10 Barbecue Hacks to Master This Summer

Chill out while you grill out with these flame-broiled hacks designed to make barbecuing faster, easier, and more delicious.

1. Clean the Grill Without Leaving Harmful Residue

Before you start grillin' up a storm, the grates should be cleaned. Doesn't matter if you used it last night or last year, you owe it to yourself and those you're feeding to cook on a sanitary surface. I know what you're thinking — doesn't the open flame kill any potential bacteria? Yep, but that's not the issue; the problem lies in the leftover carcinogens. Probably didn't know that was a thing, did you?

To clean the grill grates, it's best to use steel wool pads instead of the very popular metal-bristled grill brush you're probably using. Of course that means that you'll need actually wash the grates opposed to dry scrubbing them. Why? The steel-wool heads at Brillo explain.

"The CDC sent out an announcement regarding the dangers of swallowing grill brush bristles, which have the potential to get caught in food and can be consumed," says Eric Phillips, Brillo's resident cleaning expert. "Use a Brillo pad and a little water to scrub grill grates clean. This prevents the hazard of potentially swallowing grill bristles."

2. Marinate Your Meat for a Healthier Meal

Marinating your meat not only kicks the flavor up another notch, but it's one more way to reduce the amount of carcinogens you're consuming as a byproduct of the grilling process.

First, a bit of science from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR): "The combination of meat with intense heat is what prompts scientists to caution against traditional grilling," according to an article on the AICR website. "The substances in the muscle proteins of red meat, poultry, and seafood react under high heat to form carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs can damage the DNA of our genes and contribute to the process of cancer development. Consumption of HCAs is most clearly linked to cancers of the colon and stomach."

Marinating meat helps reduce carcinogens by up to 96% compared to meat that was grilled without marinating.

Other ways to cut down on health hazards when grilling meat include:

  • Limiting portion sizes and cutting smaller pieces to shorten cook time;
  • Buying leaner cuts that prevent dripping fat from causing flare-ups, which can deposit carcinogens on the meat;
  • Flipping meat frequently to reduce carcinogens that may arise;
  • Reducing the heat; cooking at slightly lower temperatures is enough to substantially reduce HCA formation.

3. Let Your Meat Come to Room Temperature Before Grilling

I'm an avid viewer of cooking shows, and I learned this trick many years ago. Bringing your meat to room temperature prior to cooking allows it to cook faster and more evenly since the meat will be the same temperature throughout, opposed to straight from the fridge where it will rise in temperature from the outside in.

4. Grill Your Favorite Fish on Citrus Slices

Forgot to marinate your fish? No problem. Infuse your cut with citrus that you've arranged directly on the grill. "Before you grill your next salmon fillet, carefully arrange several slices of Meyer lemon on your grill and cook them salmon directly over the slices," say the grill spice makers at Spiceologist. "Cut your citrus in quarter-inch slices, and feel free to experiment with other flavors like blood orange, lime, grapefruit."

5. Steam Corn in Its Husk on the Grill

Instead of fully husking your corn before it hits the grates, undress it only half way and dip it in a quick bath to get the best of both worlds — that fresh-from-the-grill flavor and the tenderness of steaming. The Deck Chef Kent Whitaker, winner of an Emeril Live barbecue contest, shares his tips:

"When you want to grill corn, remove most of the husk except the very last layer or two, keeping the corn silk in, then submerge your corn in water for 30 seconds to a minute before putting on the grill," he says. "The corn will do a better job of steaming within the husk during cooking and will allow for grill marks in the later stages of grilling. Likewise, the silk is very easy to remove after the fact."

6. Turn up the Heat on the Juiciest Burgers EVER

I can picture it now: That perfectly cooked burger on a toasted bun with all the fixins', juice dripping down my chin upon first bite. It's the stuff foodie dreams are made of, and Tony Roma's Executive Chef Bob Gallagher has tips and tricks to help achieve perfection all summer long.

  • Use all areas of the grill and rotate burgers 90 degrees around the grill. Move burgers from the front of the grill to the back of the grill and vice versa, which will ensure even cooking. Burgers will cook faster in the back of the grill.
  • Pre-heat the grill to at least 500 degrees before placing meat on the grill. This helps create a sear flavor to complement the meat.
  • The grill lid is your friend. Use it, and resist the urge to constantly lift the lid to check or flip burgers. You only need to flip once! Less flipping keeps the juices intact for mouthwatering flavor.

7. Speed up the Low-and-Slow Process

We've all heard it before: If you want authentic BBQ — pulled pork, spare ribs, brisket, the works — you have to cook it "low and slow." But who has time to start the cooking process a day in advance? Luckily, the same results can be achieved in half the time, says BBQ expert Scott Thomas, owner of the website GrillinFools and writer for Char-Broil and Smithfield Pork.

To reduce your cooking time, "Up the heat to 350 and smoke for two-three hours and then foil," he says. "The meat is only taking on the smoke for a couple hours so once the smoke is infused, wrap it in foil with a little liquid to hyper-accelerate the breakdown of connective tissues. That 15-hour brisket is now done in six to seven hours. Pork butts, even less."

8. Let the Meat Rest and Relax Before Serving

You should always let you meat rest after grilling. It's very tempting to cut right in, of course, but — as the old saying goes — good things come to those who wait. Culinary and BBQ expert Chef Michael Vignola of the Strip House steakhouse in New York City explains why.

"Once you have achieved the desired temperature, remove the steak from the heat and allow it to rest for at least five minutes on a grate over a pan before cutting it," he says. "You want to make sure there is air all around the steak to stop the cooking process. The internal juices will redistribute throughout the steak and the steak will relax and become tender. Cutting too soon will allow the juices to spill out, turning a medium rare steak into a medium plus steak."

9. Use a Muffin Tin to Cut Down on Condiment Containers

I thought this hack was quite brilliant. By putting all your condiments in a muffin tin, you can cut down on all those bottles and jars that never stay in one place. This video on how to use a plain muffin tin to transform the way you BBQ shows you just how many fixins' you can fit in a standard tin. You'll find mustard, mayo, and ketchup, of course, but there's plenty of room for relish, onions, jalapenos, and more. Best of all, it's easy to transport, whether you're cooking out in your backyard or on the beach.

10. Charbroil a Fast-But-Fancy Dessert

What's for dessert? Skip the cookies and cake and serve up a juicy and delicious dish of grilled fruit. Peaches, for instance, grill particularly well. Sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon-sugar that will caramelize on the grill as they cook, then serve with creamy vanilla ice cream. Or, if you want to get a little funkier, try rubbing Spiceologist's Smoky Honey Habanero on fresh pineapple halves. That'll wake up your taste buds in a jif.

Do you have more BBQ hacks to recommend? I'd love to hear 'em. Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

We grill outside almost every day during the summer. No sense heating up the house when you can heat up the already hot outside! I knew a few of these tips (like get your meat to room temp before grilling), but a lot are new. Thanks!