Everyone seems to have their lists of advice, so I figured, now that we’re well into the peak of grilling season, to add mine!
So, with no further adieu, here is Bucky McOinkum’s 9 Tips For Cooking Outdoors:
1. Have a fire extinguisher handy.
Ok, first one is boring, but, really, have a fire extinguisher on hand. You never know when you need it, and even seasoned cooks have issues. When you’re cooking outside, you’re likely working with flame of some sort, and things do happen!
2. Take the time to determine what tools you like to use.
This is somewhat different than I hear most people say; most want to tell you what tools to use. However, I think people do things differently. I’ll give advice now and then on something I happen to like, but if you choose something differently, that’s fine with me, too.
3. Learn how to cook with wood.
Whatever method or fuel that you use, learn how wood can be
incorporated into the cooking you do. It will add flavor you can’t get
any other way, and, most likely, you and your family/friends will love
4. Don’t do too much to the food!
What I mean by this is don’t poke it and prod it and stab it and cut
into it all while it’s cooking. Leave it alone as much as you can
while doing what you need to do to cook whatever it is you’re cooking.
The more you mess with it, the more likely you are to do something to
dry it out or even just mess up those great grill marks you finally got
on that steak!
5. Let it rest.
This is one that probably everyone says, but it’s oh so true! I didn’t
believe it at first, and I’d cut into a piece of chicken right off the
grill, only to have the chicken end up dry. For grilled meats, let
them rest, covered loosely in foil, for about 5 or so minutes before
you even THINK about cutting into them. The juices will have
redistributed, and the meat will retain them much better, making each
bite more than worth that wait!
For smoked foods, they’re much bigger, usually, and I let them rest for
sometimes an hour or more, wrapped in foil and placed in a warmed
cooler. Again, worth the wait!
6. Throw out the grill fork.
This goes with number 5… Poking with a grill fork is never good. I
know I said to find what tools you like, but make sure you don’t like
the grill fork! Poking big holes in meat will only allow the juices to
7. Cook to temperature, not time.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a pretty good general rule. Even
once you can cook a steak without taking it’s temp, knowing how to get
it to the right temp, knowing the feel of it done the way you like it,
is best done by first taking the temp. You have to be careful, though;
some of the probes are huge, and will work much like a grill fork,
letting out all the juices. Most of the good instant-read thermometers
have very small probes that don’t cause that problem.
Cooking with flame means that there will be variations in the
temperatures; cooking the meat to temperature is the only way to really
8. Don’t just cook meat!
You can use the grill and/or smoker to cook everything in a meal. One
of the reasons for cooking outside is to not heat up the kitchen. Corn
on the cob, onions, asparagus, green beans, potatoes… I can’t think
of many veggies that don’t do well on the grill in one form or
another. There are ways to set up your grill to act more like an oven,
too, allowing you to cook covered dishes and desserts, too.
9. Don’t get in a rut.
This is my last item for today… And one that I don’t always do well.
Keep some variety in what you cook outside. Always cooking the same
thing will become boring quickly, and pushing yourself to do something
else can result in finding new favorites to cook outside.
All in all, just enjoy the time you get to spend outside cooking for friends, family or even just yourself.
Here’s a bonus tip, though, which I’m not including in the list, as it’s for more than just outside cooking:
Forget about ‘secrets’ in cooking. Unless it’s got commericial value,
don’t keep secrets from others; tell them what’s in that rub you have,
or how you got the crust on your break so perfect. Let them learn and
enjoy if they want to try it, too. Most likely, they’ll always give
you credit for it, and you spread around the enjoyment of cooking
instead of setting yourself up to be an ‘expert’. Develop the attitude
of sharing, not the attitude of one-upping.