That outdoor cooking sure is fun, isn’t it? The rich, smoky aroma of the charcoal as it gets fired up is the highlight of my day. And I usually have already put together my plan for the grilling session, so there are no worries. But every now and then….well, let’s just say that there are times when I’ve lost focus. And I figured that a few pointers on how to improve your grilling would be the perfect topic for this post.
I wanted to help you guys out, because I realized that some of the mistakes that I’ve made (and subsequently learned from) could be avoided by highlighting them. Once you know the things that tend to impair a good cookout, the smart thing to do is to avoid them. So without further ado, let’s get started!
- Allow Yourself Proper Prep Time. This is an error I made constantly when I first started to grill. I genuinely underestimated how long it would take to not only to cook the food, but also how much prep time that was involved in getting things ready. Therefore, the advice here is to give yourself an adequate time frame for the food prep. If you plan to cook dinner right after school or work, then your best bet is to get your meat(s) properly cleaned, seasoned, and/or marinated the night before. This will allow you plenty of time for prep. You wouldn’t believe how many times I ended up eating dinner around 10pm because I ignored this concept. Save yourself the headache.
- Know What You Want to Cook. Again, this is another tip that involves foresight on your part. If the idea for the day is to throw some burgers and dogs on the grill, then have fun. But you can reduce your prep and cleanup time by simply knowing how much you’re going to make. If you are going to cook more than that, give yourself the advantage of thinking it out. In what order will you cook your food and what foods have you decided to make? Answering these questions will provide you with an efficient and smooth session.
- Know how Many People Will Be Eating. For obvious reasons, it’s important to have a head count of folks eating with you. I can speak from personal experience; there’s nothing worse than grilling four steaks when seven people show up! The awkward situation this blunder creates is unbearable. So this tip is simple – make enough food to feed the expected guests. You can’t go wrong (NOTE: I like to make a little bit extra if I am uncertain on how many will show. Even if you run out of one dish, no one will feel slighted).
- Know Your Charcoal. This is probably the best piece of advice that I can give you. Many folks are surprised by how important that charcoal they use is to the success of their cookout. What I mean by that statement is if you are throwing a cookout party, then use the charcoal that you’re familiar with. I’ve had occasions where I had people over, went to the store and grabbed a bag of charcoal and it didn’t perform the way I had expected. It either burnt real hot and cooled off too fast, or took ALL DAY to get hot, or didn’t stay lit very well. It was always something! It was years before I figured out this truth: stick with the charcoal you know when having guests over. This cannot be stressed enough. See, you know how this charcoal performs, so there won’t be any surprises. That’s crucial. And if you don’t know anything about charcoal, then just go with the best. It won’t let you down.
- Go Over Everything The Night Before. Like I mentioned in the first tip, getting everything settled the night before grilling is such a relief, because you’ll know where you stand with your food, supplies, etc. The stress of running around at the last minute is no good, because I guarantee that you won’t be having any fun when you’re dashing off to the store on a holiday for last minute utensils. My motto these days is to make things easy. Have a dry run the day before. Go out back, check the grill, look at the charcoal (make sure you have enough), get your menu together, make sure you’ve got all the necessary utensils and odds & ends, all that stuff. If you’re anything like me, you’ll realize you forgot something. See? The night before the party happens, it’s no big deal. It sure pays dividends to be prepared.
And that’s the entire point of these tips and this post. You want to make sure that you are prepared for your grilling event. Even if its a spur-of-the-moment thing, it never hurts to check everything before you get started. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.