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BBQ for Beginners: What You Need to Know

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This is BBQ for beginners, your “Grilling 101” course! Get ready to master your grill this summer!

What are the most important things to consider when you light your first grill?

A quick look at definitions before we get started: “barbecue” is considered to be a method of slowly smoking meat over an open flame, but informally it is used to include “grilling” as well. “Grilling” is a faster method of open-flame cooking.

Why should you be interested in barbecuing or grilling if you haven’t tried it? Not only does grilling give you more options for food preparation, it’s also often a social activity, and being good at social activities can often have benefits across several areas in life.

Not to mention, food cooked over an open flame, or smoked, is considered delicious by most people. However you look at it, being able to barbecue well is a good skill to master!

A little nervous to give it a try? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started.

5 “BBQ for Beginners” Tips

bbq for beginners tips

Generally, the skills needed by a good barbecue chef are as follows:

1. Fuel

hot dogs on a grill - bbq for beginners

Some people believe that charcoal provides a better cooking medium; some people say the same thing about propane gas. One of the key things for a learner to take into account is the initial cost. A new chef might be reluctant to spend a lot of money on a skill he or she has not yet mastered.

Make sure you do your research and ask friends before you purchase. Take your time and ask lots of questions! Consumer Reports has a great buying guide comparing different types of grills. It’s a good place to start! 

2. Food choice

food on a grill - bbq for beginners

There are certain foods that can be cooked easily on the grill and other foods that require a certain amount of practice. A new chef could start with something like hot dogs, where under-cooking provides a low risk to eaters, and the cost is low if they wind up being inedible. 

When it comes to grilling, keep in mind that you’re not just limited to meat. Vegetables and even pineapple are all amazing on the grill!

3. Heat management

flame on a grill - bbq for beginners

Barbecue is similar to a juggling act. The chef needs to balance the tendency of fire to burn things with the need for food to be thoroughly cooked. It’s about control. The chef controls heat and time, neither which can be ignored.

Of course, a charcoal grill has no heat management the way a stove or gas-grill does, so the good cook needs to find other ways of controlling the heat. Closing the lid or squirting the flames with water are common ways of controlling grill-heat.

It may take a while to get to know your grill and how to adjust your heat sources. Practice makes perfect!

4. Seasoning

raw meat and seasoning - bbq for beginners

Possibly the most difficult skill of them all. There are so many possibilities that it could take lots of experimenting with tasting to learn how to season food properly for any cooking method. An easy choice for the beginner would be to use pre-mixed seasonings, but honestly salt and pepper will take you far! 

Don’t be afraid to experiment (just maybe not when you’re feeding company) and you’ll find your perfect ingredients. 

5. Food safety

grilled meat - bbq for beginners

When the new barbecue chef graduates from hot dogs to meats like chicken, then things like food-contamination become far more of an issue.

Proper handling so as to avoid contaminating other foods with bacteria from the chicken is essential. Being able to judge whether a piece of meat has been thoroughly cooked is also essential.

The CDC is probably the best resource for information on food safety, so make sure you take a look at their website. And if you need a good meat thermometer, this is a personal favorite.  

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