodically check the drip pans under the grill on gas grills, as they build up with charred bits of food and oil more often than you think. 

Oil the food also, as some may burn off the grill at high temperatures.  

Always keep an eye on what you’re grilling.  

Keep your grill away from anything flammable like lighter fluid, fences, your house, etc..

Spice up your food a good hour before you grill. This lets the flavor sink in. If your marinade is sweet or sugary, let the excess drip off before grilling and use it to baste your meat before it is done to prevent burning.

Have the proper long handled grill tools to do the job.

Place grilled food on a clean plate.


Use grilling tools that have long enough handles so your hands don't get burned, or too hot that you drop the food.

Add Smoke*

     You can use any grill to add a mouth-watering smokey flavor to your food.  This is generally a waste of time for hot and fast grilling, but when you are grilling a large piece of meat (like whole chicken, brisket, ham, turkey, or even ribs) that will take up to an hour or longer, any bit of smoke you can impart into the food will enhance the flavor. 
   First, you need to invest in a smoking box - an inexpensive metal box in which you will place a hard wood, like hickory, mesquite, apple or oak - that has been soaked prior to placing it on the grill.  Your wood should be soaked for at least 2 hours prior to using for smoke.  If you don't have a smoking box or if you just want to try it first and then decide, a small aluminum tray (5x8) will do just fine in a pinch.
   You will place your smoking box under the grill, but on top of the heat.  On a gas grill, put it on top of the metal gards that cover the flame from the burners.  On a charcoal grill, place it on the hot coals, but just a bit off to the side so it doesn't dry out too fast.  If your box has a cover, put it on but leave it half-way open. 
As the grill heats up, so will the wood inside the box.  As the water evaporates and the wood begins to dry out, it will create a wonderful smoke while your meat is cooking.  Keep the cover to the grill closed, and don't open  too often while you are cooking so the smoke doesn't escape.  This was especially good when we did a turkey like this.

*These directions are meant for cooks & grillers who want to use smoke to add extra flavor to their grilled food like whole chicken, pork, lamb and even turkey, over a medium-high or high heat (like an oven). Our recipes are mostly made "hot and fast."  If you truly want to cook your meats by smoking "low and slow" (sometimes known as bar-b-que), then you should use a real smoker, or a gas grill with a smoking box and grill the meat over an indirect heat, at a very low (200 - 250 degrees).  This is generally a day long process, as it will take anywhere from 3-8 hours to properly smoke meats until their done, depending on the type of meat.  We will eventually add real low and slow smoking directions, but for now you can go to for a comprehensive guide to smokers, how to use them and what meats to smoke.

This is the smoking box we use on our Webber gas grill.


     Today we were home with time on our hands and a pork shoulder in the fridge, so we decided to smoke it on our gas grill.  With only a few simple ingredients we had a beautifully crusted pork for pulled pork by dinnertime.  Check it out:
1 5-8lb Pork Shoulder, bone-in
1/2 c. Worstershire Sauce
1 small jar McCormick Pork Rub
     Preheat your grill to 250 - 275 degrees, place your wet wood chips in your smoking box, over direct heat. 
     Rinse Pork and pat dry; massage in Worstershire Sauce and Pork Rub seasoning until completely covered on all sides.  
     Place Pork in a grill-proof baking dish or on a pizza stone, and put on grill over indirect heat for about 8 hours. Check every couple of hours and replace wet wood if necessary.  See photo.  
    For the first night we just served it "as-is," pulling chunks of moist meat off with a pair of tongs and enjoying the crispy crusty bark.  Second night, we used the left-overs and chopped them to mix with a homemade BBQ sauce.  You can find a recipe for any of your favorite sauces on the BBQ Recipes Page.  

Smoked Pork Shoulder w/ BBQ Spiced Bark