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How to Grill Just About Everything to Perfection, According To Pros

Stick and Ladle

So you think you can grill just about every food you want. You flip burgers effortlessly! You’re a master of marinade and you got really good skewering skills. Well, listen! It’s not enough..haha! Now you can kiss the grilling guesswork goodbye! Here’s a cheat sheet for you on how to grill just about everything from chicken, steaks, to even fruits.

Indirect Versus Direct Heat

Before we dive into the grilling tips given by the pros, you need to know the difference between direct and indirect heat first and when to use it.

Direct heat. This I think is obvious. This means cooking food directly over a heat source. Crispy grilled vegetables, juicy burgers and the beautiful grill marks you often see on grilled foods are cooked through this method. It’s best for hot dogs, vegetables, and mostly seafood -- all tender foods that you can quickly cook. Also great for searing meat when you want to grill steaks, chicken and fish. 

Indirect heat. In this approach, you’re placing the foods you’re cooking in an area heated by flame, but not in contact with it directly. This is best for foods that require a longer time to cook such as whole chicken, ribs, potatoes. Traditional barbecue (slow-smoked meat) is cooked this way.

How to Grill Chicken

Chicken Wings
Time: 15-20 minutes
Heat: medium to low, direct (covered)
Tip: Baste during the last 5-6 minutes of grilling.

Chicken Drumsticks
Time: 20-30 minutes
Heat: medium to low, direct (covered), turning occasionally
Tip: Baste during the last 5-6 minutes of grilling.

Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless)
Time: 5-8 minutes each side
Heat: medium, Direct (uncovered)

Chicken Thighs (Boneless, Skinless)
Time: 4-6 minutes each side
Heat: medium, Direct (uncovered)

How to Grill Steak

When grilling, you need to let steaks rest or sit 5-10 minutes before serving or slicing. Be patient!

Strip Steak
Thickness: 1-inch thick
Time: 5-7 minutes each side (especially if you want to have medium-rare steak)
Heat: Direct (uncovered), medium to high heat

Flank Steak
Thickness: ¾ to 1-inch thick
Heat: medium to high heat, Direct (uncovered)
Time: To achieve medium-rare steak, 4-6 minutes each side
Tip: To have a more flavorful steak, try to rub the meat with spices EXCEPT salt before you grill. You can also toss it with a mixture of ginger, soy sauce, and grated garlic. Then refrigerate for up to 8 hours before you grill.

How to Grill Hot Dogs and Burgers

Hot Dogs
Time: 6 - 8 minutes, turning occasionally
Heat: medium to high heat, direct (uncovered)
Tip: to keep hot dogs from falling while grilling, line them up perpendicular to the grates. Then turn them all together instead of turning them one by one.

Burgers
Time: 4 - 5 minutes each side
Heat: medium to high heat, direct (uncovered)
Tip: After forming patties, use your thumb to make a shallow dimple in the middle of each patty. This would keep the patty flat and even. Grill with the indented side facing up first.

How to Grill Seafood

Lobster
Preparation: Split the body half, lengthwise and remove the claws.
Heat: Direct (covered), medium-high, then direct (uncovered)
Time: You start grilling the claws. After 6 minutes, flip it then add the lobster’s body part. Grill altogether until the shell is bright red and the meat is opaque. Do it 2 to 3 minutes each side.

Shrimp
Preparation: Find some large, deveined, already peeled shrimps. Those ones that won’t fall through the grates.
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: Grill shrimps until opaque and pink all throughout, 2 to 3 minutes each side.

Mussels
Preparation: Clean each shell.
Time: Grill for about 5 minutes until it opens.
Heat: medium to high, direct (covered)

Squid
Prep: Remove tentacles
Heat: Direct (uncovered), medium to high
Time: Grill both tentacles and bodies until opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes each side.

Salmon Fillet
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: 3 to 5 minutes each side.

How to Grill Pork

Just like steak, let pork sit for at least 5-10 minutes before your serve it. This will maximize the flavor.

Pork Tenderloin
Time: turning occasionally, 15-18 minutes
Heat: medium-high, direct (covered)
Tip: For pork tenderloin, it is best to baste it for 3-6 minutes of grilling. Grill the tenderloin for at least 12 minutes. Cover it initially and turn it occasionally. Then as you’re about to finish grilling the tenderloin, remove the cover, and brush the tenderloin with the sauce for 3 minutes. Use up any remaining sauce.

Sausage
Time: turning occasionally, 10-14 minutes
Heat: medium to high, Direct (covered)
Tip: As you’re about to finish grilling, say around the last 5 minutes of grilling the sausage, try brushing balsamic vinegar to the sausage.

Baby Back Ribs
Time and heat: Indirect first and covered for 30-35 minutes. Then direct and uncovered for 4 to 6 minutes each side.

Tip: This is the only rib you can grill without any pre-cooking. If you want to baste using your favorite sauce, brush it with your favorite sauce and turn every 2-3 minutes. Do it during the last 3-6 minutes of cooking.

How to Grill Fruit

 

Pineapple
Preparation: Remove rind and cut into ¼-inch-thick rounds or triangles.
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: 2 to 5 minutes each side

Watermelon
Preparation: Cut off the rinds and cut the watermelon into ½-inch-thick triangles. Lightly brush with olive oil.
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: 1 to 2 minutes each side

Bananas
Preparation: Cut the bananas lengthwise and crosswise, leaving the peel on.
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: Grill for 2 minutes until lightly charred, then flip and continue to grill it until the peels start to separate from the bananas, wait for 2 to 3 minutes more.

How to Grill Vegetables

 

Sweet Potatoes
Preparation: Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch-thick wedges or slice into 1/4-inch rounds.
Heat: medium-high, Direct (uncovered)
Time: turning often until tender, 10-14 minutes

Summer Squash and Zucchini
Preparation: Cut zucchini in half lengthwise.
Heat: Direct (uncovered), medium to high
Time: 2-5 minutes per side
Tip: Zucchini is best chopped and served with lemon zest, chopped parsley or basil, and sliced scallions.

Corn
Preparation: Shuck the corn and rub with olive oil.
Heat: medium to high, direct (uncovered)
Time: turning occasionally, until charred, 3 to 5 minutes