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Secrets to Perfect Grilling

Tips from barbecue expert Adam Perry Lang.

Despite his Long Island, New York, upbringing and culinary training at top French restaurants like Manhattan's Daniel, chef Adam Perry Lang has proven his barbecuing know-how at his fantastic New York City joint, Daisy May's BBQ USA. Although Perry Lang's recipes are rooted in authentic American barbecue, he might also add less traditional ingredients, like the Asian hot sauce sambal oelek, to balance flavor. When he grills steak, however, he's American all the way. "I like my steak burnt and bloody, which is such an American style of grilling," Perry Lang says. Here, he gives his best grilling tips:

Clean and oil the grill

To create the best flavor and prevent food from sticking, the grill needs to be superclean. If you don't have a grill brush, take a foot-and-a-half strip of heavy-duty aluminum foil, crumple it loosely and use it to scrub the grates and remove any burnt bits. If your grill is hot, hold the foil with tongs. After the grates are clean, lightly oil them with canola or vegetable oil using a paper towel.

Reserve a cool spot

There should always be one part of your grill that stays cool so you can move food there if the flame becomes too aggressive. If you're using a gas grill, keep one part of it completely off. If you're grilling with charcoal, leave one spot where there's no flame. Any time there's a flare-up, just move what you're cooking to your safe spot until the flame dies down.

Dry, season and oil meat and fish

Steam from moisture in meat or fish will cool the grill and cause food to stick. Before cooking, dry your meat or fish well with paper towels. Season it with salt, pepper and any spices you want to use. Then lightly oil it so it doesn't stick. If you're using a rub, let it sit on the meat for at least five minutes to help create a flavor crust. Preheat the grill until it's very hot, then add the food. Don't move meat or fish for the first few minutes. To see if the pieces are ready to flip, lightly test them with tongs. If they stick, wait another minute or so. People tend to get especially nervous when they're cooking fish because it sticks so much and breaks easily. When you flip fish, move it to a spot on the grill that's been newly cleaned and oiled; use a sturdy, sharp-edged spatula as opposed to tongs to help prevent the fish from breaking.

Beware of cross-contamination

If you place a piece of raw chicken on the grill, then use the same pair of tongs to take it off later, you risk contaminating your food with bacteria. Instead, use two different tongs or spatulas—one set for handling raw food and one for handling cooked. Mark your utensils with a piece of string or colored tape so you know which is which. If you'd rather not have two sets of tools, make sure to wash them with hot, soapy water in between the stages of cooking.

Finish with barbecue sauce and flavored butter or oil

During the last three to five minutes of cooking, lower the heat or move the food to a cooler spot on the grill and brush the meat or fish with barbecue sauce. Be careful if you're using a sauce with a lot of sugar—it can quickly burn if the fire is too hot. Just after taking the food off the grill, brush it with oil or melted butter. The fat will help keep the food from drying out too quickly as it sits. For additional flavor, add ingredients like herbs, garlic or scallions to the butter or oil.

Published June 2007
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