Backyard barbecue season is almost upon us, which means it’s time to clean up the gas grill and roll it out to the back patio. We’ve rounded up some awesome info on how to get the most out of every cookout this year.
Learn the Heat Zones
Any grill master will tell you it’s all about heat management. Just because your grill has four powerful burners doesn’t mean all of them need to be at full blast. Instead, you should use the tried-and-true combo of indirect and direct heat zones.
Direct heat means you are cooking over a lit burner, so the heat source is directly below your food. This is most often what we imagine when we think barbecue. And for good reason—you’ll want to use direct heat on most of the classic BBQ foods like burgers, brats, steaks, kabobs, and veggies. This will leave them with a great seared taste and texture.
You can use direct heat with any of your burners’ temperature settings. High works great for searing, medium is best for hot and fast cooking, and low is good with more fragile foods. No matter how hot you’re cooking, be sure to preheat your grill for 10-15 minutes before you start.
Indirect heat is your best option for roasting or low-and-slow cooking on your gas grill. Rather than lighting up the burners right beneath your food, you’ll want to ignite the burners on either side, leaving the middle burners off for convection-style heat. With a closed lid, this method will cook from all sides evenly. This is perfect for thicker foods or foods that need a slower cook, like whole chicken, turkey, roast, ribs, bread, and more. As noted above, make sure to preheat your grill for 10-15 minutes before throwing the food on.
You can also utilize the indirect heat zone for regular barbecuing with burgers and similar foods. Leaving a burner or two open as an indirect heat zone will give you a place to keep food warm while you wait for other items to finish cooking. That’s right: no more burnt burgers or cold brats.
Searing Like a Pro
When you’ve got high, direct heat, you’ve got a recipe for a great sear. Try some of these tips for searing steak, burgers, chicken, and more:
- Pat meat dry before cooking. A dry surface is easier to brown and sear just right.
- If you want an even, thorough sear, try flipping your meat multiple times throughout the cook so neither side burns with the high heat. Please note, this isn’t what you want to do with burger patties—just flip those one time.
- Try the reverse sear method for thicker cuts: cook meat on indirect heat until you reach 15° F below your desired temperature; then transfer to direct heat to sear on either side until finished.
- Cook with the lid open while you’re searing so your food is only getting heat on one side at a time.
- Thicker meats that are at least 1-inch thickness will hold up to searing better than thin cuts
- Rotate the meat to sear as much of its surface as possible. You can also achieve the trademark diamond sear marks this way.
Know Your Temps
The most common gas grill cooking mistake is cooking by time rather than temperature. The amount of time it takes to cook a steak will vary depending on the outside weather, the starting temperature of the meat, the heat of the grill, and more. In other words, it might not be the same every time you try it. To guarantee the best results, you should always cook according to temperature.
Make sure you have a reliable instant-read thermometer in your grilling tool kit. Poking the side of your meat to get the internal temperature—despite popular belief—will not release precious juices and ruin a steak. In fact, getting an accurate temperature reading can make all the difference for cooking meat to perfection. Plus, you can make sure you are cooking everything to safe standards before chowing down.
- Fish: 145° F
- Ground meats (including burgers): 160° F
- Poultry: 165° F
- Rare: 120-130° F
- Medium-rare: 130-135° F
- Medium: 135-145° F
- Medium-well: 145-155° F
- Well-done: 155° F
Fruits and Vegetables
You can actually do a lot with produce on the grill. And for many fruits and vegetables, high heat and a good sear will enhance the flavors and textures wonderfully. But they don’t cook the same way as meat on the grill. Be sure to follow these tips when it comes to produce items:
- Brush vegetables with oil before cooking.
- Thin, tender produce (like asparagus, bell pepper, onion) is best over high, direct heat and cooks quickly (so time it accordingly).
- Thick, tougher produce (like cauliflower, squash, and potato) is best with lower, indirect heat and needs more time to cook.
- Root veggies like potatoes cook best when they’re cut into disks or chunks.
- Try apples, peaches, pineapple, figs, and pears on the grill—they taste great!
What are your favorite gas grilling tips? Let us know in the comments below. Get set up with a new gas grill for the back patio, and start using these tips for yourself!