Think juicy, tender chicken; veggies with the perfect char; burger patties, and hot dogs grilled to perfection. It’s not impossible, and it doesn’t require an apron that says “kiss the chef”. It’s one of the oldest, most versatile ways to cook — over an open flame. And every 4th of July, Americans take to their backyards, grill tongs in hand, and get to cooking.
But for many, it’s not as easy as it looks. So we asked our Research and Development Chef, Lorena Basteris, for her expert tips on how to make it both look and taste absolutely delicious.
How to grill veggies like a pro
Let’s start small. Start by turning your grill up to very high heat — we’re talking 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, wait 30 minutes before you do anything else.
While you’re waiting, prepare your veggies by chopping and then coating them in your favorite seasonings. (We’re big fans of roasted sweet potatoes, green beans, garlic roasted cauliflower, coated in olive oil and sprinkled with garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and a few red pepper flakes just for an added kick.) Then, wrap them in aluminum foil or put on a skewer, and throw on the barbie.
Grill for about 8-10 minutes, and you’re done!
Grill proteins and get those perfect grill marks
One of the top mistakes Basteris sees beginner chefs make is just throwing the protein or veggies perfectly straight on the grill. That’s fine if you’re in a hurry, but if you want it to look AND taste beautiful, you’ll want to think a little more strategically.
First, consider the Maillard reaction — this is the process of preheating the grill up to 400 Fahrenheit before adding your food. Once the food is added, lower the heat to below 355 Fahrenheit. By preheating to a high temp, you ensure that the proteins get added to the grill when it’s super hot so that the meat won’t stick to the grill — you can ruin a good burger by ripping it in half/taking it off the grill too soon/cooking at too low of a temp. But when you lower the temp after your proteins have been added? That helps to prevent your meat from experiencing an adverse reaction that brings about a bitter taste from being on too high of a heat, for too long.
After that, you’ll want to make sure you get the perfect criss-cross. Do this by starting your proteins at an angle — 10 and 4. Then, you’ll want to rotate it to 2:35. By starting at an angle, you’ll be able to better remember where your initial grill marks are so that you can keep the lines really consistent.
You’ll be able to know when your food is ready to flip by using tongs to grab the edges and wiggling it around to see if it’s fused to the grill or not. If it’s not, it’s ready. Flip and do this process again on the other side.
Also, make sure your grill is clean. If your grill isn’t clean, it’s going to smoke and your meats and veggies will smudge, and your grill will smoke. Keep your grill very clean, very hot, and stay patient.
Mastering your sauces and spices
When it comes to spices, Basteris says that the main mistake that beginners make is either not using nearly enough, or going overboard with spices; balance is the key. Don’t let spices intimidate you — start by choosing one flavor profile and stick with that across your dishes.
Here are some example flavor profiles to start:
- TexMex – based on cumin, chili powder, and garlic.
- Greek/Mediterranean – usually with Greek food, you wanna keep it simple. Think olive oil, salt and pepper, and tzatziki sauce on the sauce. You could even do za’atar with veggies.
- Jamaican – you’ll use pineapple and jerk chicken, brown sugar, paprika, cinnamon.
- Korean BBQ – you’ll use ginger, rice wine vinegar, minced garlic, sriracha, sesame oil, black pepper.
Trying to opt for a healthier sauce in your flavor profile? Avoid sauces that are high in corn syrup. You can make a healthy one yourself by using honey — this will keep the sauce shiny and easy to play with. For those that are whole30, you can substitute applesauce for your sweetener — this is also really great if you’re going for a thick BBQ sauce.
Grilling is truly an art — it requires the right temp, in a clean grill, with a lot of patience. But by following these simple steps, you should be able to expertly grill mouth-watering dishes for your whole Fourth of July gathering to enjoy.
In a hurry? Looking for sides to add to your main course for your July 4th party? We’re here to help. Check out our components designed to elevate any dish to a chef-quality masterpiece.