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1. Be organized. Have everything you need -- the food, marinade, basting sauce, seasonings, and equipment -- on hand before you start grilling. This may seem like common sense, but you'd be amazed how many people neglect it.
2. Gauge your fuel. There's nothing worse than running out of charcoal or gas in the middle of grilling. (This happens to a lot of people who neglect Commandment #1.) When using charcoal, light enough to form a bed of glowing coals three inches larger on all sides than the food you're planning to cook. (A 22 1/2 inch grill needs about 50 coals.) Always have an extra bag of charcoal on hand. When cooking on a gas grill, make sure the tank is at least one-third full.
3. Preheat the grill to the right temperature. Remember: Grilling is a high heat cooking method. In order to achieve the seared crust, charcoal flavor, and handsome grill marks you're looking for, you must cook over a high heat. How high? At least 500 degrees. When using charcoal, let it burn until covered with a thin coat of gray ash. You're looking for a "three Mississippi" fire. When using a gas grill, preheat to hot (at least 500 degrees); this will take 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Keep it clean. Get yourself a long handled, stiff wire brush and use it to brush any debris off the grate. There's nothing less appetizing than grilling with dirty, old, burnt bits of food stuck to the grate. Besides, food tends to stick to a dirty grate. Clean the grate twice: Once, after you've preheated the grill (but before you've placed the food on it) and again, when you've finished cooking. Use the edge of a metal spatula to scrape off large burnt-on bits.
5. Keep it lubricated. Always oil the grate before placing the food on it. Fold up a paper towel to form a small pad and dip it into a dish of oil. Holding it with long handled tongs, rub the oil-soaked pad over the bars of the grate. (No, the pad won't catch fire.) You can also oil the grate with a fatty piece of bacon, beef fat, or chicken skin held in tongs or at the end of a carving fork. Oil the grill just prior to placing the food on it.
6. Turn, don't stab. Stabbing a steak with a barbecue fork only serves one purpose: to drain the juices out of the meat onto the coals. The proper way to turn meats on a grill is with tongs or a spatula.
7. Know when to baste. Oil- and vinegar-, citrus-, or yogurt-based bastes and marinades can be brushed on the meat throughout the cooking. (Don't use a marinade that contains raw meat or chicken unless you've boiled it first to sterilize it.) Brush sugar-based barbecue sauces on toward the end of cooking. The sugar in these sauces burns easily and should not be exposed to prolonged heat.
8. Keep it covered. When cooking larger cuts of meat and poultry, such as a whole chicken, leg of lamb, or prime ribs keep the grill tightly covered and resist the temptation to peek. Every time you lift the lid, you add 5 to 10 minutes to the cooking time.
9. Give it a rest. Beef, steak, chicken -- almost anything you grill -- will taste better if you let it stand on the cutting board for a few minutes before serving. This lets the meat juices that have been driven to the center of a roast or steak return to the surface. The result of resting is a juicier, tastier piece of meat.
10. Never desert your post. Grilling is an easy cooking method, but it demands constant attention. Once you put something on the grill (especially when using the direct method), stay with it until it's cooked. This is not the time to answer the phone, make the salad dressing, or mix up a batch of your famous margaritas.
Most of all have fun. Remember that grilling isn't brain surgery. And that's the gospel to good grilling!