Cutthroat host Alton Brown knows the ultimate grilling sabotage. “Easy,” he says, “a dirty grill. When grills get dirty, they don’t conduct heat properly. Food will wind up sticking to the surface and will take on the flavor of the grill.” Proper grill cleaning and upkeep will prevent this from happening. If your food does get stuck, though, get the grill hot, then lightly saturate a paper towel with oil and, using tongs, swipe it gently over the surface of the grate. Brush your grill down well once you’re done cooking every meal so you’re not stuck cleaning right before dinner next time.
Stuck food is not the only grilling mishap that may befall you. Getting a grill lit is the first order of business. A chimney starter is the go-to way of Food Network Kitchen for getting coals lit when we’re grilling. If you don’t have a chimney starter handy, arrange the coals in a pyramid around a few crumpled sheets of newspaper, use a long match to light the newspaper (lighter fluid can add a chemical taste to your food), then wait for the coals to turn white. Uneven cooking and overcooking can also put a damper on your dinner. Is your meat scorched on the outside and raw on the inside? A two-zone fire means you can sear and roast so your meat will turn out perfectly cooked. Be sure to pull meats off the grill about 5 degrees below proper cook temperature to prevent overcooking. The internal temperature will rise as you allow the food to rest.
While Alton is a pro at cooking almost everything on the grill, he can still be surprised at what others might choose. “I was hanging out on a Native American reservation in Arizona for an episode of Feasting on Asphalt and we grilled big fingers of buffalo fat wrapped in lamb intestine,” he says. “It’s a dish they consider a delicacy. You grill it to the point where the fat surrounding the intestine melts. It was certainly an acquired taste.”
He may not be grilling up lamb intestine at his next cookout, but he is open to experimentation, including some cool, fun things to try this summer. “Spike a watermelon with a brine injector. Instead of bringing a turkey, use it to inject vodka into watermelon,” he suggests. “Also, I’m a fan of boiled peanuts. They’re addictive and they go with a cold beer on a hot summer day.”