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Barbecue Basics

So, you bought the new grill and are rarin’ to go! Let’s start with some basic grilling techniques. First I would like to define the various heat temperatures…..HOT, MEDIUM, LOW.

HOT…..temperatures above 450 degrees F. Primarily used for searing meats. When we talk about searing, it is NOT in regards to sealing the juices in. That is nearly impossible on a grill. Instead, searing is the caramelization of the meat. That is the process that is responsible for that grilled taste.

MEDIUM……temperatures between 300 – 400 degrees F. This is normally what most things are cooked at. First you sear at HIGH temps then you will finish cooking at MEDIUM temps.

LOW……temperatures between 225 – 275 degrees F. These low temps are used on larger cuts of meat that are laden with fat that must be rendered. The only way to accomplish this is to cook the meat at low temps for extended periods of time.

Let’s now review the difference between direct and indirect heat. Direct heat means the meat is placed directly over the flames or heat source. Lean cuts of meat will be grilled using the direct heat method. Indirect means that the meat is placed away from the heat source. Indirect heat is used for larger cuts of meat that are not as lean. See the article entitled "Indirect Heat" for a full explanation of how to use these methods.

Next, let’s talk about the various meat temperatures…..what we call doneness temps. These are always somewhat controversial, simply because everyone likes their meats done a little different. These are the MINIMUM temps I use when finishing meats

BEEF
145 degrees F for medium rare. All the bad bugs in beef are killed at this temp. The one exception here is ground beef. That should always be cooked to 160 degrees F because of the huge surface area that promotes bacterial formation.

CHICKEN
165 degrees F for white meat, 185 degrees F for dark meat. Salmonella is killed at 165 degrees F.

PORK
150 degrees F for medium rare. Don’t worry about trichinosis, as it is killed at 137 degrees F.

As I mentioned, these are my minimum temps and if you like your meats done a little more that is fine. Just don’t cook them too much…...they will dry out.

I strongly suggest a good quality meat thermometer. The new digital instant read thermo’s are very affordable and easily carried around in your pocket. This is essential, especially if you are new to the grilling experience. Once you are comfortable with the time it takes to bring meats to these temps, then the thermo can be replaced by "feel and touch".

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