Even with the word “grilled” in the name, a grilled cheese sandwich is not always made on the grill anymore. The truth is, many people don’t. But, doing so can give you such a delicious result that you may not want to do it any other way going forward.
It can be tricky to properly make a grilled cheese on the grill if you’ve never done it before. The last thing you want is some great cheese and toppings ruined by totally charred and burnt bread.
To help you avoid that, we’ve put together some specific tips on how to make grilled cheese on the grill and do it successfully. Ready to perfect an actual “grilled” cheese? Let’s take a look:
First things first, you should never cook anything directly on grill grates that have leftover food particles or char. This can impact the flavor of what you are about to cook and even cause it to burn. So, to get the best results for grilled cheese on the grill, make sure your grill has been properly cleaned and the grates have been scraped off. Cranking up the heat on your grill, letting the grates warm up, and then gently scraping them off before cooking will help ensure there’s nothing leftover on the grates.
Make sure to set up your grill with multiple cooking/heat zones. The minimum should be two zones but three zones work even better for a grilled cheese on the grill. With two-zone cooking, you’ll have one zone that is the direct, high-heat side and the other zone is the indirect, low-heat side. When you do three zones, it adds a medium heat zone into the mix. Multi-zone cooking allows you to move the grilled cheese as needed throughout the cooking process to ensure the cheese is properly melting without the bread burning.
Source: Healthier Steps
Good quality, thick-sliced bread is critical for a grilled sandwich. The traditional, pre-sliced sandwich bread, which is usually pretty thin, will not do well on the grill grates. So, you want to make sure you have thick, sturdy bread that will hold up to the heat of the grill. Keep in mind that since your bread is thicker, it will take longer to melt the cheese when doing it on the grill versus a conventional grilled cheese. That’s why the multi-zone grill setup is important.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with other types of bread than the traditional white varieties. Try out whole wheat and whole grain varieties, as well as rye, pumpernickel sourdough, or even a halved donut. Then you can mix and match different types of bread, cheeses, and additional toppings to create some delicious combinations. (See more on this below)
Buttering the outsides of the bread has long been standard procedure for grilled cheese sandwiches. This helps to flavor the sandwich and prevent the bread from burning and sticking to the pan. But, if you’re going to do a grilled cheese on the grill, make sure to grab the mayonnaise. Mayo actually works better when it comes to browning the bread, preventing it from sticking to the grill grates, and keeping it just moist enough. Plus, it adds a little tangy flavor that pairs with the richness of the bread and cheese very nicely.
If you really love the taste of butter on your grilled cheese, you can still do both. Spread mayo on the outside of the bread slices and butter on the inside and place the slices mayo side down on the grill.
No matter what variety of cheese you use, the main thing is that you stick to varieties that melt nicely. Of course, the classic choice for grilled cheese is American cheese. But, as we mentioned above, you should also try some other cheeses to discover new favorites. Some other great options for grilled cheese on the grill include young cheddars, Gruyère, Comté, Fontina, jack cheeses, Taleggio, Brie, Gouda, Manchego, or Mozzarella.
Crumbly and dry fresh cheeses like Feta or overly-aged cheeses like Parmesan won’t melt very well. They’re a great way to add an additional kick of flavor to other cheese options but don’t use these as the main cheese.
Source: Nutrition Advance
The best way to ensure your cheese reaches the edge of the bread and melts perfectly is to use grated or shredded cheese. The cheese will melt faster and more evenly and you can ensure every bite of the sandwich will have a good amount of cheese.
You want to use the right type of cheese and make sure there’s enough to cover the whole sandwich, but it’s also important not to use too much cheese. Cheese spilling out the sides can cause a big mess very quickly on a grill.
Of course, the cheese is and should be the focal point of any good grilled cheese sandwich. But, if you’re going to make the effort of cooking a grilled cheese on the grill, why not kick it up a notch with some delicious toppings? Bacon, sliced ham, prosciutto, or even homemade pulled pork are great additions when you want to bring meat into the mix. (Cheddar Jack cheese, pulled pork, and BBQ sauce makes a great combo!)
Tomatoes, sliced avocado, roasted red peppers, Peppadew peppers, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms all make great veggie options to add in. Thinly sliced pears, apples, or peaches can add a delicious crunch to the mix while also complementing the flavor of the cheese. If you’re looking for more crunch, potato chips or corn chips (Fritos!) are good options. Olive tapenade or mustard can add a good tangy flavor, while honey, sweet BBQ sauce, jam, or chutney can create a salty-sweet flavor profile.
When you’re cooking a grilled cheese on the grill, thinking like a BBQ pitmaster and exercising patience is going to be key. The indirect heat zone of your grill is where you are going to mainly be cooking the sandwich. To properly melt the cheese, you need to cook it low and slow.
So, keep that cooking zone in the medium to medium-low range (medium is 325 degrees to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.) This will ensure that the bread is toasting at the same rate that the cheese is melting. Then, if needed, you can use the direct, higher heat zone to toast the bread just a little more before serving.
Cook the sandwich with the grill lid closed until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is nearly melted. (Roughly 4 - 6 minutes)
Source: Trip Advisor
Everyone loves a good grilled cheese sandwich. With these tips above, you can cook the best grilled cheese directly on the grill today. As mentioned above, don’t be afraid to get creative with your cheese and topping combinations. With so many options, you could have a delicious and totally different-tasting grilled cheese every time you cook one!
Do you have a favorite combination of cheese and toppings for a grilled cheese on the grill? Have another tip we should add to the list above? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Want to learn how to cook more great backyard BBQ? Check out our in-depth, step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes with some of the top competition Grillmasters and Pitmasters. You can learn a variety of delicious recipes, including all the insider tips you need to know, and level up your backyard cooking skills today!
Make sure to also click Subscribe on the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to catch all the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from pro cookers!
*Feature image from Land ‘O Lakes
With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, you may already be starting the planning for your big holiday meals with your family and friends, complete with the smoked turkey and all the sides. But what if you want to get everyone together for a backyard meal before, between, or shortly after the holidays (football tailgate anyone)? A seafood boil makes a great option for this occasion!
Of course, many people associate a seafood boil with the summertime. And yes, this simple meal makes a fantastic choice for that time of the year. But, even in the wintertime, in the south’s mild winter days, a low country boil makes it easy to feed a large crowd without the formal pressure of holiday meals. Plus, you can do a delicious seafood boil on the grill or in your smoker!
Here’s what you need to know about seafood boils and how to ensure you end up with a grilled seafood boil that will have everyone digging in for seconds:
When it comes to what you want to put on your seafood boil, there are a couple different ways to go. The term “seafood boil” is actually an all-encompassing term for a type of social gathering meal that is cooked in a large quantity and will include shrimp and sometimes other seafood. The best part is, with any type of seafood boil, you can just dump everything out and let everyone dig in, making cleanup super easy.
But, like there are different regional styles of BBQ, there is a variety of different regional styles of seafood boils and the differences will be in what ingredients and seasonings are included.
For example, you may have heard the term “low country boil” before. Many people ask what is a low country boil exactly? Or what is the difference between a cajun shrimp boil and a low country boil?
Here is a brief breakdown of a couple of different styles of seafood boils:
Often referred to as a “crawfish boil”, “cajun shrimp boil”, or “crab boil” and will usually include the one type of shellfish, as well as corn on the cob, new potatoes, andouille sausage, and onion. A seafood boil in Louisiana will usually be on the spicier side and seasoned with cayenne pepper, hot sauce, lemons, bay leaves, and other cajun spices.
Low-Country boils, sometimes referred to as Frogmore stew or a Beaufort boil, originated in the Carolinas, eventually making their way down through Georgia, and are usually much milder in flavor compared to Cajun boils. Though they do sometimes contain a little bit of hot sauce, the flavor of these boils will often mainly revolve around butter and Old Bay seasoning. It will always have shrimp and they’ll also include corn on the cob, red potatoes, sausage, and sometimes ham. Unlike Louisiana boils which usually only have one type of shellfish, a Low-Country boil will sometimes also have crabs, crawfish, or mussels included as well. And sometimes even a combination of all of it.
Source: Food Network
Both of the types of seafood boils above can easily be cooked on your grill or smoker. Just like you’ve got some options when it comes to what you put in the boil, you’ve got a couple of options when it comes to exactly how to cook a seafood boil on the grill:
Using a large pot to boil everything together is the most traditional way to cook a seafood boil on the grill. Depending on the type of smoker you have, you may have room to use a pot insert and smoke your boil in a pot also.
Here’s how to do a large pot boil-
This method is a fun alternative to the traditional pot boil and allows you to really smoke everything and infuse some of that great wood-fire taste you love. Doing foil packs will cook everything through more of a roasting/steaming method than traditional boiling.
Another advantage to this method is that everyone will have their own individual portion already separated out. Here’s how to do foil packs -
Similar to the foil pack method, cooking everything in a large foil sheet pan will also allow you to infuse that great smoke flavor into your boil. Here’s how to do it -
If you want to ensure you end up with a delicious seafood boil that will have everyone raving, there are definitely some pro tips to keep in mind. These include:
To ensure you have a successful seafood boil, it’s important to make sure you include enough of each ingredient for everyone to get a good portion. Of course, this may leave you with a little leftover, but it’s better to have a little too much than not enough for everyone.
To give you an idea of how much to get, here is a breakdown of ingredients for if you were doing a shrimp boil in foil packs on the grill. For every 4 people you want to have:
For this amount of ingredients above (for 4 people), you would need this much seasoning:
No matter what time of the year it is, a seafood boil on the grill is a great way to easily feed a large crowd and have very little cleanup to worry about afterward. As you can see, the process is very simple and you can get creative with what exactly you want to put in it. Whether you have a grill or a smoker, you can quickly cook up a delicious seafood spread big enough to feed a small army.
Have you done a grilled seafood boil recently? What is your favorite type of boil, maybe a cajun shrimp boil or is it a low country boil? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
Want more great backyard BBQ recipes you can cook all year long? Check out our step-by-step virtual Championship Backyard BBQ Classes with some of the top competition Pitmasters and Grillmasters. In these, you’ll learn a variety of delicious recipes with all of the insider tips you need to know. You can master your backyard cooking today!
Also, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news straight from pros!
*Feature image from Traeger Grills
For a long time, perfect grill marks across a steak (and other foods) have been equated to a perfectly cooked piece of meat. There’s just something about those dark lines that makes many people’s mouths start salivating. Plus, many old-school Steak Cookoff Association judges still love seeing it.
But, how do you do it properly? In this article, we’ve broken down how to get perfect grill marks every time, as well as what is actually better when it comes to getting the best flavor in your steak.
If you are looking to imprint the perfect grill marks on your meat, seafood, or vegetables, there are a few steps to follow to make that happen every time:
Note: A diamond sear pattern works best for meat and thicker seafood. Vegetables, fruit and smaller seafood do best with a singular diagonal sear pattern to ensure they are not overcooked. So, in that case, you would skip the step where the food is rotated 45 degrees to sear the other way.
With seafood, vegetables, and fruit, achieving those perfect grill marks not only looks good but can also help you gauge when the food is done cooking. But, when it comes to steak and other cuts of meat, you actually want to go beyond just grill marks to get the best result.
When you sear grill marks into a piece of meat, it is more than just the aesthetic aspect. What is actually happening is known as the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction that occurs when heat changes the chemical structure of amino acids, proteins, and sugars in the meat. When this happens, the surface of the meat caramelizes and browns, resulting in a much better flavor profile.
So, when you are just going for grill marks on the meat, you are actually stopping the Maillard reaction before it can spread over the entire exterior surface. Instead, grill marks are just a superficial reaction that limits the perfectly browned parts to just where the meat touches the grates.
Unless you are grilling seafood, vegetables, or fruit, to get the best results and maximum flavor, you want to sear as much of the exterior of the meat to a golden brown. Thus, allowing the Maillard reaction to happen over the entire piece of the meat. This is especially true for beef. So, grilling a steak or other cut of meat this way will give you more even cooking and a richer, more delicious flavor.
To achieve this result, you may need to change the way that you are grilling your meat. Unlike when you are just wanting to imprint the grill marks, you don’t want to grill your cuts directly over the high heat for long. You need to create a two-zone grilling set up and cook the meat over medium-high heat on the indirect side (at about 225°F) for most of the time. Then, make sure you are flipping often. Doing this will allow your meat to cook evenly, give it a delicious crust over the entire exterior, and properly cook the interior.
When it comes to grilling steaks over a two-zone setup, many people think of first searing the cut over high heat and then moving it to the indirect side to allow the interior to cook the rest of the way. Sometimes this is still a good method.
But, for steaks that are over 1” thick (and even other cuts of meat), this can actually lead to the meat burning on the exterior before the interior is done. This is because meat cooks from the outside to the inside. The last thing you want is burnt, black char all over your steak. So, to ensure this doesn’t happen with a thick-cut steak, utilize the reverse sear method.
With this method, you’ll start the steak over the indirect heat side. When the internal temperature of the meat reaches about 115°F, move it over to the direct heat side to get that brown crust over the entire exterior. Make sure you flip and rotate the steak often to ensure even browning.
In doing a reverse sear, you’ll get a steak that is perfectly crusted on the exterior and properly cooked through the interior.
Source: Fine Cooking
There are times where you may still want to get those perfectly lined grill marks, especially when it comes to seafood and vegetables. Following the steps above, you’ll be able to do that every time. But, when it comes to steaks and other meats, allowing the entire exterior of the meat to sear into a beautiful crust will give you an unmatched flavor.
Do you like having grill marks? Have you recently mastered the all-over exterior crust? Leave a comment below. We want to hear from you!
For more tips on grilling steak like champion Grillmasters, make sure to also check out our article here on insider steak secrets.
The pro tips on grilling steak don’t stop there. Check out the in-depth online steak-grilling classes with the champion Grillmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Take your grilling game to the next level and master how to cook competition-caliber steak through step-by-step instructions and tips. Get your All-Access pass now and learn how to grill a perfect steak straight from the pros!
Also, don’t forget to visit the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Subscribe to get all of the latest competition BBQ news and insider info straight from pro cookers!
Chances are if you are wanting to show off your outdoor cooking skills to your family and/or friends at your next backyard get-together or tailgate party, you’re going to want something that can wow them. In that case, a BBQ favorite you could go for is hot smoked sausage!
But, if it’s not something you’ve really done before (or if you’ve ended up with some not-so-tasty links on your last attempt) you may be wondering how to properly smoke sausage.
So, in this article, we’ve put together some insider tips straight from the pitmasters to help ensure you know how to smoke sausage to a perfect finish - every time. Let’s take a look:
There are many different types of sausage, but not all of them necessarily do well being hot smoked. In general, you want to go for fresh raw sausage versus pre-cooked sausage. Doing so will give you much more of that rich and delicious smoked flavor you are going for.
Some good options for fresh sausage that hold smoke well include:
Feel free to experiment and cook a variety of sausages to try different ones. You don’t have to limit yourself to smoking a single type of sausage.
Just like certain types of sausage go better with smoke, certain types of wood flavors go better with sausage. So, make sure you are utilizing a complementary hardwood. Post oak is a great all-around choice with a mild yet delicious flavor. Hickory is also a good choice. It is stronger than oak but imparts a semi-sweet “bacon-like” flavor that compliments most types of sausage. Other options that work include cherry and pecan wood.
Bonus tip: Keep an eye on your wood during the cook. Around the hour and a half mark, if it is not producing much smoke anymore, change it or add new wood to continue generating the proper smoke.
Source: B&B Charcoal
While your wood is soaking, make sure you let your smoker or grill preheat to the desired temperature of 225 degrees Fahrenheit. If you are using a grill and adding wood to use it as a smoker, it is also important to set it up as a two-zone setup. This means you have one side that is direct heat and one side that is indirect heat. In this case, you will be smoking the sausages over the indirect heat side.
The indirect heat side of a two-zone grill setup can also act as a safe zone in the event of a flare-up, ensuring you don’t have to end up with burnt sausages.
The last thing you want is for the sausage to stick to the grates and the casing tear when you try to take them out of the cooker. You also don’t want them to end up tasting like bitter char. Regardless of which type of sausage you intend to smoke, it’s probably encased in a shell.
You can prevent these things from happening by making sure the cooking grates are properly clean and oiled, leaving you with a great non-stick surface. Always make sure to use high-heat cooking oil to ensure that the oil doesn’t burn off as your cooker heats up.
Bonus tip: Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner to help you keep your cooker spotless.
Another important tip to keep in mind is the spacing of the sausages on the grates. This is not the time to try and cram as many links in as possible. You want to make sure that there are 2-inches between each sausage.
This will give plenty of room for proper airflow, allowing the smoke to reach out evenly over the entire sausage.
Source: Oklahoma Joe’s
This is a critical part of smoking food that applies to any food item you are cooking. And as with anything, smoking sausage requires a precise temperature throughout the whole cook time. Let your smoker get too hot and you’ll dry out your sausage. If the smoker’s temperature is too low, you’ll struggle to get the sausage to reach a safe internal temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to bring your smoker to an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, your sausage will cook “low and slow” while still reaching a safe internal temperature. If your smoker’s temperature is not automatically controlled, make sure to keep an eye on it. Make adjustments to the fuel source or vents when needed to maintain the constant necessary temperature.
When smoking sausage, you want to flip them occasionally to ensure they cook evenly, achieve the best flavor overall, and prevent them from burning. The bottom of the sausage, the side closest to the heat source, will cook faster than the top. But don’t go crazy flipping every 20 minutes. In doing that, you will let out a lot of smoke and can negatively affect the internal temperature of your cooker.
If you’re wondering how long to smoke sausages for, it’s usually safe to assume that if your smoker has an internal temperature of 250 degrees Fahrenheit, it will take two to three hours to properly smoke sausage. But, it’s always best to cook to the desired internal temperature of the meat versus going strictly by time. So, make sure you have a good probe meat thermometer.
Use your thermometer to check the sausage after it’s been smoking for a while. The recommended minimum safe internal temperature you’re aiming for with sausage is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if your thermometer is reading lower than this temperature, let the sausages smoke for a little longer.
Once your sausages come out of the smoker, you can let them rest for a few minutes at room temperature. But, to ensure they are plump and juicy, they are best served right from the cooker. If left to rest for too long, the sausages’ casings will begin to shrivel and the sausage will start to dry out.
One easy way to prevent that from happening is by putting the sausage in a cold water bath to bring their temperature down and stop the cooking process.
Also, smoked sausage retains its flavor well so it can also be stored in the fridge safely for up to four days. If you want to store them longer than that, they can be kept in the freezer for up to three full months before they start to lose quality.
By following the tips we’ve covered above, you’ll be well on your way to smoking sausage to a mouth-watering and juicy finish every time. Once you’ve started to get the hang of it, don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of sausages and different types/flavors of hardwood. You might just find a few new favorite combinations.
Plan on trying your hand at smoking sausage soon? Do you know of another tip on how to smoke sausage that we left out? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
Want to learn straight from the pros on how to cook a variety of delicious BBQ favorites and elevate your backyard cooking skills? Check out the Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy! In these easy-to-follow step-by-step virtual classes, you’ll learn how to cook a variety of favorites on the grill.
Think you are ready to dive into competition smoking and grilling techniques for a variety of meats? Grab your All-Access pass now and join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in these in-depth first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes. You can be cooking competitor-caliber food in no time!
Finally, make sure to also subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and straight from the pros!
We recently broke down everything you need to know about grilling delicious hamburgers for your next backyard cookout. But what if you have some vegan or vegetarian friends or family and you want to do a meatless burger option? Your answer lies in the king of mushrooms, portobellos. Grilling portobello mushrooms can make a fantastic, hearty go-to for a vegan burger that even meat-lovers would enjoy.
Portobello mushrooms, which are mature cremini mushrooms, can range in size from 3 inches to 6 inches in diameter and about 1 to 1.5 inches thick. This makes them the perfect shape and size to sit on toasted hamburger buns and their texture holds up well to grilling.
When exposed to live fire, the umami and other hearty flavors found in mushrooms really come to life. This results in a rich, meaty flavor and a texture that is just firm enough. Plus, due to their sponge-like nature, mushrooms easily absorb the complex flavors of your wood smoke.
Like many other things you can cook on the grill, there are some specific recommendations to follow to ensure you end up with a properly cooked result. Portobello mushrooms can quickly become tough on the surface if not grilled correctly.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to grilled portobello mushrooms:
The preparation before your portobellos go on the grill is just as important as how you are grilling them. So, under the cap, make sure to remove the thick and fibrous stem and use a spoon to scrape out the dark brown/black gills. The gills are edible but can often have a gritty, muddy flavor.
Source: Edible Times
Another part of prepping the mushrooms is making sure they are clean and free of dirt. You can either wipe the surface down with a damp paper towel or quickly rinse and then dry them. Just make sure you don’t let them soak in water because then they will absorb a bunch of water and not be able to absorb any marinade.
When prepping the mushrooms, you also want to use a sharp knife to score the top of the mushroom cap in a small cross-hatch pattern. This will help them absorb more of the marinade, keeping them tender and preventing them from becoming overly chewy.
Mushrooms are very good at absorbing liquid. So, a marinade will not only help flavor them but will also keep them tender. Make sure to generously coat both sides of the portobellos and let them marinate at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes. You don’t want to marinate for more than about 30 minutes or else the mushrooms can start to get overly soggy.
Certain flavors in particular go well with the natural earthy flavor of mushrooms. Balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, rosemary, and similar ingredients will help enhance the umami flavor and provide a balanced flavor profile.
Unlike when you are using a marinade with raw meat and have to worry about cross-contamination, it is safe to save the leftover marinade after you remove your portobellos to put them on the grill. And you’re going to want to use the remaining marinade during your cooking.
(Once the mushrooms have been cooking on one side and you’re ready to flip, brush some more of the marinade on them to keep them tender.)
Source: Food Network
If you’re going to season the portobellos don’t go overboard with too much and too many different flavors. You don’t want to compete with the marinade too much. So, just lightly season the mushrooms with some salt and pepper just before you are ready to put them on the grill.
When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms (and other vegetables and fruit), you want to get the grill ready for direct-heat cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). If you go much hotter than that you risk the mushrooms burning quickly.
Not only do you want to make sure the grill temp is ready to go but you also want to prep the grill grates properly too. First, once they’ve heated up, brush the grill grates off to make sure they’re properly clean. Then, lightly brush some high-heat compatible cooking oil on the grates to ensure your mushrooms don’t stick to the grates.
You always want to put the mushrooms on the grill with the cap side down (gill side up). Starting them on this side will ensure you capture more of the smoky flavor into the meat of the cap and get proper char lines.
Bonus tip: If you are going to use wood chunks or chips for additional flavor, go with a lighter flavor of cooking wood, like oak, so you don’t overpower the natural mushroom flavor.
Source: The Spruce Eats
Portobello mushroom burgers don’t take long to cook. You only want to grill them for 4-6 minutes per side. They’re done when they are slightly tender and have released some of their juices (each mushroom can hold as much as two tablespoons of liquid).
When it comes to grilling portobello mushrooms and not burning them, it is very important to not venture too far from the grill. You want to keep the lid closed but set a timer for grilling each side and check them promptly.
Another fun part of grilling portobello mushrooms is topping them with delicious ingredients just like you would with regular burgers. Some great toppings for mushroom burgers include grilled beefsteak tomato slices, arugula lettuce, grilled onions, and even grilled pineapple for a sweet and savory combo.
As you can see, large portobello mushroom caps make a great beef burger substitute for any meatless guests you may be planning for. They’re even a great option for when you’re looking to cook something different for yourself. Fortunately, mushrooms are one vegetable that holds up very well on the grill.
Follow our recommendations above and you’ll end up with deliciously grilled portobello mushroom burgers that will have anyone’s mouth-watering.
Make sure to also check out our article on some great additional vegetarian food options for your grill.
Have you grilled portobello mushrooms recently? Plan on trying your hand at grilling portobello mushrooms soon? Let us know in the comments below. We want to hear from you!
If you want to elevate your backyard cooking game, make sure to check out our Backyard BBQ Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the pros how to cook a variety of grilling favorites in easy, step-by-step virtual classes.
Ready to dive into in-depth competition smoking and grilling techniques and master smoking and/or grilling a variety of BBQ favorites? If so, grab your All-Access pass now! You can join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmaster in their first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes.
Don’t forget to also check out the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel! Click “Subscribe” to stay on top of all the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the BBQ pros!
When it comes to your backyard cooking, there’s one thing that will always go well with summertime, the upcoming Labor Day holiday, and the return of football -- hamburgers! This easy grilled meal option has been a fan favorite for a long time and, when cooked properly, will have people coming back for more.
If you are wondering how to grill a perfect burger, we’ve got you covered. The last thing you want to do is end up feeding charred hockey pucks to your family and friends. So, we went to our champion Grillmasters and got the inside scoop.
To ensure you cook juicy and flavorful hamburgers, just follow these pro tips below:
To answer the question of how to grill hamburgers like the pros, you have to start from the base. The cut and quality of meat you are starting with will always have a huge impact on the flavor and texture of your final result.
So, when you are going to be grilling hamburgers, it’s important to go with ground chuck, which is cut from the shoulder, versus ground round, which is taken from the rump. Chuck will range between 15 and 20 percent fat, making your burgers more juicy and tender. Also, make sure you are getting at least USDA Choice (Prime is even better) and avoid Select.
Your local butcher is the best place to get fresh ground chuck.
You do not want to salt the burgers before you form them into patties. This will dissolve muscle proteins and dry out the meat too much. The best thing is to liberally season the patties with a simple mix of salt and pepper just before going on the grill. You don’t want to go crazy with a bunch of additional seasonings and overpower the delicious taste of the beef itself.
This is one often overlooked tip for how to grill a perfect burger and is crucial to ensuring you end up with a good final result. The fat and collagen are what helps keep the meat juicy and tender. So, if you overwork the meat by mixing it too much, you’ll break down the muscle fibers and collagen too much. This will highly increase the chances of your burgers drying out and being way tougher in texture than you were aiming for.
The less you handle the meat the better. So, mix it just enough to evenly work any seasonings in (onion, etc.) and form the patties.
Source: CopyKat - Stephanie Manly
You want to make sure you are forming the patties the right size. Ideally, the thickness of the raw patty is 1 inch. If you go thicker, then the exterior can start to burn and ruin the flavor before the center is done cooking. Go thinner and you greatly increase the risk of the burgers quickly overcooking and drying out. Staying right at 1 inch will give you the delicious caramelized exterior crust and a juicy interior.
While grilling, burgers can start to puff up in the middle and become rounded at the top, making it awkward when it comes time to put toppings on. A good tip to avoid this is to make a slight indentation in the top of each patty with your thumb or the back of a spoon before they go on the grill. Then, if the center pushes up while cooking, the top of each burger will still be level and you’ll keep it from breaking.
Some cuts of meat cook better when you let them sit at room temperature for a little bit first. But burgers are NOT one of those things. The best burgers will be put on the grill straight out of the fridge. This will allow a nice caramelized crust to develop on the exterior while cooking the interior to the desired Medium temperature.
Even if it’s been a while since you cooked on the grill, don’t make a rookie mistake of cooking burgers on a grill that’s not clean. Cooking on a dirty grill can cause uneven cooking since it can impede heat transfer, taint the flavor of your burgers, and even cause flare-ups that end up over-charring the meat. So, make sure your grill is properly cleaned first.
(Check out our article on natural homemade grill cleaner!)
Source: Clarke Clean
By setting up your grill in a two-zone setup, with a direct heat side and an indirect heat side, you’ll have the flexibility and ideal heat control to properly grill hamburgers. You can start your burgers on the direct heat side near the fuel source and get a nice crust on the outside. Then, you can move them to the indirect heat side when they start to develop too much color too quickly and can safely finish cooking away from the direct heat.
A two-zone grill setup will also give you room to move burgers away from the direct heat if a flare-up does occur.
To grill a perfect burger, you want to keep the grill’s temperature at medium-low to medium heat, which is usually between 275 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. If you go much higher than that, you risk the exterior of your burgers burning before the inside has reached the desired temperature.
Be careful not to go crazy with the flipping. You want the burgers to cook evenly and to the proper doneness (160 degrees Fahrenheit according to the USDA). So, the perfect burger will only be flipped once and only when it’s actually ready. Close that grill lid and let them cook.
Burgers are ready to flip when you can easily slide the edge of a spatula underneath them and lift the edge gently. If the meat is still sticking to the grate, let them cook a little longer and then try again.
Also, make sure not to use the spatula to flatten the burger. This will squeeze all the juices out and dry out your burgers.
Source: Robb Report
Unlike steaks or some other meats that are smoked low and slow, you don’t want to let burgers sit for long after they come off the grill. Because the meat is ground and not intact muscle, if they sit too long, all the juice will run out and leave you with an overly dry burger. So, serve them up as soon as they are done cooking.
If you are wondering how long to grill hamburgers for, the important thing to know is that you should be cooking to temperature and not by time. Get out your meat thermometer and insert it into the burger horizontally (you should definitely have a thermometer if you are going to be doing any serious backyard cooking!).
Remember, you want to cook ground beef until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will give you delicious, juicy burgers without being overcooked.
By following these tips for grilling hamburgers that we covered above, you can be confident in knowing how to grill a perfect burger every time. Give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation, make sure you have everything you need outside, and enjoy the process. Don’t be afraid to get creative with toppings too!
Have you discovered another tip for how to grill hamburgers that we didn’t cover above? Plan on grilling hamburgers soon? Leave a comment below. We want to hear all about it!
To level up your backyard cooking game and become the king or queen of your street, check out our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! You’ll learn straight from the barbecue pros step-by-step how to cook a variety of grilling favorites.
If you are ready to dive into competition smoking and grilling techniques, in-depth insider BBQ tips, and more, get your All-Access pass now! Join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters in their one-of-kind online BBQ classes and master smoking and grilling a variety of different meats.
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Grilling meatloaf!? Yes, you read that right! If done properly, this staple comfort food gets kicked up to a whole new level of deliciousness when cooked on a hot grill. There’s nothing quite like the flavor of the exterior crust that you get with BBQ cooking, But, there are some important things to keep in mind to ensure you end up with a perfectly seared and smoky meatloaf that doesn’t fall apart.
So, if you want the inside scoop on how to cook meatloaf on the grill, we’ve got you covered. Here are X tips for grilling meatloaf that is sure to make everyone happily full:
The first crucial step in grilling meatloaf is making sure your grill is set up properly. You want to do a two-zone cooking setup where you have one side open for indirect cooking and the other side is direct cooking over high heat.
Then, make sure you have a foil drip pan underneath your indirect heat side. This is the side you will mainly be cooking your meatloaf on.
Before your loaf goes on the grill you want to let the grill preheat properly. You’re aiming for a medium-high internal grill temperature of about 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Using a little bit of cooking wood will help add another dimension to the flavor of your grilled meatloaf. You can throw some wood chips or chunks onto your charcoal to generate a nice smoke. For example, hickory wood pairs well with beef and will give it that delicious smoky flavor synonymous with BBQ.
Sauteed onions are one of the necessities when it comes to grilled meatloaf ingredients. They add a nice flavor with a little sweetness. Saute them with garlic for perfect seasoning to add to the loaf.
But, it’s very important to make sure you let your onions cool before you mix them in with the ground meat and other ingredients.
Unless you are going to saute them a little ahead of time, skip crunchy vegetables like carrots and celery if you are going to be grilling meatloaf. These types of vegetables take longer to cook to a proper softness than it will take to grill the loaf. So, unless you want extra crunchy veggies in your meatloaf, save these for your baked version.
One of the great things about meatloaf is you could choose from a variety of different ground meat, including beef, pork, veal, turkey, venison, etc. Beef is usually the most popular choice. Though this is sometimes combined with other types of meat as well.
If you are going with beef, ground sirloin or ground chuck are going to give you the best flavor and texture. Avoid using ground round since it will be more grisly and less flavorful.
Whichever type of meat you choose, keep in mind that the higher the quality/grade, the better the flavor.
Properly seasoning the meatloaf is another key. You don’t want to skip the seasonings but you also want to stick with more “traditional” things that go well with the meat. And don’t over-season it with a ton of different things.
Some great options include:
The last thing you want is a finished meatloaf that is tough. An important thing to do to ensure this doesn’t happen is to not over-mix your ingredients. Doing so breaks down the meat’s fibers too much and they’ll quickly dry out.
Put all of your dry ingredients/seasonings in a bowl and mix them by hand or with a spoon. Then add your egg, onions/garlic, ground meat, and other wet ingredients. Use your clean hands to mix everything together just long enough until everything is evenly combined.
The thicker, dome-shaped meatloaf that you’d probably use if cooking it in the oven will not work as well on the grill. If the loaf is too thick, the ends will end up charred and overcooked before the center is cooked to temperature. (Make sure to have a good meat thermometer on hand.)
So, form your loaf mixture into a uniform rectangle that is not too thick. Usually about 9” long by 5” wide works well. If needed, you can split your ingredients mixture up until multiple loaves.
Source: Sugar Dish Me
Don’t set your meatloaf in a metal loaf pan to grill it. Instead, you want to freeform grill it. Freeform grilling meatloaf directly on the grates is going to give you those nice, seared grill marks and allow the smoke to flavor the meat.
But, more importantly, it will prevent fat from pooling at the base of it (like what would happen cooking in a pan) and creating an overly greasy loaf. Alternatively, the fat will drain and drip below it into the drip pan you’ve set up.
When you first put your loaf (or loaves) on the grill, you want to put them on the direct heat side first for about 3 to 4 minutes on each side. You’re going to sear both sides of the exterior first. This will seal in all the juices from the meat and form the exterior bark. Not only is the bark delicious but it will make it much easier to flip the loaf when needed.
Then, you’ll move the meatloaf over to the indirect heat side to cook for the remainder of the time on that side.
It’s important that you wait to glaze the meatloaf until you have a nice exterior crust on it. This is especially true if your glaze is sugar-based because, if put on too early, the sugar will quickly burn and can char the outside of your loaf.
As with many other outdoor cooking situations, you want to cook it until it’s reached the proper internal temperature versus just watching a timer. This will ensure you don’t over or undercook the meatloaf.
So, get your meat thermometer out. Your meatloaf is ready to come off the grill when it has reached 160 degrees Fahrenheit at the deepest part of the center. This is the minimum internal temperature for safe consumption of ground meat.
Yes, it will look and smell amazing but don’t start slicing your grilled meatloaf immediately. Like with many other grilled meat items, you want to let it rest for a little bit before cutting into it. Letting it sit for about 5 minutes should be enough time to let the juices settle and the collagen in the meat thicken again.
To even throw another twist on there, you can slice the loaf into 1-inch slices and then throw the slices back on the grill just long enough to crisp the cut sides.
Now, by following the tips above, if someone asks you “can you cook meatloaf on the grill?”, you can confidently answer “yes, yes you can!” Grilling meatloaf puts a whole new spin on this classic meal.
As you can see, preparation is a crucial element to ensuring you cook a delicious BBQ meatloaf that doesn’t totally crumble apart or end up too soggy. This includes proper preparation of your ingredients, your grill, and the loaf itself. Gather up everything you’ll need and try your hand at grilling meatloaf on your cooker today!
Have you tried grilling meatloaf? Know of any other tips when it comes to how to grill meatloaf? Let us know below in the comments. We want to hear from you!
Want a great step-by-step video recipe for grilling meatloaf like a pro? Check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Bacon Wrapped Glazed Meatloaf!
If you want to dive into even more smoking and grilling techniques, insider secrets, and more, join our Champion Pitmasters and Grillmasters for first-of-its-kind online BBQ cooking classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master cooking all kinds of meats on your grill or in your smoker today.
Make sure to also subscribe to our YouTube channel to get access to all of the latest insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros!
*Feature image sourced from Weber Grills
As many will agree, turkey is a delicious meat that should not be reserved only for the holidays. Especially when it’s actually one option of affordable cuts of meat to choose from any time of the year.
But, because it is a delicate meat compared to beef or pork, turkey does take some extra attention to ensure you don’t turn it into a dried-out chunk. Below, we’ve covered some pro tips on how to smoke whole turkey straight from champion pitmasters to help ensure you are smoking a turkey everyone will be wanting seconds of. Let’s take a look:
Here are some tips straight from the pitmasters to help you smoke some delicious turkey every time:
To get the best flavor and juiciness, avoid a frozen bird from your big box grocery store and opt for fresh turkey from your local butcher. They can help ensure you get the freshest meat possible, decide on a size, and more. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Plus, with fresh turkey, you won’t have to worry about waiting forever for a frozen turkey to thaw.
Before you start thinking about brining and seasoning your bird, you have to ensure it is prepped properly. Make sure to trim off the excess fat deposits and remove the neck and giblets from the body cavity. Then, rinse the bird thoroughly inside and out.
You also want to carefully separate the skin from the turkey’s breast area. This will allow you to apply seasoning directly to the breast meat and then reposition and secure the skin with toothpicks.
Like chicken, turkey is a leaner meat. So, it is important to brine the turkey before smoking it to ensure it stays moist and tender. Because brine is salt-based, it works to tenderize the meat, break down muscle, and increase moisture absorption. The best brines have a 1-to-1 ratio of water to salt.
The minimum amount of time you should brine the bird is 3 hours. Make sure to rinse it thoroughly after it is done brining and dry it well before seasoning. Ensuring it is thoroughly dry will prevent the skin from turning rubbery while cooking the turkey.
Source: Betty Crocker
Turkey is a versatile meat that does well with a variety of seasonings. Remember, you want that delicious smoky flavor to still come through so you don’t want to overpower the meat with too much seasoning. You could go with just a simple rub of salt and pepper, make your own homemade savory rub (think the addition of rosemary, garlic, etc), or opt for a delicious premade rub just for turkey.
Don’t forget to put the rub on the walls of the turkey’s body cavity to help season it from the inside as well.
When you’re smoking a whole turkey, don’t try and stuff the bird. Either cook the stuffing separately in your smoker or grill or go for oven-cooked stuffing. It takes longer for heat to make it to the center of the turkey. So, if you try and stuff it, the turkey breast will be over-cooked and dry by the time the stuffing is done.
Of course, the wood (whatever shape or size you are using for fuel) that you put in your smoker or grill is what produces the delicious smoke that will help flavor the meat. But, depending on the flavor of wood and how much you use, it is possible to overpower your turkey and ruin the taste.
So, make sure to use a type of wood that has a complementary flavor to the mild protein that turkey is. Most often, fruit woods like Apple or Cherry are going to be the best options because they are milder in flavor. Oak or Hickory are also options, but because they have a stronger flavor you shouldn’t use nearly as much. Even combining a fruitwood with Hickory is a delicious option but make sure to lean more towards the fruitwood in the combo.
One thing you want to make sure you have on hand when smoking a turkey is a drip pan. Placing a drip pan underneath the turkey will catch the drippings and minimize cleanup. Even more importantly, doing this will prevent the juices from burning at the bottom of your cooker and possibly causing a flare-up. The last thing you want is black smoke from burning juices to ruin the taste of your bird.
Using a pan also means you’ll have some delicious drippings to use for homemade gravy. You can even fill the tray beforehand with chopped herbs, carrots, onions, celery, and stock for some extra-tasty additions to use.
Source: Weber Grills
If you’ve read any of our other articles on cooking specific meats, you may have noticed a common theme. It’s more important to cook by internal meat temperature and not by time. The same goes with smoking turkey.
As mentioned above, turkey is a delicate meat that can overcook easily if you’re not monitoring it. Make sure you have a good remote digital thermometer to use to constantly monitor the internal temperature of the turkey. If you only have one, place it in the breast, which is the thickest part of the meat. Even better is if you use a dual-probe thermometer with one probe in the breast and the second probe clipped to the grate. This will allow you to monitor the internal meat temperature as well as the internal temperature of your smoker, without having to open the cooker.
Bonus tip: Avoid constantly opening the cooker to check on your meat. Doing so can cause the internal temperature of your smoker to fluctuate and draw out the cooking process.
According to the USDA, turkey is safe to eat when all parts of the bird reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. So, once your turkey has reached 160 degrees, remove it from your cooker. The internal temperature of the meat will still rise another 5 degrees or so, bringing it to safe temperature, without you overcooking it.
If you’ve cooked your turkey to temperature and you discover some of the meat is pink on the inside, don’t panic! As the USDA states, “turkey can remain pink even after cooking to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 °F. The meat of smoked turkey is always pink.”
So, as long as you use an accurate meat thermometer and the internal temperature of your bird has reached 165 degrees, it is perfectly safe to eat.
One way to ensure even cooking and smoke flavoring for your whole turkey is to use a rotisserie attachment in your smoker or grill. This will keep the bird turning at a constant rate and allow the smoke to evenly coat all parts of the turkey.
Check out our article on rotisserie cooking for some valuable tips to follow when using a rotisserie attachment.
Source: Serious Eats
Smoking a whole turkey doesn’t have to be intimidating or overly complicated. Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time for proper preparation and cooking. By following the tips above, you’ll be well on your way to smoking a whole turkey that will easily impress your family and friends.
If you are going to be smoking a turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, make sure to also check out our article on cooking your holiday whole meal on the grill!
Are you planning on smoking a whole turkey soon? Know of any other good tips? Let us know in our comment box below. We want to hear from you!
For a great step-by-step video recipe for smoking turkey, check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Brine Smoked Turkey with Pepper Jelly Glaze!
For even more insider secrets, smoking and grilling techniques, and more, join our Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters in the one-of-kind online BBQ classes here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master cooking all kinds of meat in your smoker or grill today.
Make sure to also check out our YouTube channel and hit “Subscribe” to get all of the latest BBQ news and insider info straight from the pros!
Pulled pork has been a longtime favorite when it comes to BBQ, especially in the Southern US. Many people will agree, including champion Pitmasters, that pork butt (aka Boston butt) is the favored cut of pork to cook for pulled pork.
A pork butt is one of the best cuts of meat to smoke due to its texture, tenderness, and flavor. So, it should definitely be included as a must on your list of meats to master on your cooker.
If you’re wondering exactly how to smoke pork butt to a mouthwatering finish every time, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve put together some top tips straight from the professional pitmasters.
Source: The Spruce
A pork butt, which is sometimes also referred to as a Boston butt, is one of the two sub-primal cuts that come from the pork shoulder primal cut (the other being the picnic shoulder). This cut comes from above the shoulder blade and will usually weigh between 5 and 10 pounds.
Most pork butts will have a “fat cap” on one side of it. Because this cut has a great amount of fat compared to lean meat, it is great for smoking and will result in moist, tender, and extremely flavorful pork.
So, now that you know exactly what a pork butt is, here are the 10 tips to keep in mind to ensure you cook it to a delicious finish:
Making sure you start with quality meat and a good cut of pork butt is just as important to the final taste as how you cook it is. There are several things to look for when it comes to getting a good quality cut:
As we mentioned above, there will be a fairly thick “fat cap” on one side of the pork butt. Evenly trim this fat cap down so that it is only about ¼” thick, if that. Also, trim off any part of the cut that is strictly cartilage, tough, or webby. This will leave you a clean cut to work with and prevent overly chewy bites of pork in the end.
It is a common myth that marinades can penetrate deep into the meat to help flavor and tenderize it. It is scientifically impossible for it to soak in much further than just the exterior of the meat.
Like beef brisket and other large cuts of meat, injecting the pork butt using a meat injector will allow you to get a brining or braising liquid deep inside the meat. This will help flavor and tenderize the meat, ensuring you end up with a moist and delicious final result.
Check out our article on injecting beef brisket for some great general info on the benefits of injecting meat and how to do it properly.
Before you try and put any rub on your pork butt, throw on a pair of disposable plastic gloves and coat your pork butt with a binder of yellow mustard (mustard will not affect the flavor of the meat). Doing this will help your rub stick to the meat better, allowing you to properly and effectively coat it with your favorite seasoning.
Sufficiently coating your pork butt with a rub will help season the meat, bring out the natural flavor of the pork, and help create that great exterior bark as it is smoking. Many good pork rubs have a combination of salt, sugar, paprika, and pepper in varying degrees. But, don’t be afraid to create your own rub using your favorite ingredients and determine what you like best on your pork butt.
Make sure you put a good thorough coating all over the cut. You don’t want a coating that is too light or uneven.
You never want to put cold meat straight into your smoker. Doing so can cause the exterior to cook much faster and even burn while the interior is still undercooked.
So, give your pork butt about 30 minutes to sit at room temperature before putting it on to cook. As soon as you take it out of the fridge that is a perfect time to add a generous coating of rub.
To smoke any kind of meat properly, it is critical to make sure that your cooker’s temperature stays consistent throughout the entire cooking session. Remember, you will smoking the pork butt low and slow. 250 degrees Fahrenheit is a good sweet spot to maintain. Keeping your cooker's temperature consistent will also help you power through any "stall" that you may encounter with the butt's internal temperature while cooking. (Check out our article on the stall that can happen while smoking for more info on that.)
Make sure you have enough fuel (no matter what type of fuel you’re using) on hand to get you through the whole cook.
Source: Heavy Metal Bar-B-Que
Once the internal temperature of your pork butt has reached between 155 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, wrap the meat in peach paper or a double layer of aluminum foil. This will trap the liquids in with the meat and baste the butt over the last couple of hours until it is finished. So, make sure you have a good instant-read meat thermometer on hand before you start cooking.
If you’re wondering how long to smoke pork butt, knowing when it is finished is more about cooking by temperature versus time. Not every pork butt will need to smoke for exactly the same amount of time. This is why it is so important to have a thermometer handy. When cooking at 250 degrees Fahrenheit, you want to cook pork butt until it reaches an internal temperature of 208 degrees Fahrenheit.
As we mentioned earlier, the shoulder blade bone can act as an internal thermometer too. In most cases, once you can easily pull or move the bone, the pork butt is finished and ready to come out. But, make sure to double-check it with your instant-read thermometer as well.
Once your butt is finished cooking, don’t be in such a hurry to start pulling or slicing it. You want to let it rest for 1 hour first. This will allow the fatty collagen to thicken and keep the juices within the meat longer, keeping it moist. One way to let it rest is to keep it wrapped and keep it warm inside an empty cooler with a lid on it.
By following the tips we’ve covered above, you should be well on your way to tackling this tender cut confidently, resulting in a delicious final product with that great smoky flavor. As you can see, proper preparation and making sure you have the proper tools are both important factors when it comes to smoking pork butt properly.
Are you planning on smoking a pork butt soon? Have you recently smoked one for the first time and learned a few things? Tell us about it below. We want to hear from you!
Here at BBQ Champs Academy, we'll show you everything you need to know to smoke pork butt perfectly just like the professional pitmasters do for competitions. In our online classes, you can learn the step-by-step techniques along with their insider secrets, all in stunning high-def video.
Check out the individual pork butt class from your favorite pitmaster or try your hand at an All-Access Pass to learn how to cook four different BBQ meats!
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You may hear some outdoor cookers argue that grilling on wood planks (aka planking) is a fairly recent fad that isn’t much more than a gimmick. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. If you haven’t tried using wood planks on your grill, you absolutely should.
Cooking food directly on hardwood planks is an easy way to cook fish, meat, and veggies on your grill and impart a delicious, smoky flavor. Fish is the most common item to grill on wood planks, but nearly any protein or vegetable can be cooked on them.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly how far back grilling on wood planks goes and the tips you need to know to do it right.
Dating back to 4000 B.C., native tribes in the Pacific Northwest were fire-roasting salmon that was attached to split Western Red Cedar poles (called piquin sticks) with slender cedar pins. These poles were then propped at an angle next to the large alder wood fires.
Meanwhile, American Indians along the East Coast were using a similar method to fire-roast shad (a bony, succulent but fish related to the herring). Although, these groups used locally plentiful oak poles or planks versus cedar.
Fast forward to the late 19th century and fish baked on cedar planks in an oven was served in several hotels throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Since then, using wood planks has evolved and grilling on wood planks using traditional grills began. Though historians are still trying to pinpoint exactly when this particular method started.
There are some important tips you need to know to ensure you are grilling on wood planks properly and, more importantly, that you end up with a delicious final result. Let’s take a look:
You can find pre-cut wood planks at many cooking stores, some supermarkets, or through online grilling-wood wholesalers. Make sure to only use food-safe untreated planks. If you try and buy planks at a lumberyard or hardware store, they will often be pressure-treated for outdoor use and contain harmful chemicals like arsenic.
Source: Gourmet Grillmaster
The best types of wood for grilling (and smoking) are going to be a variety of hardwoods. You never want to use softwoods like spruce or pine because they will emit a strong resin taste on your food and burn too quickly. Ideally, when it comes to the specific type of hardwood, you want to use one that compliments what you are cooking:
*Some heavier, fattier fish (like Salmon) can also pair well with stronger woods like hickory.
The thicker the plank the better. Ideally, you want to use planks that are at least a half-inch thick. Also, the planks you use should be large enough to still leave 1-inch of wood around your food.
It’s important to check both sides of the plank for any splinters before using it. You don’t want to have any wood splinters end up in your food. If you see one, just use some sandpaper and lightly brush the plank smooth in that spot.
Before your plank goes on the grill, make sure to soak it in water for a minimum of 1 hour before cooking. Soaking prevents planks from catching fire. You want to maintain a slow smolder while it’s on the grill, not definitive flames. Pre-soaking the plank also generates a little bit of nice steam during cooking.
You can soak it in a baking sheet with a raised side and place something heavy on top of the plank to keep it submerged. Make sure to flip the plank occasionally to ensure it is evenly soaked.
You can even add wine or fruit juice to the water for an extra boost of flavor.
When grilling on wood planks, you always want to keep a spray bottle filled with water close by in case the edges of the plank start to catch fire. Sometimes, using long-handled tongs to rotate the plank will help extinguish any flames also.
* Make sure to never leave the grill unattended when using wood planks.
Set your grill up in a two-zone setup where one side is indirect heat and the other is direct heat. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then you’ll be placing the planks with your food on the indirect heat side.
This temperature will roast the food and allow a brown, flavorful crust to develop on your food. Lower temperatures will just steam the planked food rather than roasting it.
Starting on a wood plank that has been pre-charred and is still smoking gives a deeper wood flavor. You do this by placing the plank over the direct side of the grill and heating it for about 2 minutes on either side, enough for it to start to blacken and lightly smoke.
Once it’s slightly charred, place the food on the charred side and move it to the indirect heat side of the grill.
Keep in mind that pre-charring the planks will remove almost all of the pre-soaked moisture. So, use the spray bottle to moisten the planks again once you start cooking.
If you are going to be grilling fish with the skin on, brush the skin with cooking oil before adding it to the plank. It also doesn’t hurt to brush a little bit of oil on the food-side of the plank as well. This will keep the fish from sticking to the plank at all.
If you want to experiment with extra flavor, put sprigs of fresh herbs on the plank before topping them with the food. Things like rosemary, dill, parsley, or thyme work very well.
Usually, items take a little longer to cook on a plank than they do directly on the grill grates. This is because wood conducts heat slower than metal. So, you want to cook to temperature versus relying on a “set” time.
For example, fish should be cooked to 135 degrees Fahrenheit. So, make sure you have a good instant-read thermometer on hand.
Most meaty, heartier fish are great for grilling on wood planks. Try salmon, bass, bluefish, swordfish, or trout. But planking is not reserved only for fish. You can also grill scallops, lobster, shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, and even cheese on a plank.
Have fun and experiment with planking different things.
Planks can often be used two to three times before they become too charred. (Unless you pre-car the planks often). After using the plank, wash it well with water and a stiff-bristled brush and then store it in a clean, dry place. Do not use soap, as this can change the flavor of the wood.
If there's some heavy char or food that you are having trouble getting off, you can use a piece of fine sandpaper to sand it clean.
Also, the wood can sometimes take on a little bit of the flavor of what you cooked on it. So, for example, it’s often a good idea to stick with fish on a plank you cooked fish on before.
If a plank has become too charred and brittle for any more grilling, you can easily break it into pieces and use it for smoking.
Grilling on wood planks is a fun and easy way to add some variety to your grill game. It prevents delicate foods from falling apart on the grill, adds some great flavor to a variety of different seafood, meats, and vegetables, and makes for super easy cleanup.
Have you tried grilling on wood planks? What is your favorite thing to cook on planks? Tell us all about it below in the comment box. We want to hear from you!
If you want to follow a great step-by-step for grilling on wood planks, check out our tell-all Championship Backyard BBQ class on Sweet Heat Cedar Plank Salmon Bites!
To learn even more insider info, grilling and smoking techniques, and more, join us in our one-of-kind online BBQ classes with the Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters here at BBQ Champs Academy. Master how to cook everything from a perfectly grilled steak to deliciously tender ribs and more.
Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay on top of all the latest insider info and BBQ news straight from the pros!
*Feature image courtesy of Weber Grills