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6 ways to ruin your holiday barbecue

Some Labor Day grilling tips from the pros

Published: August 29, 2014 04:45 PM

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Labor Day arrives early this year so if you’re planning an outdoor barbecue, make sure you’re ready. You don’t want to send your guests home with an empty stomach, a bad impression, or worse. Here are some tips from grilling pros as well as the experts at Consumer Reports including some gas grill recommendations in case your grill needs replacing.

Check your fuel. Nothing is more frustrating than running out of propane during the middle of your holiday barbecue. Some gas grills have fuel indicators, others don’t. To check the level of gas in your propane tank, the kitchn website recommends the following: “Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour it over the side of the tank. Now feel the tank and look for the point where the tank goes from feeling hot (empty) to cool (filled with propane). That's your propane level.”

Perfect your burgers. To get the juiciest burgers, follow advice from Bobby Flay. He ought to know—the Food Network star owns several burger joints and has written a burger cookbook. Flay recommends using ground chuck that is 80 percent lean and forming 6-ounce burgers that are ¾-inch thick. The secret to the perfect burger? Make a deep depression in the center with your thumb. Then cook the burgers on a grill or in a grilling pan. In our grill grates vs. grilling pan test, the grill pan had the edge.

Don’t confuse marinade with barbecue sauce. It’s a rookie mistake to add barbecue sauce to your meat when you begin grilling. The sugar in the sauce will burn and your meat will be ruined. Your best bet is to marinade your meat first or apply a dry rub then add your barbecue sauce during the last 5 to 15 minutes of grilling. Here’s the difference between marinades, rubs, mop sauces and barbecue sauce from the experts at epicurious.

BakerStone Pizza Oven Box

Don’t overwork your pizza. When we tested the BakerStone Pizza Oven Box on a gas grill, we also got a lesson in how to make pizza. Our in-house pizza maven says you should never roll out your pizza dough with a rolling pin as you would pie dough. Instead, work the dough gently with your fingers and don't flatten the edges. The results were delicious and the pizza oven box wasn’t bad either.

Don’t invite food poisoning. Cooking meat to a safe temperature can be a bit tricky on a grill where the outside of the meat may seem done yet the inside is underdone. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the side of a steak or chops or into the thickest part of burgers and chicken. The USDA recommends the following temperatures: Ground meat: 160-165° F; whole cuts of meat: 145° F; poultry: 165° F; fish: 145° F. In our recent tests of meat thermometers, digital models trumped analog. We found 10 accurate enough to recommend.

Don’t overcrowd your grill. Our experts say you should keep 40 percent of your cooking area clear so you can move steaks, salmon, or other fatty foods to a cooler section of the grill should flaring occur. If you are cooking for a crowd, consider a large grill that can accommodate 28 burgers or more. Our top-rated large gas grill is the Napoleon Prestige Pro 665RSIB, $2,600, and it’s a beauty. (At that price it should be.) We also recommend the large Kenmore Elite 3358, $1,600 and the Master Forge 3218LTN, which is sold at Lowe's for $650 and is a CR Best Buy. For more choices, check our full gas grill Ratings and recommendations.

—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)

   

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