There are a few tips and tricks to making any BBQ the perfect BBQ.
Make sure to have enough fuel. There is nothing worse than running out of propane or charcoal in the middle of a cookout! Everyone will remember. Don’t screw it up!
With charcoal it is easy to determine how much fuel you have. Just look into the bag and see how much is left.
If you need charcoal, memorial day is one of the best times of the year to purchase it. Currently for Memorial Day 2012, the deals are as follows:
- Home Depot – 2 pack of 13.9lb kingsford blue for $5.88 – .21 cents per pound.
- Lowes – 2 pack of 20lb kingsford blue for $9.99 – .25 cents per pound
- Wal-Mart – 2 pack 15lb kingsford blue for $5.48 - .18 cents per pound
With propane it can be a little more tricky. There are two easy methods.
- The easiest method to determine the amount of propane left in your tank is to pour warm water over the tank. Then slowly swipe your hand down the tank. Where the tank gets cool to the touch is the propane level. You will want at least 1/4 of a tank for a nice bbq.
- The other method is to disconnect the tank and then weigh it using a bathroom scale. Then subtract 18lbs to give you the amount of propane left in the tank. On average you will get about 45 mins per pound of propane. You will want at least 3 lbs for a party. You will probably not use this amount, but it is nice to be safe. It is noted that 18lbs is the average empty weight of a 20lb propane tank (some weigh more some less, +- 1/2 lb).
Always set up multiple cooking zones on the grill. If the whole grill is on high, you will burn something. It is just a matter of time. This is simple to do with both gas and charcoal grills.
Turn 1/2 of the burners to medium high and 1/2 to medium/low. Yep, that simple. Sear over the medium high and then move the nicely seared meat to the cooler side to finish. That way you control the temps over a manageable fire.
I like to set up three separate zone for charcoal. Light the coals in a chimney and then pour them into one half of your grill. They will stack on one side and a few will fall into the middle. Then the other side will be the cool zone. So you have one side hot, the middle is medium and the other side is cool. Cook veggies and fish over the center. Sear burgers, brats and steaks over the high side. Finish cooking your meats and melt cheese on the burgers on the cool side with the lid on.
This is an easy thing to do. Scrape the grill grates clean with a brush.
Don’t use grill cleaner or any chemicals. If you have any stuck on particles, crank the grill up and then scrape them off.
Finally, brush the grates lightly with vegetable oil before adding the food.
The other tip is to allow the grates to fully heat up before you add the food. A hot grate sears and does not stick.
Yep, this is the one where people get sick at your bbq. You don’t want your food repeating do you.
Keep Things Chilled
Keep dips, condiments and toppings on ice. The easiest way is the set up a shallow dish with ice. Then place each item in a dish in the ice. Most people at barbecues get sick from the sides and not from the main course.
This cheap and affordable inflatable buffet server is perfect. For under $20 you can keep a whole table cool. Plus you can load it with enough drinks for the neighborhood. When you are done you can just deflate it and store it.
Cook to Temp
Make sure to cook with a meat thermometer. It is helpful and can be a lifesaver. Make sure your chicken and pork are at least 165 degrees.
Also, if you are cooking steak you can give your guests perfectly grilled steak with the use of a meat thermometer.
- Rare – 140 degrees
- Medium/Rare – 145 degrees
- Medium – 160 degrees
- Medium/Well – 165 degrees
- Well – 170 degrees
Cheap but effective meat thermometers:
- Taylor Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer
- ThermoWorks The Original Cooking Thermometer/Timer
- Taylor Classic Instant-Read Pocket Thermometer
- Maverick Wireless BBQ Thermometer Set – Maverick ET732
Be ready for any weather
The key to a good bbq is to be ready for anything. Make sure you have an umbrella or a ez-up for the grill. Keep the grill dry and you will be able to have a successful bbq even in a storm.
K Mart has an EZ-UP for $75 right now. Check it out here.
You also have to make sure you have your house cleaned, as you may have to serve food inside.
Season Your Food
The secret to a great steak or a great burger is seasoning. The best out there, Salt and Pepper. No joke. If you season your burger it will taste better. Your neighbors will wonder what you do to make your burgers so good. The average person throws burgers right on the grill. No seasoning at all. If you take the extra step to season, you will be the grill master of the neighborhood.
There are a ton of pre-made burger seasonings out there. I have found that they are not bad, but make sure to use them sparingly. They are quite potent. My favorite is a little kosher salt, pepper and a dash of seasoning salt.
Don’t Kill the Meat – It is already dead!
Use tongs for turning and a flat spatula to flip burgers and veggies. Stay away from forks. They pierce the meat and cause the juices to fly. This then causes flare-ups which lead to burned food. Forks are bad!
Also, do not use the back of the spatula to press the burgers. This is not the 50′s. It is not cool to do this at all. Pressing the burgers causes the juices to escape, causing flare-ups which lead to burned food. Pressing is bad!
Memorial Day Recipes
Check out my write-up on the best main dishes, sides, condiments and desserts for memorial day! There is also a section with great cocktails.
Grab a beer and have fun! Barbecues are supposed to be fun. Make sure to set up your multiple zones for cooking and then you are good to go. If you see a flare up, move the meat to the cool side until the flames go down. Then bring it right back to the heat. Setting up the zones is the hard part, but it is quite easy. Remember these rules and you will be the grillmaster!