Grill it or Smoke It

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Tips to Make the Best Backyard BBQ

Story by Ann Butenas

It’s that time of year again – time to fire up the backyard grill!  Nothing says summer like the mouth-watering smell and taste of something freshly prepared on a gas or charcoal grill or even a smoker for added flavor and zest. Among the most popular items found on the grill include hamburgers, steak, hotdogs and chicken, but the grill is also a great way to prepare a variety of fish, vegetables and even pizza. Of course, with an array of marinades, sauces, dips and rubs, your options for flavor and variety are seemingly endless.

Grilling guru Arthur Cattey of Smoke ‘n’ Fire in Overland Park, Kansas, has spent countless hours at the grill and offers some insight on how to make your backyard grilling fun the best – and tastiest – it can be. So, put on your backyard chef hat and roll up those sleeves! If you want to delight family and friends at your next cookout this summer, devour these helpful tips first and then prepare to amaze. You, too, can become a grill master before you know it.

KCH&S: When deciding to purchase a new grill, which is better – charcoal or gas?

CATTEY: Both have amazing benefits. Charcoal grills will provide more flavor overall, because cooking with wood requires hotter temperatures. The hotter the temperature, the more the flavor is locked into the meat. Gas, on the other hand, gives you the convenience of grilling faster because you don’t have the added steps of starting up the charcoal.

KCH&S: What are some of the basic tools you need to grill?

CATTEY: One of the biggest complaints heard from most backyard chefs is about over-cooked meat. As such, a good thermometer is important to have on hand, as it will ensure everything is properly cooked. Other great tools to have include a great set of tongs, a spatula and a cleaning brush.  Grilling baskets are a must-have, too, as they help prevent flair-ups and also make cleaning up a breeze.

KCH&S: While hamburgers and steaks seem to be the most popular meats to grill, what are some other great meats to consider when using the grill?

CATTEY: You can grill and smoke anything. Don’t limit yourself. If you love it, smoke it. I personally love to smoke all of my vegetables and then grill them to finish them off. And you don’t have to own a smoker, either. A smoking tube or wood chip box will add that smoke flavor to any gas grill.

KCH&S: What are some great ways to flavor the meat?

CATTEY: There are hundreds of rubs, sauces and marinades from which to choose these days, so no matter what someone’s tastes may be, you can invariably find something to please everyone.

KCH&S: When is the best time to put the barbeque sauce on for optimum taste?

CATTEY: That just depends on if you want a glaze on your meat or if you want dipping sauces. If you want a good, sticky rib, then apply the sauce while you are cooking the meat. A dry rub gives you the best option for dipping sauces. We always recommend having several sauces on hand to please a variety of palates at your next gathering.

KCH&S: What’s an easy way to grill fish and vegetables? (And can you really grill a pizza???)

CATTEY: A griddle/plancha or a basket specially made to hold fish will make life simple when it comes to fish and veggies. It will help prevent your food from falling into the grill and will help you evenly cook the entire fish. Pizzas on the grill are amazing. The key is to make sure you have a pizza stone that is meant for direct flame.

KCH&S: It has been said that time and temperature are the two elements to determine a good grilling result. With that in mind, what is the safest temperature to ensure the meat is fully cooked?

CATTEY: Each type of meat is different, and it all depends on how you want it cooked. I suggest referring to a good grilling cookbook that can teach you the appropriate technique or perhaps take a class from trained grilling professionals who can help make your grilling experience a delight.

KCH&S: What is the best way to clean a charcoal grill or a gas grill? 

CATTEY: Cleaning your grill/smoker is as easy as brushing off your grates and burners. A spiraled grill brush ensures the grill/smoker will get properly cleaned. For those who forget to clean their grills, there are special chemicals that will cut through the heavy grease.

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