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On his all-new series Barbecue Addiction: Bobby’s Basics (Sundays at 11a|10c), grill master Bobby Flay is putting away his recipes for involved, complicated meals and focusing on those essential summertime favorites all of us should have in our arsenals. Each week he’ll break down the how-tos for various authentic plates and share his secrets for turning out the most-authentic true barbecue, which are largely dependent upon his grilling commandments. Read on below to learn Bobby’s 10 must-know pieces of advice for all things grilling, from juicy burgers and smoky barbecue sauce to entertaining tips and the ultimate pantry ingredients.
1. Direct/Indirect Heat: Set up your grill with two zones — one for direct heat, and the other for indirect heat. Use the direct heat to sear meats and veggies, and move them to the cool side to allow the food to finish grilling without overcooking.
2. Lid On or Off? That Is the Question! My rule of thumb is to leave the lid off for ingredients that cook quickly like shrimp and vegetables and put the lid on for longer-grilling items like poultry and steak, to use the grill like an oven and prevent burning or overcooking.
3. Burger Basics: There’s nothing more classic than a burger on the grill, but you’d be surprised how many people tell me they’re intimidated by it. Here are my rules:
- Purchase ground beef that has a 80:20 meat-to-fat ratio.
- Season the meat liberally with salt, pepper and canola oil. Adding anything else turns the dish into meatloaf, in my opinion!
- Form thin, 6-ounce patties by hand, and don’t overwork the meat. I like to create a well in the center with my thumb, because the patties tend to puff up in the center. Remember: NEVER press the burger on the grill (you’ll lose all the delicious juices!).
- And my #1 burger rule: Melt the cheese completely! Use two slices of cheese — I like classic American — and close the lid to allow the cheese to get nice and melty.
4. Juicy, Crunchy Grilled Corn on the Cob: My signature technique for perfectly grilled corn is a simple three-step process. Pull back the husk and remove the silks. Re-cover the corn with the husk and soak the ears in water for about 20 minutes. Fire up the grill and place the corn directly on the grates so it gets a nice charred flavor and color. Just a little bit of extra effort will result in a big payoff — the juiciest and crunchiest corn ever.
5. Make the Most of Your Spice Pantry: If you don’t have time to marinate, spice rubs are a great shortcut. By keeping a well-stocked spice pantry you can create your own flavor combination that’s versatile enough to use on fish, vegetables, chicken and more. Bonus tip: Make a big batch and store in an airtight container so you can use it all grilling season — up to 3 months. Spice rubs not only add huge flavor, but also form a nice crust on proteins for added texture.
6. BBQ Sauce Basics: Every home cook should be able to make a basic barbecue sauce from their pantry staples. What I like to do is make a basic sauce in a large batch and place portions of it in freezer-safe, pint-size containers. That way I always have some on hand and can even flavor it, depending on my mood, with things like habanero peppers, pineapples or molasses.
7. Flavor-Infused Oils: If I’m short on time and can’t marinade, I like to blend a simple infused olive oil to use as a finishing sauce on things like shellfish, chicken and even potatoes. I use ingredients like garlic, herbs and chiles that have bold, impactful flavors in each bite.
8. Party Drinks: I like to mix up a big pitcher of party drinks like sangria or flavored teas and lemonades. Not only are they crowd pleasers, but they also free me from playing bartender and mixing individual cocktails all night. And remember, keep the ice separate to prevent the melted cubes from diluting the flavor of the beverage.
9. Size Matters: Many people ask me how to prevent food from falling through the grates, and my answer is simple: Cut things in bigger pieces! Keep vegetables whole or in larger sections so they’re easier to manage on the grill. You can always cut them smaller after they’re grilled. For things like shrimp or cherry tomatoes, I like to use water-soaked wooden skewers, which makes transferring and flipping them on the grill easier and quicker too!
10. Let the Grill Do Its Job! The No. 1 mistake people make at the grill is touching the food too much. Most of the time you’ll see me at the grill doing absolutely nothing! Whether it’s fish, chicken, steak or veggies, I like to add a light touch of canola oil — which has a mild flavor and high smoke point — and then let the grill do its job. If you check on the food and it’s sticking a little, it’s not done cooking. Turn the food only once and let the fire be your guide.