My 5 golden rules of grilling

By Chef Dez | Jul 03, 2013

Summertime is here and, chances are, outdoor barbecue grilling will play a part in bringing food to the table this season.

Thus, I thought it would be beneficial to share with you a few ground rules for grilling that I believe will enhance your overall experience and quality of food.

Rule 1 – Never Clean Your Grill

Now when I say "grill," in this case, I mean the cooking grates/grids themselves.

The build-up of fallen food debris captured in the basin of the barbecue itself does need to be cleaned out periodically to prevent grease fires and to extend the life of the shell of your outdoor grill: these particles will collect moisture and thus eventually lead to deterioration.

The grates/grids, however, should not be removed and scrubbed down in the sink with a scouring pad, for example. The only "cleaning" to the grates/grids should be simply with a wire barbecue brush.

This will help build more of a non-stick surface through the natural seasoning of the cooking processes, much like a cast iron frying pan.

At the end of your cooking process, turn off the gas and let your barbecue cool as you normally would, then pack it away.

When preparing for the next cookout, preheat your grill over high heat, which will in turn transform the residual cooked on food to char that will be easily knocked off with a good brushing.

Rule 2 – Always Preheat

Ensuring your grill is extremely hot will not only burn off any residual food bits from your last cookout, it will also guarantee great crust formation (and grill lines) on your food.

Why do we bother cooking food on a grill in the first place? The answer: Flavor. The crusting process is the caramelizing of the natural sugars in the proteins (or added sugars) to create flavor.

It is for this same reason that we don't boil steaks; boiling steaks in water would still cook the meat, but they would be extremely lacking in flavor and texture.

Rule 3 – Oil The Meat

Oiling the meat in advance will not only help to enhance the crusting process (and the resulting increase in flavor), it will also assist in creating a non-stick environment.

I always oil the meat before seasoning with salt and pepper, just prior to going onto a hot preheated grill.

Rule 4 – Oil The Grates/Grids

In combination of oiling the meat, this will also help in flavor creation and ease of release. Both of these oiling procedures should be done with an oil that has a high smoke point.

This is not an application for your extra virgin olive oil. Grapeseed oil would be perfect, but a canola or vegetable oil will work fine.

Oiling the grates/grids, however, should be done once they have been preheated. Protecting your hand with a grill mitt, dab some oil on a cloth and quickly, but efficiently, wipe down the hot grills.

Be careful not to have the cloth soaking with oil to the point that would cause flare-ups. A light coating of oil will work fine.

This is the same procedure you should practice when cooking in a stainless steel (not non-stick) pan: preheat the pan first, and then add the oil, then the food.

Rule 5 – Leave It Alone

Once the above four rules have been followed, and the meat has now been placed on the grill, the worst thing you could do is to prematurely break that contact of meat with grill.

Even with following the above rules religiously, the meat will stick... at first.

Leaving it alone allows it to create a crust (grill marks) and thus helping to release it from the cooking surface. If you are following the rules above and your meat is stuck to the grill, chances are it is trying to tell you that it is not ready to be flipped yet.

Although there are other important things to remember about outdoor grilling, these are your ground rules – or golden rules – that should always be applied in any situation.

Since it is summertime, my next column will focus on more tips including using thermometers and will address the age-old question: "lid open or closed?"

Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cookbook author. Visit him at Send your food/cooking questions to or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4.

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