Hot off the grill: 5 tips to the perfect July 4 cookout

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jun 22, 2016

With Independence Day approaching, now is the time to get prepared for your July 4 cookout.

From having the perfectly marbled steak to using a grill large enough to handle the demands of entertaining friends and family, outdoor cooks should follow these 5 tips to having the best cookout in the neighborhood.

1)   Cooking meat to temperature

Nothing can ruin a good cookout more than serving undercooked meat. Undercooking meat can cause illnesses like E. coli and salmonella. These organisms can cause vomiting, diarrhea and fever, according to the FDA.

While overcooking meat can help kill off germs, it causes the juices and flavor of meat to disappear. The solution? Purchase a meat thermometer, which will tell you if your meat is hot enough to serve.

The FDA recommends that ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees, and poultry should reach a temperature of 165 degrees.

Steaks can be cooked below 160 degrees, but it is definitely important to cook the outside of the meat, even if you like the inside of the beef to remain rare.

2)   Let meat rest

While it might be tempting to eat meat directly off the grill, it is best to let meat rest three to five minutes before serving. This not only allows for the cooking process to finish within the meat, it also allows for the juices to get reabsorbed by the meat.

The same rule applies before slicing meat. Slicing meat immediately after cooking will cause the juice to run out, and dry out the meat.

3)   Finding the right grill

It is an age-old question: Charcoal or gas? According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, 57 percent of all grills sold in the United States are gas. And as we know, you can get gas grills in any shape, color and cost.

When barbecuing for large groups of people, there are two key factors in choosing a gas grill: Size of the grilling surface, and the number of BTUs.

A larger surface area means food does not have to be crowded on a grill, and allows for chefs to fit more food on the cooking surface. Not only will a large surface area prevent flare-ups, it will also allow space for non-meats; so vegetarian friends can also enjoy food from the grill.

BTUs will give you an idea of how hot your grill can get.  While you may think more BTUs are good, it also could mean the grill uses more energy.  The best rule of thumb is to find a grill that gives 100 BTUs per square inch of cooking area. This will allow your grill to get hot enough to sear meat and prevent food from sticking without using too much energy.

4)   Adding flavor to grilled food

The best time to season food is just before putting it on the grill. When searing meat, this allows the meat to have a crust with your favorite seasoning, adding to the flavor that is already within the meat.

Another great way to add flavor is by adding wood chips. Wood chips come in flavors like mesquite and hickory, and helps add a smoky flavor to grilled items. An easy way to add this flavor is to take wood chips and lay them inside folded aluminum foil. As the wood chips slowly burn on top of your grill grates, it will add a smoky flavor.

5)   Having the best tools

A griller should approach their flaming cauldron with a complete tool belt of accessories for the grill. Among them is a good pair of long, metal tongs. Having long tongs will help avoid getting burned, and metal is more sanitary than most other types of tongs.

Another important tool is a brush to scrape away build up on grill grates. This should be done after the grill has heated up.

If cooking in the evening, another tool that a griller needs is a light. You have to see what you’re cooking.