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Better BBQ’ing Tips

Grill-icious. Cooking on a barbecue takes a certain skill. Banish tough steaks and dry chicken with these simple barbecuing guidelines and techniques. The succulent results will make your tastebuds swoon. Here’s what you need to know to grill up a veritable feast.

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Lee McWright, executive chef at Fiesta Barbeques, has one prevailing piece of advice on how to achieve perfectly grilled meat and fish. Forget fancy spices: The art of grilling is grounded in technique.

“Keep it simple,” advises Chef McWright. “Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper is all you need.”

Two key tactics, especially for meat, are: Always, always preheat, and use tongs to turn. Poking holes with an oversized fork allows juices to escape, drying the cut. And you don’t want to mar those pricey barbecue-worthy tenderloin steaks such as filet mignon, sirloin, T-bone and rib-eye. To test for doneness, rare meat feels fleshy when touched, well done feels firm.

Keep sweet sauces off until the last few minutes, to prevent burning. And before cooking, rinse meat in cold water to prepare the surface for the flavouring. And remember-every time you lift the lid to peek, you lose 38°C. So leave the lid down, turn just once, and use a thermometer to gauge if meat’s done!

Bang-on Burgers: “Hamburger is probably the most abused meat on the grill,” proclaims Chef McWright. If you press hamburgers with a spatula, stop right now! That spit and sizzle may sound exciting, but your burgers’ juiciness is going up in smoke.

Choose lean meat, make your patties ahead of time, and chill for at least 30 minutes to keep them from breaking apart while cooking. Preheat the grill to medium, then sear one side. Never press them flat! A one-inch burger takes 6-7 minutes per side. Flip and, if you wish, add barbecue sauce a couple of minutes before they’re ready, or a slice of cheese in the last minute.

Succulent Steaks: Buy AAA or Prime quality meat. Preheat the grill to hot, season the steaks with kosher salt and fresh-cracked pepper a half hour before cooking. A hot grill ensures the meat will sear-cook the surface quickly to seal in juices-and continue cooking (an inch-thick rib eye takes about 4 minutes per side; add another minute for a 1.5-inch thick steak). Flip. If you like, garnish with a pat of butter mixed with scallions after flipping.

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Choice Chicken: Chicken breasts, which marinate so beautifully, can be stuffed, rolled or chunked into kebabs. But don’t let chicken (or fish or seafood) marinate for more than half an hour or the delicate flesh may become mushy.

Chicken is a prime candidate for overcooking. Select 140-gram (5-oz) pieces with bone in, remove the skin and rub in garlic and herbs, if desired. Preheat grill to hot and cook for 5 to 6 minutes maximum. Turn, cook another 5 -6 minutes, apply barbecue sauce in the last minute and “you’ll have the juiciest chicken you’ve ever had in your life,” promises McWright.

You could also try a dry rub, a mixture of herbs and spices literally rubbed onto the meat’s surface. Cook halfway before basting, to avoid washing the seasonings off.

Fabulous Fish: When using a firm-fleshed fish, it’s easier to handle individual portions unless you use a fish basket. For salmon, for instance, season the meat side with olive oil, kosher salt and a little lemon pepper. Grill skin side down for five minutes, turn for 5 minutes more. As a finishing touch, drizzle a little honey or marmalade on the cooked side before serving, to make it glisten and boost flavor. Add a slice of orange before serving. (Fish firm enough to grill include halibut, swordfish, grouper and tuna.)

Varied Veggies: Chef McWright suggests adding fennel to your basket of cut vegetables. “It adds depth of flavour,” he says. Toss with olive or canola oil.

Deep Pockets? Foil pockets (shiny side out) ably steam seasoned vegetables, meat, fish or a combination-but never use them to marinate with a tomato, citrus or other acidic sauce. It reacts with the metal and can discolour the food.

A rich variety of vegetables can be deliciously prepared with minimal fuss. Candidates for direct contact are eggplant, corn (in or out of its husk), tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, asparagus, carrots, portobello mushrooms and peppers. Brush with olive oil before grilling. For other vegetables, use a grilling basket.