Homegrown Ontario’s resident grilling expert David Zimmer knows his way around a barbecue. Known for serving up succulent pork ribs, savoury lamb burgers, mouth-watering veal chops and tender turkey breast, Dave has put together his tips for creating fool-proof meals on the grill. “The single most important thing for a griller to understand is the difference between direct and indirect cooking. Understanding grilling methods and following my general rules of thumb will guarantee that your meat will sizzle all summer long.”
Direct Vs. Indirect Grilling
Smaller, thinner items like steaks, chops and kebabs should be cooked quickly, at a high temperature, directly over the heat source. A good rule to consider is that anything that will cook in less than 15 minutes should be done directly over the fire.
Bigger things like roasts and whole birds need to be cooked at lower temperatures, well away from the source of heat. That’s indirect cooking.
In some cases you should use both methods together. For example, when you’re cooking mid-sized cuts, like a really thick steak, a whole pork tenderloin or a large veal chop, the trick is to sear the meat on all sides for a short period of direct grilling. Then, finish cooking away from the fire using the indirect method.
David Zimmer’s Grilling Tips
- Let meat come to room temperature before you place it on the grill. Refrigerated meat takes longer to come up to cooking temperature, which can lead to a dry and tough dinner. It also tends to stick to the grill.
- Don’t poke your meat or flip it with a fork. Puncturing your food lets out delicious juices and makes for a dry dinner.
- When cooking marinated meats, wipe away the marinade with a paper towel before grilling. Excess moisture from all that wet marinade impedes browning and the formation of the all-important sear that locks in juices.
- Don’t be afraid to season. Contrary to certain popular opinion, seasoning meat with salt does not draw out moisture if it is done just prior to cooking. More importantly, salt is crucial to the browning process and even a little bit adds a whole lot of flavour.
- All grilled meat, from the smallest chop to the mightiest roast, benefits from a resting period before it is served. When meat rests (5 minutes for a small steak and 15–20 minutes for a big roast or a bird) it reabsorbs the flavourful juices inside as they redistribute themselves throughout the cut for a moist and tender dinner. Carve too early and those delicious juices from the centre of the cut simply leak out, leaving you with a dried out dish.
- Do not abandon your post! When grilling, you can’t just close the lid and walk away. Like pancakes or an omelette, grilled meats – and grill temperature – need to be closely monitored during cooking, if only to be on the lookout for flare-ups.