Here’s How to Properly Shut Down a Grill After a Barbecue

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Shutting down a grill is just as important as starting it up.

The lightly charred surface of summer squash, the blackened crispy corners of a good steak, the soft, smokey flesh of stone fruit—they’re all achieved with grilling. 

Summer grilling season is a celebrated tradition for many home cooks. And like any good kitchen equipment, a grill needs to be properly cared for —including letting it cool off.

Here are the proper ways shut down a grill, because cooling it off is just as important as firing it up.

Charcoal

Never dump hot coals into a garbage or trash can. Coals can stay hot for up to 24 hours—even a little ember can cause a fire.

Many people remove the cooking grate when they are done cooking. It is not absolutely crucial. If you are going to remove it, make sure you clean it first with a long handled grill brush (or tongs). It is very important that you have a safe place to put it, as it is probably very hot. 

Find the vents on your grill—there are vents on the bottom and lid of the grill.

Stir up the charcoal, spray it with water, and put the lid on the grill. Make sure your vents are closed on the top and bottom. Next time you grill, you can add your fresh charcoal to the old stuff—stretching your charcoal and saving money.

Always keep a bucket full of water, or a fire extinguisher handy, just in case. You can always dump it on a friend when the grill is properly cooled.

More: Grilling tips from the Food52 team.

Gas Grills 

When you are done cooking your food, set a 5 minute timer. Keep the grill on, with the lid open. When the timer goes off, it’s time to clean your grill grate.

Now you can turn off your grill: turn all the knobs to the “off” position. You should hear an audible popping sound as the gas stops flowing into the grill grates. The flames should also disappear.

Now that your grill is off, you need to turn off the gas tank. On top of the tank, there is a small knob that generally has arrows pointing to the “open” and “close” positions. Turn towards the close position, which should be clockwise (righty tighty, lefty loosey!).

If you have a grill cover, wait until the grill is cool before covering. 

Now that you’ve properly shut down your grill and practiced fire safety, it’s time to enjoy the season’s most fun cooking technique.

“No dish screams summer quite like grilled chicken. That said, it can take time to master the grill, and chicken cooked over those ripping-hot grates runs the risk of drying out,” writes recipe developer Alexis DeBoschnek. “Enter this herby green sauce, made with yogurt and loaded with a bevy of tender herbs and alliums. This recipe acts as a twofer—the sauce is used to marinate the meat, and you save some for serving, too.”

Meat-eaters and seafood lovers get all the attention in the summer, but here’s a grilled vegan dish that’s more exciting than just a sad single portobello mushroom. Once grilled, avocados transform into smoky, impossibly creamy goodness. Stuffed with a quinoa and black bean salad in a zingy Dijon-apple cider vinaigrette, these avocados are a self-contained meal and are a perfect reason to fire up the grill this summer.

If you’ve never had grilled oysters, I implore you to give them a try. They’re briny, creamy, and best served with a smoky compound butter; in this case it’s a zingy sriracha-lime butter you’ll find yourself making over and over this summer.

Grilled pizza is one of summer’s unsung heroes—and it’s high time we changed that. This Genius Recipe hails from Brooklyn pizzeria Speedy Romeo. Since the ingredients list is simple, use the best you can find; that means good-quality ricotta, peak in-season tomatoes, and as much fresh basil as the garden (or market) will provide.

This entire salad gets grilled to a tasty char thanks to a tangy mayonnaise-based marinade, into which you’ll toss the vegetables before the hit the grill. Paired with grilled bread croutons, the breakout stars of this salad—oft-bland and watery summer squash and ho-hum broccoli rabe (or broccolini)—transform on the grill into crispy, smoky perfection. That sure sounds better than a limp side salad to me.

Don’t shut off your grill before dessert! Grilled peaches tend to get all the love, but this recipe for grilled strawberries is pure magic, especially with prime in-season berries. As recipe devloper Mark Bittman writes, “just a few minutes over the fire will concentrate the sugars in the strawberries.” A little vanilla ice cream on the side, and you’ve got a guaranteed winner on your hands.

What’s your favorite dish to throw on the grill? Let us know in the comments!



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