Now that summer grilling is back, a few key tips for a perfect barbecue

Make sure you always use a thermometer and tongs, and never, ever clean the grate with a wire brush

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      As the first day of summer approaches, many people think about dusting off the barbecue and getting ready to host a few months’ worth of backyard (or patio and park) cookouts with family and friends.

      Those who love the taste of barbecued foods like steak, burgers, chicken, or salmon probably didn’t get to indulge their hobby too many times last summer due to the pandemic’s restrictive public-health rules.

      But the recent easing of those emergency orders allows small outdoor gatherings in B.C., so here are a few key BBQ tips.

      Do I leave the lid up or down?

      Keep the barbecue top up if you are grilling thinner cuts of meat like burgers, small steaks, pork chops, or skewers of seafood, meat, and vegetables. They will cook relatively quickly.

      The top should be down for extra-thick steaks (but never tuna), chicken (whole or parts, wings excepted), ribs, or more ambitious projects like roasts in order to maintain even, high heat. And get yourself a good-quality meat thermometer for top-down grilling. It’s key.

      Never do this

      Never turn a steak, burger, sausage, or chicken by piercing with a fork and flipping. The juices will run out, you will get flare-ups, and you will end up serving leather to your guests. Use tongs. The same goes for cutting into any meat to check doneness.

      Get the aforementioned meat thermometer, look up the ideal temperature for the desired degree of doneness, and learn to trust your most important barbecue tool. (Burgers, hot dogs, and skewers can usually be safely and reliably cooked by sight.)

      And never, ever use a wire brush to clean your grill. The bristles can break off, end up in the food, and pierce someone’s esophagus, stomach, or intestines, among other things. Seriously.

      Always do this

      Oil and preheat your grill grate. Just do it. And did we say to always use a thermometer and tongs? Also, for less stress, try to cook just one type of meat at a time (kiddie foods like hot dogs on the side excepted).

      How to grill a perfect extra-thick steak

      For those who love a really big strip loin (New York) or ribeye steak (about two inches thick), there’s nothing worse than ruining (then eating) an expensive cut of meat. Hard on the wallet and stomach.

      For medium-rare bliss, preheat your grill to a high temperature, with only one side turned on for propane and the charcoal evenly spread over just one half of the barbecue bottom for the traditionalists. Have your steak at room temp, generously sprinkled on both sides with kosher salt and fresh-cracked black pepper at least 30 to 60 minutes in advance.

      Place over the “cooler”, indirect-heat area and close the lid. No flipping.

      Wait 10 minutes or so and check the meat temperature (in the centre of the thickest part) until it gets to about 120° F, then move the steak (ahem, tongs only) to the side of the grill with high, direct heat and sear a few minutes per side, lid up, until the internal temperature is about 130° F.

      Remove to a warm plate, tent with foil, and wait 10 minutes before cutting or serving. It will get to about 135° F, the classic medium-rare level. Perfection.

      Burger tips

      Keep all the fancy additions (meaning meatloaf staples like eggs, breadcrumbs, sauces, marinades, onions, and spices) out of the meat.

      Use good-quality lean ground beef. Never overhandle the meat when forming patties.

      Put kosher salt and pepper on one side. Grill over high, direct heat to desired doneness. Add stuff later. Your mouth will thank you.