Chef's Corner: Tips for Grilling and Marinating

Just in time for the summer grilling season, we’re proud to bring you grilling tips and tricks from Jeffrey Triola, Executive Chef for Manitou Trading Company. Need ideas for using our line of global spices and sauce starters? Check out our Seasoning Guide.

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Get it Hot! 

Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minute before you start cooking to ensure it reaches the correct temperature. Your grill should be 400-450° F for high, 350-400° F for medium-high and 300-350° F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears food on contact, which helps prevent sticking. Searing, as often claimed, does not “seal in” the juices, however it does improve flavor through caramelization. 

Gas vs. Charcoal 

This is personal preference based on convenience, environmental issues, and cost. While no studies prove either is healthier, gas does burn cleaner. From a taste perspective, many people prefer the smokier, richer flavor of food cooked over charcoal. 

Keep it Clean 

It’s easier to remove stuck-on food debris when the grill is hot, After preheating, use a wire grill brush to lean off debris that may be left from prior meals. Scrape again immediately after use. 

Keep it Oiled! 

Even on a preheated clean grill, lean foods may stick when placed directly on the grates. Reduce sticking by oiling the grates with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel or tightly rolled up clean cloth—hold it with tongs and lightly rub it over the grates. 

Avoid Food-Borne Illness! 

Food safety is a top priority and often sadly overlooked. Follow the simple rules provided by the USDA whenever you are preparing food:  avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, utensils and platters for raw and cooked foods; refrigerate foods while marinating; and never baste with the marinating liquid—make extra marinade just for basting or boil the marinating liquid first.

Tools of the Trade 

Using a chimney-style starter makes starting a charcoal fire a breeze. Just place crumpled paper in the bottom, fill it with charcoal and light the paper. In about 20 minutes the coals will be ready to spread evenly in the bottom of the grill, no kindling or lighter fluid necessary. 

Invest in an accurate instant read probe thermometer.  It is the best way to check the internal temperature of a protein. Use a grill basket for foods that may fall through the grates of the grill or are too cumbersome to turn over one by one, such as pieces of vegetables, fruit or potatoes. 

Give it a Rest 

Other than food safety this is one of the absolute most important parts of mastering the grill. Let finished meats rest on a clean platter, lightly tented with foil for about 10 minutes before cutting so juices can redistribute evenly throughout the meat. 

Manage the Flame 

Flare-ups happen when drippings fall into the heat source and catch fire. This causes carcinogenic PAH’s (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to form and accumulate on the food. Meat licked by flames also has an “off” taste and flames may overly char the outside of the meat before the inside is at the desired temperature. To reduce flare-ups, remove any excess oil or marinade from the items to be grilled, and keep a squirt bottle of water nearby to quickly douse any unexpected flare-ups. 

Marinating Myths

It is not beneficial to marinade meats for longer than the recommended amount of time. While acidic ingredients like citrus juice, vinegar, yoghurt, buttermilk, wine and certain plant enzymes do weaken the collagens in meat, they only penetrate the surface of the protein. If left for too long, acids can turn meat mushy, not tender. The takeaway here is simple: since marinades don’t penetrate deeply, a lengthy marination is pointless and often detrimental. 

Make the best barbecue on the block with Manitou Trading Company’s line of globally-inspired spices, sauce starters and sides. Find recipes, tips, nutritional information and much more right here at manitoutrading.com

Elizabeth Strickland