You have the date, the guests, the ingredients and the apron; all that’s left is to fire up the grill and get cooking. Now is a prime time to make sure your grilling and barbecue knowledge is up to par. We nudged Brandon King, executive chef and general manager of Greenwood Village’s Burnt End BBQ, for his tips. Follow them, and your summer soirees won’t go up in (unwanted) smoke.
1. THERE ARE FIVE MUST-HAVE BARBECUE AND GRILLING TOOLS, says King: a slotted metal fish spatula, long metal tongs, a meat fork, a vacuum marinator and a chimney starter.
2. USE A CHARCOAL GRILL. Charcoal grills burn hotter than propane and allow you to take advantage of both direct and indirect heat, depending on the placement of your coals. Speaking of which: Spread charcoal evenly in a single layer just out of reach from where the food will be cooked.
3. ALWAYS OIL YOUR GRILL. An oiled grill gives your meat a great sear and ensures that whatever you’re cooking doesn’t stick to the grates, says King.
4. USE MELLOW WOODS such as apple for grilling fish, cherry for pork and oak for beef.
5. MAKE SURE TO KEEP AN EYE ON THE TEMPERATURE of meats and fish. “The temperature is the best way to guarantee great flavor and assure that you are adhering to food safety standards,” says King. “Before you do anything else, get yourself a reliable thermometer, preferably an instant-read.”
6. “THE THICKNESS OF THE MEAT IS IMPORTANT when determining when to use your grill cover,” says King. Close the lid when grilling meats thicker than ¾-inch and leave the lid off for all meats thinner than ¾-inch.
7. FLIP CUTS OF MEAT (THINK STEAK AND CHICKEN BREAST) OFTEN, advises King: “You want to turn your meats frequently to avoid burning either side.” Unless you’re cooking burgers on the grill—only flip those once.
8. BRUSH VEGETABLES WITH OIL before throwing them on the grate. Tender produce like asparagus, bell peppers and onions should be grilled over medium, direct heat. Cook thicker, tougher produce like squash and potatoes slow over low, indirect heat.
9. IF YOU’RE THINKING KABOBS, skewer the meat or vegetables with two skewers, King says: “The meat and vegetables won’t slide off and you can easily handle the skewers when turning them.”
10. LOOKING TO START SMOKING? There are several methods King uses, including sprinkling a large handful of hardwood pellets directly onto the grill box under the grates. Make sure to keep the lid closed as much as possible to prevent pellets from flaming if you go with this method.
Burnt End BBQ