Memorial Day is officially the American holiday that honors the men and women who died while serving in the United States Military. Originating in the years following the Civil War and originally known as Decoration Day, it became federal holiday in 1971.
Falling the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is also the unofficial start of the summer season. In order to pay homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom, many will light up the BBQ pit and hit local waterways and pools to celebrate the day.
Be the master of the grill this Memorial Day by following these tips.
Add a little flavor. With backyard grilling, there are several ways to add some extra flavor to your food. The quickest way is with a glaze, made from honey, maple syrup or molasses. Just brush it on during the final minutes of grilling. Wet and dry rubs are another low-prep time option. These blends of herbs and spices can be applied a few hours before cooking to create a savory crust.
Create a smoky taste. Whether you’re using a gas grill or a charcoal grill, use hardwood logs, chunks, briquettes or chips to infuse a smoky flavor to foods. The type of flavor you get depends on the variety of wood used. For example, try applewood for sweetness, mesquite for tang and hickory for a bacon-like taste.
Cook in the zone. With a kettle grill, create a heat zone by banking coals in the center and searing food in the middle where the heat is highest. Move it to the outer edges of the grill to cook it perfectly without burning. With a gas grill, create a heat zone by leaving one burner on high and another on medium.
Start fresh. Prior to beginning your grilling adventure, scrub the hot grate with a long-handled wire brush. This will keep it clean and ensure some pretty nice grill marks on your meat, fish or chicken.
Use a little grease. Brushing the grill grate with a little oil will help prevent food from sticking. Grab a small wad of paper towels with tongs, dip it in a bowl of canola or vegetable oil and rub it on lightly to evenly coat the grate.
Keep it separated. Use fresh plates, utensils and cutting boards to prevent raw meat, poultry and fish from contaminating food that’s already cooked.
Get it in line. Lay food on the grate in lines, moving from left to right. Arrange quick-cooking items, like shrimp and scallops, in a circle going clockwise. This will help you keep track of which foods went on first as well as allow you to keep raw items away from cooked ones.
Hands off. Resist the urge to repeatedly poke, stab or flip your food when checking for doneness. Give food time to sear and develop a crust, turning only when grill marks form.
Set a timer. Since food continues to cook, even after it comes off the grill, it’s best to remove it just before it reaches the desired doneness. Digital instant-read thermometers provide the most accurate results, but you can also gently poke steak and chops with you index finger. The firmer the meat feel, the more well-done it is. With seafood, look for opacity since well-done fish fillets will be done all the way through. For chicken, make a slit at the thickest part of the cut. Any juices that escape should be clear.
Give it a rest. To really capture the flavor of the grill, let food rest before serving. A few minutes for small cuts is plenty. For a roast, let it sit up to 15 minutes.