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Grilling How To: New Ideas From Cleaning Your Grill to Non-Stick Fish

Chef Todd Mohr
 


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I’m inspired to create this “Grilling How To” because outdoor cooking season is now upon us! It’s my favorite cooking time of the year, but before I actually get grilling, I’ll have to inspect my barbeque and decide whether it will survive another summer.

My poor, poor barbeque grill, it took some abuse this winter. It had snow piled on top of it, freezing temperatures, spiders, dust, and carbonized pieces of last year’s hamburger spend an intimate winter with it.

A clean grill means that dirt and debris aren’t stealing heat from your food. For the most efficient and successful outdoor cooking this summer, start with these basic maintenance tips.

There are three basic areas that you’ll want to inspect, clean and repair before you start cooking outdoors this year.

  1. The Gas - Liquid Propane (LP) gas grills are potentially dangerous because of the flammable nature of the LP.

    1. Inspect the LP canister for leaks or breaks. With some soapy water and a soft-bristled paintbrush, brush the water on the areas where the tank and gas lead are coupled. Also brush valve stem and valve of the tank. Bubbles indicate gas leaks and should be repaired immediately.

    2. Be sure you have enough gas. Unless you have a pressure gauge on the tank, the only see how much gas you have is by weight. The average canister weighs 18 pounds empty.

  1. The Grates - Clean and inspect the cooking grates for wear, rust, or remnants of July 4, 2010. This includes the lava rocks that are suspended above the burner. Vacuum the grates, rocks and bottom of the grill to remove debris

  1. The Burner – The most important part of your grilling often goes neglected. Remove the I-shaped or H-shaped burner from the grill and inspect the propane holes for wear. If it has deteriorated such that the holes have joined together, making a large hole, this is potentially dangerous and the burner should be replaced.

With a clean grill, you’ll enjoy your grilling, how to make it better, and appreciate the cooking season more fully because your equipment will allow your true outdoor cooking talent to shine through, and one of my favorite things to cook outdoors is a basic hamburger.

I can grill hamburgers perfectly because of the control I have over my grill’s heat. The outdoor barbeque is the hottest cooking element most of us have available in the home, but that doesn’t mean it always has to be used at the highest flame.

I can alter the heat in my oven. I don’t always cook at the highest set temperature indoors. I can control the heat on the stove-top burner. Not everything is cooked to a wild violent boil.

The same theory can be applied to steaks for grilling or when you grill hamburgers. The secret to success in grilling, how to change the type of heat that is cooking your dinner, and knowing when to switch cooking methods, is the key.

While most people use their grills strictly for direct conductive heat, it can also be used like an oven with indirect heat. Rather than letting your hamburger burn on the bottom while it remains raw in the middle, change the grill heat to a method that will finish the cooking without creating a hard crust.

By turning one side of the grill off, moving the meat away from the direct flame, and closing the grill lid, I’ve created a softer convective environment for cooking. Now I can grill hamburgers that have attractive grill marks, but are consistently cooked throughout.

The ONLY way to tell if your patties are done is with an instant-read thermometer. There are many old-wives tales about unquantifiable ways to tell doneness of grilled items. Touching your cheek or palm and comparing it to the meat is absolutely useless.

Finished Beef Temperatures:

Rare 130F 55C

Medium 140F 60C

Well 150F 65C

Hockey Puck 160F 70C

You can grill hamburgers that everyone raves about when you control the heat you’re cooking them with. Softer indirect convective heat can help retain moisture and flavor without the potential of charred exterior and grill flame-ups of the intense direct conductive heat of the barbeque grill.

However, delicate products like fish are much different than steaks. Because white fish filets are so delicate and your barbeque is so intense, when the two meet the result is burned, dry fish that is destroyed when it sticks to the grill. But, changing your grill’s heat is also a grilling how-to for cooking fish without it sticking to the grates.

The cause of delicate products sticking to the grill is the same thing that gives you attractive marks when you grill hamburgers or steak, the coagulation of proteins and caramelization of sugars.

Coagulation is the stiffening and shrinking of proteins. That’s why your grilled hamburger is considerably smaller than the raw burger you started with. Caramelization occurs when sugars reach 320F / 160C and turn brown.

However, fish is much more delicate than steaks for grilling, and need to be treated differently. Technically, fish proteins will coagulate before sugars caramelize, stiffening and shrinking around the grill grates, holding on tightly.

By the time you’ve achieved the grill marks and caramelization of sugars that will release the fish from the grill’s grasp, it’s too late. Your fish is burned.

How to grill fish without sticking lies in changing the way your grill is delivering heat during the cooking process. By turning one side of the grill’s heat off, and placing a pan of water on the opposite side, and closing the lid, you can create a moist, indirect conductive cooking method to delicately cook the fragile fish.

When you place the fish on the indirect-heat side of the grill, you can cook with the confidence that you’re not subjecting the soft proteins to the intense dry heat of the barbeque. With this method, you’ll know all the grilling how to so you can grill fish confidently without leaving most of your dinner stuck to the grill.

My best grilling how-to advice is centered around controlling the heat of your barbeque in the same way you would when cooking indoors. Don’t ALWAYS cook on high, and treat delicate items in a delicate manner.

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