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Grilling - America's Passion Three Chiles




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BBQ & Grilling


Grilling Times


Grilling Guidelines

Here are some techniques and guidelines on grilling methods, determining grill temperatures, and to help you determine doneness (although nothing is as good an instant thermometer).  Although this will help you achieve great results you'll want to refine them with experience using your particular grill in your particular location.


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Grilling Methods

Direct grilling refers to the method whereby you cook directly over hot coals (see section below to determine how hot, hot, really is) usually with the cover off to maintain optimum temperature of the coals.  This is true grilling because the essence of grilling involves the quick searing of the surface of the food.  This ensures the charring and caramelizing that defines grilled food.

Indirect grilling is not true grilling, it's really more like oven roasting, but done outdoors in a grill.  For this method the coals are heaped on two sides of the grill with an open space between them and often separated by a drip pan. The food is placed in the center of the grill and cooks indirectly with the grill covered to build up enough heat to roast the food.  A general rule-of-thumb is that anything taking a short period of time should be grilled directly and anything taking longer should be grilled indirectly.  As with all rules there are exceptions.  Take for example beef steaks.  Steaks should be seared directly over the coals and then finished indirectly, off of the coals.  The charts below suggest which method to use based on the type of meat as well as the particular cut.

Multi-Level grilling means maintaining different levels of heat in the same grill.  This is accomplished by stacking the coals so as to produce two (or more) heat zones.  This is ideal for foods that need to be seared over very hot coals then moved to a cooler fire to finish off the cooking.

Grill Temperatures

Here is a tried and true technique for determining if your grill is ready to cook.  This terminology is widely accepted by grill chefs so now when the recipe calls for a "hot" grill you'll know just when yours is ready.

  • Very hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 1 to 2 seconds.
  • Hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds.
  • Medium-hot: You can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds.
  • Medium: You can hold your hand at grill level only 4 to 5 seconds.
  • Medium-low: You can hold your hand at grill level only 5 to 6 seconds.
  • Low: You can hold your hand at grill level only 6 to 7 seconds.

Doneness Temperatures

The temperatures in my charts are generally lower than those published by the USDA.   This is due to their natural concern about food safety.  However, most professional cooks feel the higher temperatures are unwarranted, and overly conservative.  The temperatures found here are in keeping with those used in fine restaurants.  For in-between doneness, for example medium-rare, split the difference shown here.

As mentioned earlier the cooking times are approximate due to the differences in fire temperature from grill to grill.  I advise starting to check the meat with an instant read thermometer when you reach the low end of the cooking range.

Lastly, keep in mind that the internal temperature of meat will rise after allowing the meat to sit for a few minutes after removing it from the grill (this is recommended).   The temperatures given here tell you when to remove it from the grill not the final temperature before serving.

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