While Memorial Day remembers those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, the Memorial Day barbecue doesn’t have to sacrifice good food. These Memorial Day barbecue hacks will impress your guests.
Usually, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer grilling season. Grilling is part art and art science. The flame will cook the meat, but will the final product be something that you want to eat. With a few Memorial Day barbecue hacks, anyone can appear to be the ultimate grill master.
Memorial Day barbecue hacks Photo by Cristine Struble
1. Prepare your meat with flavor
Throwing meat on a grill won’t produce the best tasting dish. Seasoning is necessary to bring out the best flavors of anything cooked on the grill. Even just salt and pepper can make a huge difference in the food.
Two ways to add flavor are marinades and rubs. A marinade is a sauce that adds flavors to meat and usually tenderizes it. Marinades can have oil, vinegar and spices. One of the easiest marinades to use is Italian dressing (yes, the same dressing for salads).
Grab a storage bag, some favorite flavors and throw in the meat. Let the marinade and meat sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. When you’re ready, put the meat on the grill. The process is easy and the meat tastes great.
Second, a rub is a seasoning placed on top of the meat. Pick a rub based on your favorite spices. From spicy to sweet, the spices aisle is filled with options. Personally, a few of my favorites are Steven Raichlen’s Project Smoke spice rubs. From classic barbecue flavors to international inspired blends, there is a seasoning for everyone.
For Memorial Day, the Carolina Pit Powder is great for chicken and ribs. Since these spice rubs work on all types of proteins, you can use one spice rub for the whole meal. Just don’t over use the spice rub. A little goes a long way.
2. Know your grill temperature
Sizzling hot grills, luke warm coals and dead zones can make a difference in grilling. Ever wonder why your food sticks to a grill? Maybe the grill’s temperature is the problem.
Every grill has spots that are warmer than others. Understanding the grill’s temperature is key to cooking the proteins correctly. Some types of food need indirect heat (cooking to the side of the flame) and others need direct heat. Understanding the correct positioning and heat of the grill can produce a better result.
3. Don’t over crowd, flip or touch your meat
Question, would you fill a baking sheet with cookies, touching each other, and expect the cookies to bake correctly? Probably not. The same idea can occur on a grill.
Yes, everyone loves looking at a full grill with a bounty of deliciousness. But, the lack of space can hinder the cooking of the meat. Give the steak, chicken or brats some elbow room to get all the sizzle and flavor from the flame.
After the proteins have their space, they don’t need to be touched, flipped or squished continuously. Hate having pieces of fish fall into the grill? Don’t keep flipping it. Want a juicier burger? Don’t squish it and push all the flavor into the flame below. Let the proteins hang out and cook.
flavorful grilling spices, photo by Cristine Struble
4. Get a meat thermometer
Do you know how to see the difference between a medium-rare steak and a medium steak? Yes, you can touch the steak and feel the doneness, but most home chefs aren’t that adapt. A meat thermometer can be a lifesaver.
From making sure that everyone’s steaks are at a perfect temperature to ensuring chicken is cooked thoroughly, a meat thermometer is a must have. Meat thermometers come in shapes, sizes and price points. My personal favorite is Thermoworks Thermapen. Pricey at $99, this thermometer is fast reading, durable and easy to use. I’ve had mine for over 4 years and it’s been worth every penny.
5. Watch the grill, not the guests
A barbecue is filled with friends and fun. But, large flames shooting out from a grill can dampen any celebration. Charred meat or a burger puck could have everyone leaving for pizza. If you’re in charge of the grill, keep your eyes on the flames.
Unless it is pouring down rain, many people might join you around the grill. Who doesn’t love the smell of grilling meat? I’m not saying to totally ignore all your guests, just don’t get so wrapped up in the party that you forget about the food. Wait till the flames are extinguished till you become the life of the party.
What’s the easiest Memorial Day barbecue hack? Enjoy the barbecue with friends and an iced cold beverage. Let’s be realistic, everyone will eat. Even if the steak is blackened and the chicken is as dry as matza, people will eat. Maybe you will be ridiculed, maybe you will be relieved of grill duties and maybe this story will be told every Memorial Day. In the end, the day was spent with friends and that is all that matters.