There is no better time for grilling than summer. It's a great way to enjoy the warm summer weather while keeping the extra heat generated from cooking outside. Cooking inside releases heat into your apartment and makes your AC work even harder. Most Chico apartments do not allow charcoal grills, due to the smoke and smell of lighter fluid when you start them up. Don't worry though, we have you covered. Check with your apartment manager first, but most apartments allow a gas grill on your patio.
There is art and science involved in good grilling, and while there is no substitute for experience, we have pulled together some great summer grilling tips for your Chico apartment, that will put you ahead of the pack.
The old saying "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail" is true of many things including grilling. Use the tips below to make your grilling experience a triumph instead of a tragedy.
- Marinate - Whether your are grilling beef, fish, or vegetables, bathing them in a good marinade for a couple hours can add a depth of flavor that makes the difference between good and great. Use one of these Top 10 All-Purpose Marinade Recipes.
- Fire Up the Grill - Be sure to pre-heat the grill in advance. Set the grill to high heat and let it warm up for about 15 minutes until it's sizzling hot. You can test it by spraying the grill with a bit of water and making sure it sizzles and turns to steam within a few seconds.
- Clean the Grill - Use a wire grill brush to clean the grate. There will usually be some charcoal buildup that you want to remove before cooking. After cleaning, turn the grill down to your desired cooking temperature.
- Oil the Grill - Soak a paper towel in vegetable oil and grab it with some tongs. Wipe the grill down with oil to help keep your food from sticking.
There are several ways to grill meat depending on the end result you are looking for. Each technique takes practice and ultimately you'll get a feel for how different types of meat cook on your grill. Here's some pointers to get you started:
- Searing - When you want that charred and caramelized exterior to your grilled meats you need to sear it. This is done by putting the meat on a high heat grill for about one minute - you should hear it sizzle loudly. After a minute, flip it to the other side and turn the heat down to medium. Depending on how you like your meat, it will be done about 6 - 12 minutes after flipping. This method is most effective for beef, when you want the outside well-cooked, but the inside can be more rare.
- Low and Slow - This method of grilling is one of the secrets to good grilling. The most common issue when grilling is burning or over-cooking your food. After pre-heating and cleaning the grill, turn the dial down to low, or medium-low with a target temperature around 275 - 300 degrees Fahrenheit. After the grill has leveled off around that temperature you can throw on your food. Plan on letting it cook for a while and don't lift the lid to check it too often. This is a great way to avoid meat that is overcooked on the outside and barely done in the middle.
- Indirect Grilling - Another little known secret to grilling is called indirect grilling. This is where you turn off one or two burners and place the food over that part of the grill. The side burners are left on and heat up the grill without directly cooking the food from underneath. This method takes longer and it's very important not to lift the lid too often as you will let out all the accumulated heat. If your grill is notorious for cooking hot and you tend to get overcooked results, try the indirect method instead.
- Get Saucy - Sauces, such as BBQ sauce, add a lot of flavor and in some cases can even help your meat retain moisture. The mistake most people make is saucing too early. Most sauces contain sugar, and sugar burns! BBQ sauce is especially high in sugar and when added too early in the process, leaves you with a burnt charcoal mess on the outside of your meat. In the early grilling stages, just brush your meat with oil and add spices. Once you have cooked one side and flipped to the other, that is the time to add sauce. Turn the heat down for the final few minutes so you don't burn the sauce and give it time to cook off moisture and stick to the meat.
- Use a Meat Thermometer - A good meat thermometer is the best way to tell when your meat is done and safe to take off the grill. Check out this food temperature safety chart to know the desired internal temperature for different types of food.
- Let it Rest - When you pull your meat off the grill you need to let it rest. If you cut into it right away all the juices will flow out. You want to cover it with foil and let it rest for a few minutes before diving in. The meat will continue to cook just a little bit, so it's best to pull it off of the heat just a little early.
Believe it or not, you can also grill things that are not meat. Ron Swanson would probably consider it a crime, but things like veggies, tofu and even fruits can be grilled to perfection. In case you are unfamiliar with Ron Swanson, from NBC's Parks and Rec, you may familiarize yourself with him and his opinions on grilling here:
"Since mankind first set meat atop fire, it has been perfect."
- Ron Swanson
...But seriously folks, as much as we respect Ron Swanson, he is wrong...Swanson.
You can and SHOULD grill things that are not meat. Here are some examples:
- Veggies - Grilled vegetable are a delight. Onions, peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and asparagus work great on the grill. Make sure to put oil on them first to keep them from drying out. Also, using a metal grill basket will make your life much easier so you aren't constantly losing chunks of veggies through the grate. Low and slow as well as indirect grilling are the best methods to get the perfectly grilled vegetables.
- BBQ Tofu - Get a firm tofu and dry off the excess moisture with a paper towel. Put a thin baking sheet on the grill and preheat it. Cut it into strips about 1/2" thick and place carefully on an oiled baking sheet. Use a spatula to flip them and once they start to heat up and dry out, add BBQ sauce to both sides. Let the sauce caramelize and stick, but pull them off before it burns. It's a surprisingly tasty treat for the non-meat enthusiasts.
- Fruits! - What? Grilled fruit? Surely you're joking. This is no joke, grilled fruit makes a great side dish or even a dessert. Our favorite is a grilled peach with cinnamon and honey. Slice a ripe peach in half and place it face down on the grill, once it has a nice seared grill mark on it, flip it over and sprinkle it with cinnamon then drizzle honey over it. Allow a few more minutes to finish cooking and then serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Trial and Error is the Path to Grilling Greatness
When it comes to grilling, practice makes perfect. Every grill is different and may have hot spots to avoid. Some grills on medium heat may reach 350 degrees while others hit 500 on the same setting. Start with lower heat and less time and get to know your grill and how it cooks. After a few barbecue blunders, you'll start to understand the nuances of the process. If you use the tips above, you'll at least be off to a good start.
For more fun summer ideas check out these Easy Summer Activities in Chico. You can also sign up for our blog to get weekly updates on all the hottest new trends in apartment living and make the most of your Chico apartment lifestyle!
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