When the weather\’s nice, we Americans love to cook outside. Holidays, birthdays, football games, any occasion – special or not – they all find a large percentage of us at the grill. Nearly half of us consider that area part of our homes, 30% set up the grilling area with patio furniture as a center for entertainment and 21% see it as a place to relax.
Gas grills hold an edge in popularity, representing 61% of the total ownership. At 41%, charcoal is the second choice for outdoor cooking, while just 10% of us prefer electric.
The Fourth of July seems to be the most popular day for barbecuing, with about 83% of us participating.
Here are a couple of tips to enhance your outdoor cooking experience.
Try pre-cooking meat in the microwave for a couple of minutes. That reduces the time it needs to be on the grill.
Fat dripping into an open flame can produce chemicals that will become attached to the meat. For this reason, it\’s best to avoid fatty choices such as sausage and ribs, if possible. And take the skin off of chicken before grilling it.
If any areas are charred, they should be removed before serving to eliminate any chemical buildup. You can avoid that problem by cooking at a lower temperature and flipping the meat often.
Most new gas grills come with a thermometer, but if yours didn\’t you should stop at the grill store and buy one separately so you can regulate the temperature according to what you\’re cooking. The ideal maximum for steak is 145 degrees. Hamburgers can go to 160 and chicken to 165. You need to insert the thermometer at the thickest part of the meat and in any gristle or fat or close to a bone.
Afterward, of course, you\’ll be faced with the task of cleaning up to get the grill ready for the next time you want to cook out. Be sure to remove all leftover grease and any charred bits of food. You should always use a non-metal brush on gas grills, because metal bristles can break off and be left on the cooking surface. (Here\’s a secret: an onion works very well for cleaning, too.)
Finally, when the work is all done, you can grab your favorite cold beverage, turn on the patio heater, sit down and reflect on another great outdoor meal and a job well done.