Perfectly seared steaks and mouth-watering burgers hot off the grill signal that summer is in full swing. Add grilled corn and watermelon slices and it's dinnertime. Grilling doesn't take much fuss, but it can be tricky, resulting in rubbery chicken and charred rib-eyes. Here are six grilling tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.
Add flavor and tenderness with marinades. Use a marinade made with an acid, such as vinegar, lemon juice, or plain yogurt and always refrigerate foods when marinating them. But keep an eye on the clock. Marinate for too long and the food can turn mushy. Marinate shrimp for 15 to 30 minutes; salmon steaks, 30 to 60 minutes. Chicken breasts need at least an hour and up to four. Marinate other chicken pieces for four hours. Tender cuts of beef need 15 minutes to two hours, while tougher cuts can take six to 24 hours.
Preheat your gas grill. Do this for 15 to 20 minutes so that it's fully preheated. This improves searing and helps keep food from sticking to the grates.
Don't overcrowd the cooking surface. Some flaring is normal with fatty foods, so keep about 40 percent of the grates empty. If steaks, salmon, or other fatty foods flare, move them to a cooler or non-flaming section.
Put a lid on it. Grilling without the lid allows heat to escape and compromises roasting. You'll want to use high heat for searing thick cuts of meat, and then lower the heat to finish cooking.
Use a meat thermometer. Avoid under- or overcooking by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the sides of steaks and chops or into the thickest part of burgers and chicken to ensure that proper temperatures have been reached. Cook food to at least the minimum internal temperatures recommended by the USDA. (Ground meat: 160-165° F; whole cuts of meat: 145° F; poultry: 165° F; fish: 145° F.)
Spice rubs add flavor too. Apply just before cooking or for tougher cuts, up to a day in advance to intensify flavor. Brush on the barbecue sauce near the end of the cooking time so the food will cook thoroughly without the sauce burning. And if your grill isn't what it used to be, take a look at our ratings of dozens of grills.
Recommended gas grills
Our gas grill tests found that the Weber Spirit SP-320 46700401 was the top-rated mid-size grill. It's $600 and was fast to preheat, excellent on high and low heat and indirect cooking—a method of slow cooking ribs, roasts, and whole fish and poultry by placing it next to the fire, not directly over it. Weber also topped our ratings of small and portable grills with the $450 Weber Spirit E-220 46310001. If you cook for a crowd, the Jenn-Air 720-0709, $950, sold at Sam's Club, can accommodate all your burgers. It has five burners and was aces on all cooking tasks.