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The Thrill of the Grill

Ever notice that on backyard barbecues, it's always the man of the house who is in charge of the grill? Maybe it's the scent and the sizzle of fat and grease hitting a hot surface. Or the primal allure of cooking with the most basic of tools. Whatever it is, you still need to know the basics of cooking like this for your family to fully enjoy the thrills from the grill.

You have to keep in mind that grilling is a quick cooking process. The meat has to be tender right from the start. You cannot cook longer like in steaming and boiling where it will tenderize the meat. You try that in the grill and you will end up with charcoal for dinner. Be aware of the meat's freshness, thickness, cut and marbling. These factors will determine the final outcome of your efforts.

All the fancy flavourings and infusions will be useless if done on the wrong cut of meat. Porterhouse steaks, T-bone, and strip steaks are popular choices because they are the ones best suited to being subject to the grill's high heat. Thinner cuts like flank steaks and skirt steaks burn easily and are not recommended for outdoor barbecues and indoor broilers.

Balance freshness with aging. To ensure freshness, look for beef that is bright red or deep red. Avoid too much blood and stay away from those pre-cut meats with too much liquids sloshing around in the packaging. This simply means the meat has been staying in the butchers for so long that liquid is starting to seep out. Also look for meat that has a layer of fat. During the grilling process, this fat will melt and infuse the meat with intense flavor.

Even cuts are the best for grilling. Too thin and you burn the meat. Too thick and the inside will be raw. Have one side thinner and that side will get done first. Cook it long enough for the thicker side to get done and you will end up burning the other.

Next concern is aging the meat. Buy meat a few days from the planned grilling. This way, the met will have time to mature in your refrigerator. Aging is when the meat's natural enzymes act on it making it more tender. Frozen meat should be allowed to thaw out completely before being grilled.

If the recipe calls for a marinade, this is the time to do it. Marinades often contain acids like vinegar or lemon juice, salt, and possibly alcohol from wine or brandy. This makes them fast-acting so you have to marinate on the day itself and not longer. There is a big difference between tender and mushy so you have to time it perfectly. To prevent spills inside your refrigerator, place the meat along with the marinade inside a resealable plastic bag.

Remember that you are still handling raw meat so all the usual precautions still apply. Keep it refrigerated until the grill is nice and hot. Also mind the surfaces you will be laying food on. food poisoning caused by bacteria will ruin any picnic, so be careful.

Finally, you can place the meat on the grill and wait eagerly for dinner to be served. Enjoy!


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