Tossing low-carb salads? Sure.
Preparing dainty finger sandwiches? Oh, yes.
Grilling meat out on an open fire? That doesn’t sound very ladylike.
Let’s be frank: Cookouts are delicious. And grilling just so happens to be healthy and inexpensive. But almost 70% of grill buyers are male, according to an industry organization. We’re pretty confident that not all women are afraid of fire (or unable to flip items on a grill), so we’re chalking this phenomenon up to social stigmas.
Just as we’re all about women taking control of their finances, we want to see them reclaim the grill.
We spoke to Sam Zien, author of the new cookbook Just Grill This!, for expert tips on how to grill as well as any man (and save money while you’re at it).
Here's what he told us:
Heat and Oil
To make sure your food doesn’t stick, preheat and oil your grill properly. Preheat for 15-20 minutes (longer if you’re using charcoal instead of gas). During this time, any food left over from the last time you grilled will burn off. Once your grill is clean, oil it with a few short bursts from a can of nonstick spray or dip a small rolled-up towel in olive oil and rub it on the grill.
Don’t Psych Yourself Out
There’s trial and error to achieving perfectly cooked food, but don’t psych yourself out about overcooking, says Zien. Foods will start to release themselves naturally when they are ready to be flipped, but they’ll stick to the grill if you try to flip too early. Most average cuts of meat require about five minutes on one side and three to four on the other, though you’ll probably want to flip it sooner than that to see how it’s cooking and to make sure nothing's burning. Zien also reminds us to stay close to the grill. Don't set your food to cook and then go inside to mix cocktails for your guests—you'll risk overcooking your food.
Choose the Right Cooking Method
You have two options:
a) Direct heat: Placing foods directly over the flames is best for searing and making quick items like burgers, hot dogs, and veggies.
b) Indirect heat: Placing foods further from the flame and closing the lid is better for foods that take longer to cook, like chicken with bones or ribs. You can always sear your food briefly over direct heat to give it a more burnt exterior and then finish it with indirect heat.
7 Money-Saving Tips for the BBQ Pit
1. Don’t Start With Porterhouse
Zien likens grilling to riding a bike: the more you do it, the better you get. If you’re not experienced, don’t start out with a pricey, thick cut of meat. Start with something easier to master like a burger, vegetables, or even fruit.
2. Turn Off the Grill Right Away
People often keep their heat going after they’re done cooking to burn off any of the left-over remnants, but it’s too easy to forget that you’ve left the propane on, only to discover an empty tank the following morning.
3. Precook in the Microwave
Start cooking your food inside and then finish it off on the grill for flavor and grill marks. This helps save on propane and grilling supplies, and it’s a good way to try grilling with a safety net—if your chicken or corn is only on the grill for a few minutes, it’s harder to burn or undercook it.
4. Cook Enough for Tomorrow
Since you’re burning charcoal or using propane anyway, you might as well cook enough to have leftovers rather than just barbecue a few burgers and call it a night. (For how to make the most of your leftovers, click here).
5. Make Friends at the Supermarket
Chat up the people who work behind the meat counter. They’re the ones who know when certain cuts will go on sale and are happy to pass that information on to their loyal customers.
6. Get a Grill That Will Last
You’ll be nothing but frustrated if you spend money now for a sub-par grill that will break in a year or two. So, choose wisely. Zien says that gas grills are more common than charcoal because they’re quicker to heat up, and he advises us to go for the biggest grill we have the room or money for—figuring that those of us with more space will entertain larger groups. The Consumer Report's “best buy” for a small model is the $188 Weber 396002 Q 200 Portable Gas Grill, which is nice for small groups, easy to move, and has some parts that even fit in the dishwasher for speedy cleanup. If you plan to entertain larger groups, try the $220 Brinkman #810-2545-W instead, which is a medium-sized grill that can fit up to 30 burgers at once. Meanwhile, if you love the classic flavor imparted by using a charcoal grill, Epicurious.com recommends the $159 Weber One-Touch Gold Kettle Grill.
Sam Zien's Special Recipe
Make grilled snapper puttanesca in about 20 minutes!Click Here
7. Don’t Buy More Stuff Than You Need
You don't need a ton of fancy equipment. All you need is a good pair of tongs (forks pierce the meat and let the juices flow out), a spray bottle filled with water in case of flare-ups, and your thermometer. That’s it.
Planning It All Out
We’ve compiled a full summer barbecue for under $50, including side dishes, lemonade, and dessert. Here’s the menu.
We’ve got you covered with 9 more master BBQ tips. Click here.
Should you buy organic ingredients for that backyard BBQ? Yes and no.