It’s Victoria Day weekend, Canada’s unofficial kickoff to summer. Summer is the time for family gatherings, camping, cottaging and friends.  All of these include food and there’s nothing better than a hot dog, burger, chicken, ribs or steak prepared on the grill.  Traditionally it’s the guys who man the grill, and more often than not they simply fire up the BBQ on high, toss meat onto the grill, turn / flip excessively (because we’ve obviously gotta be flipping it in order to cook it), then take it off and serve immediately.

The thing is, there’s a lot more to grilling than following this simple scenario and I’d like to dedicate a series of articles to the BBQ; a how to (so to speak) improve our skills. It’s taken me many years of trial & error, as well culinary experience to develop my own unique style – while I’m not a pit master, I would consider myself somewhat of an authority on the art of grilling.  I’d like to share my knowledge and experience with you to improve your grilling experience.  Remember, there’s no right or wrong here but I’m sure that everyone can benefit from some of the information that I’m going to pass along.

First off, what is barbequing?  To many, barbeque is cooking over an open flame.  In reality it’s much more than that.  In the southern United States, barbeque is slow roasting meat over smoke for hours. Cooking over direct heat is grilling.  Everything is done over wood / charcoal – gas is forbidden for a true barbeque aficionado.  We Canadians consider BBQ anything cooked on the grill, and for that purpose we’ll incorporate both BBQ and grilling techniques into this series (no need to get hung up on semantics here).

Whether you are using charcoal or gas the first tip that is necessary is that you must insure that your grill is hot enough.  Far too many people make the common mistake of firing up and tossing meat onto a grill.  The grill should be be preheated for 15 to 25 minutes to ensure that all bacteria is killed off and that the grill will sear food on contact.  This will help to prevent the food from sticking to the grill and will also help to keep the inside moist.  Once your grill has reached the correct temperature and the food has been placed onto the grill, reduce the heat to ensure even and proper cooking.  One of the most common mistakes that people make is that they leave the grill at a high temperature during the entire cooking time, which chars the outside of the meat and often doesn’t properly cook the inside.  By the time the inside is cooked, the outside is charred to a crisp and the rest of the meat ends up being overcooked (residual cooking).  A trick that I often use is to sear the presentation side, reduce heat after placing all of the product onto the grill and finishing on the top rack or by indirect cooking.  Remember to rest your meat after removing from the grill before serving.  This allows for the juices to reformulate throughout the food.  I’ll go into these in more detail later on in the series.

I think that this is enough information for our initial article, try following these simple techniques the next time that you barbeque – I’m sure that you’ll notice immediate results. Why not try your new found skills with this simple BBQ chicken breast technique that I often follow.

Preheat your grill to high (400 to 450 degrees Farenheit).  Season the chicken breast in a dish or bowl – I use a few cranks of sea salt, cracked pepper and a pinch of chipotle, paprika or other dry seasoning for additional flavour, a dash of lime juice and a little oil to reduce sticking (you can either oil your grill directly with a cloth or paper towel or oil chicken directly, don’t use too much oil to cause flare-ups though)- place on grill once preheated.  For aesthetics, I place the chicken onto the grill diagonally (at 2 o’clock) and don’t overcrowd your grill.  Reduce heat to medium high (350 degrees) and sear for 8 to 10 minutes (close the lid and walk away).  Check your grill and move the breasts to the top grill to finish cooking (another 5 to 8 minutes depending on thickness) – once again, close the lid and walk away.  The chicken is ready when an internal temperature of 165 degrees Farenheit is reached (insert a meat thermometer into the centre of the breast (horizontally, not straight through the middle to hide the piercing from plain sight).  Remove from grill and plate, allowing 5 to 7 minutes for the chicken to rest, residual cooking to continue and the juices to settle before serving.  I usually apply BBQ sauce after the cooking process is complete (if at all), but if you want to apply while on the grill to get that caramelized effect, do so during the final five minutes of cooking.  Voila, you will have some amazing tasting grilled chicken breast.

I hope that you give this a try – please let me know how it turns out.  Live Tastefully!