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El Segundo Eats: Grilling 101

Local personal chef Jenifer Antonelli offers her tips for elevating your grilling game.

By Jenifer Antonelli

Salmon, burgers, and various colorful vegetables cooking on a grill.
A little knowledge goes a long way when grilling both proteins and vegetables.

Yes, the kids are back to school, but the sun is still out, and we have a holiday weekend to kick off the month of September. Labor Day is a great time to have some friends over for an end-of-summer cookout. If it’s your job to tame the flame this weekend (or any weekend this season), you’ll need to understand some basic grilling techniques to get the best results. Try these tips to make your backyard BBQ the talk of El Segundo.

1. Use a Delicious Spice Rub or Marinade. Before you fire up the grill, you should have a plan of attack. Do you need to marinate the chicken the night before or mix up a spicy salt rub for your steak? Don’t forget these ingredients on your shopping list, and allow the extra time allotted in the recipe to give the meat ample time to soak.

2. Preheat and Clean your Grill. Preheat your grill with the lid closed for at least 15 minutes before you plan to start cooking. Meat cooks more evenly if it has some time to come to room temperature, so remember to take your proteins out of the fridge just before you preheat your grill. Preheating the grill helps loosen any food fragments that may be left over from the last time you grilled, too. Once the grates are hot, take the time to clean them with a stainless steel brush to remove any stuck-on bits. Once the grates are hot and clean, they are ready to sear your food and give you those coveted grill marks.

3. Oil Both Your Grill and Your Food. After I finish cleaning my grill with my brush, I like to rub the grates with an oiled towel (a neutral, high-heat oil, such as canola, works best) to help prevent food from sticking. Pour a little oil on a clean dish towel, pick the towel up with grill tongs, and rub the towel along the grates. After seasoning, don’t forget to toss your veggies and brush your proteins with oil to give them a protective coating, too.

4. Direct or Indirect Heat? Depending on what you are cooking, you will want to position the food directly over the flame or away from the flame to prevent it from burning or drying out. If you will be cooking vegetables or lean cuts of protein, such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts that cook in less than 20 minutes, you can grill them on direct heat. If you’ll be cooking tougher and larger cuts of meat, such as ribs or shoulder, you’ll need to move the meat to indirect heat to prevent the outside from charring before the inside is cooked through. Keeping the lid closed as much as possible while the food cooks helps you maintain a consistent temperature inside the grill.

5. Wood Chips and Planks. Many foods benefit from the extra flavor that wood smoke provides. I love to grill pork shoulder with a smoker box filled with wood chips to give my pulled pork a darker crust and rich, smoked flavor. If you haven’t tried it before, you’ll be surprised how much a little smoker box filled with wood chips can elevate your grilling game. Grilling salmon on top of a soaked cedar plank is a great way to infuse the fish with flavor and prevent it from slipping between the grates.

Happy fall, and happy grilling!

Jenifer Antonelli is the Owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services.

@vinoandviand on Facebook and Instagram.

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