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What Is Grilling?
Grilling is a method of cooking food on a metal grate directly over a heat source—a gas flame, or burning coals or firewood—which involves heat transfer via radiation. The high heat involved in grilling allows for very rapid browning, so it’s best for foods that don’t need prolonged cooking.
Charcoal Vs. Gas Grilling
There are two main ways of grilling: with charcoal or gas. Charcoal grills rely on burning coals that must be set on fire using a chimney starter or lighter fluid, whereas gas grills are connected to a tank of gas and work like a gas stovetop. Charcoal grills can be fueled by briquettes, made of compressed wood and sawdust; hardwood charcoal; or binchotan, a Japanese charcoal that looks like wood and burns at a lower temperature and for longer than hardwood charcoal (Thomas Keller’s charcoal of choice for grilling on a hibachi). Gas grills are more predictable, but charcoal and wood-fired grills will provide additional flavor from the smoke they generate.
What Are the Best Foods For Grilling?
Since grilling involves such high heat, it’s best for thin cuts of meat and tender vegetables. Grilling is ideal for:
- Fruits and vegetables with husks or peels, such as corn, tomatillos, plantains, and pineapple.
- Fruits and vegetables with thick skins that can be rubbed off, such as large bell or poblano peppers, and eggplants.
- Thick, oiled slices of bread.
- Lamb or pork chops.
- Baby back ribs.
- New York strip steak, bone-in ribeye, hanger steak, strip steak, skirt steak, or flank steak. Find our steak cuts guide here.
- Chicken breasts, chicken thighs, chicken wings, or chicken drumsticks (learn about the parts of a chicken here).
- Firm fish such as swordfish and salmon, or whole fish such as branzino, sardines, or snapper.
- Chicken, beef, lamb, or vegetable kebabs with red onions, bell peppers, summer squash, and portobellos.
- Hot dogs and hamburgers.
6 Grilling Tips
- The easiest way to grill is to build a two-zone fire, with one medium-hot zone and one medium-low zone. If using a charcoal grill, arrange coals so that one area is hotter. For a gas grill, keep one burner on low and the other on high. Brown food in the medium-hot zone and move to the medium-low side of the grill to finish cooking through indirect heat.
- Tests charcoal’s readiness by holding your hand six inches above the grill; the heat should be intense enough that he has to pull his hand away in two seconds or less.
- Try lightly oiling the ingredients, rather than the grill, since excess oil will burn.
- Clean grill grates before grilling, to avoid eating burnt bits.
- Keep a spray bottle of water on hand to deal with flare-ups.
- It’s okay to turn meat when grilling, but if you want to get grill marks, don’t move it until the marks have formed.
8 Recipe Ideas for the Grill
Take advantage of a grill’s intense heat and smoky flavor with:
- Grilled skirt steak and fried eggs
- Grilled chicken with barbecue sauce or a soy sauce-brown sugar marinade
- Grilled fish tacos
- Grilled salsa verde
- Grilled cauliflower steaks
- Grilled green onion dip with potato chips
- Elote (Mexican grilled corn)
- Potatoes grilled in foil packets
Grilled Steak With Herb Butter Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time20 min
For the butter:
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs, such as basil, parsley, or thyme
- 1 shallot, minced
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- Kosher salt, to taste
For the steak:
- 2 pounds skirt steak
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil, or other vegetable oil, to taste
- Make the herb butter: On a large cutting board, smash all ingredients together with a fork until thoroughly combined. Shape into a log and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until solid, at least 30 minutes.
- Pat the steak dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
- Rub steak with a light coat of oil. Prepare a grill by lightly oiling grates or spraying with nonstick cooking spray. For a gas grill, preheat to medium-high heat. Cook steak until a deep brown crust forms, about 2–3 minutes per side for medium rare. If you want medium well, cook for an additional couple of minutes per side.
- For a perfect steak, let the steak rest for 10 minutes and slice into thin strips, against the grain, on a cutting board. Top with slices of herb butter.
Learn more culinary techniques in Chef Thomas Keller’s MasterClass.