Fire Up the Grill: A Beginners Guide

Gloria Tsang newWritten by Canadian Lentils Dietitian Gloria Tsang, RD

In most homes, there’s one person in charge of the barbecue. Truthfully, it’s usually a man. Whether you’re a woman who’s always left the outdoor cooking to the man of the house, or you’re just someone who’s new to the art of cooking with fire, the five simple steps below will help you make this a summer full of grilling goodness.

1. Start Simple

It’s a good idea to start with hearty cuts of meat like chicken, pork, lamb, or beef, as they’re more forgiving on the grill than delicate foods like fish or shrimp. It’s also wise to use cuts of meat you’re familiar with from inside cooking so you know what the meat should look like when it’s cooked.

Try the recipe for Grilled Lamb Chops with Curried Coconut Lentil Dahl on page 13 of the new Summer 2014 edition of the e-cookbook Lentils for Every Season (link is external) to put this tip into practice (but only if you’re already comfortable cooking lamb chops inside!).

2. Track the Temperature

One of the most important grilling supplies is an instant-read thermometer. Food safety requires that meats be cooked to the proper internal temperature, and there’s just no way to tell if that’s happened by looks alone. You can find plenty of apps online that offer guides to the precise internal temperature required for different kinds of meat.

Also on the subject of temperature, make sure you heat your grill to the temperature mentioned in the recipe, or, if you’re not using a recipe, stick to medium-high heat for any foods that require a short cooking time. Cooking at too low a temperature can result in chewy, overdone meat with no grill marks.

Try the recipe for Beef, Lentil & Sausage Burgers on page 12 of Lentils For Every Season to put this tip into practice by heating your grill to medium-high.

3. Use a Marinade

An oil-and-vinegar-based marinade can help minimize the carcinogens that can be generated by cooking over the high heat of an open flame. It also makes meat more tender, so you can use lower-fat cuts and still have them turn out juicy. A marinade works really well as a quick coating for veggies you plan to cook on the grill, too – it adds flavour and keeps them from drying out, so you can cook the whole meal on the grill. You don’t need to soak veggies in the marinade – just brush it on for extra flavour and moisture.

Try the recipe for Charred Vegetable & Lentil Antipasto Salad on page 5 of Lentils for Every Season (link is external) to put this tip into practice with a marinade-style coating for grilled veggies.

4. Learn the Lighting Technique

Lighting the barbecue is often the scariest part of grilling for new outdoor cooks. But with modern barbecues, it’s usually quite simple. If you’re not sure how to light your barbecue, ask for a hands-on tutorial from a friend or the regular griller in the house. Knowing ahead of time how to get the flame going will help you feel confident in planning your first barbecue meal.

5. Let the Grill do the Work

It can be tempting to hover over the grill, keeping an eye on things and constantly flipping your food. But just like a watched pot never boils, over-flipped food never cooks – or, at least, never cooks properly. Too much flipping, or too much pressing of meats with the spatula, can squeeze out the natural juices that give food its flavour.

Try the recipe for Roasted Baby Potato Salad & Lentil Dressing on page 6 of Lentils for Every Season to put this tip into practice. The potatoes cook in foil, so you won’t be tempted to poke and prod them!

With these five tips, anyone can learn to be an expert grillmaster by the end of this summer. So light the grill, get outside, and enjoy.