New Brunswick

Fire it up: The dos and don'ts of backyard grilling

Many Canadians are firing up the grills this weekend, and food writer, chef and teacher Claire Tansey has a few tips to get the barbecue season off to a good start.

Food writer, chef and cooking teacher Claire Tansey has a few tips for a successful barbecue season

Claire Tansey says to make sure your grill is well pre-heated before throwing the meat on. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

For many Canadians, the long weekend in May is the unofficial kick-off to summer, which usually involves cold beverages and hot barbecues.

And just in time, food writer, chef and cooking teacher Claire Tansey offered CBC her pro tips for a successful barbecue season, appearing on New Brunswick's Information Morning Moncton and Toronto's Metro Morning radio programs. 

Charcoal versus gas

Tansey settled the never-ending debate about whether charcoal grills are better than gas grills. Well, sort of. She uses both and fellow food lovers should look for the best of both worlds.

"I find gas is so great for those weeknight dinners, quick and easy, get something going right away, and I like the control that I get," she said.

Charcoal barbecues often add a natural smoky flavour to food. (CBC)

"If it's the weekend and it's a beautiful day, I love to fire up the charcoal barbecue, have a cocktail while it gets hot."

The key, she said, is to using real charcoal.

"It brings a ton of wonderful flavour to things like chicken or steak."

Still, Tansey said if it's a Tuesday night, she's going to the gas barbecue for sure.

Running on fumes

It's the barbecue fanatics' worst nightmare: preparing a feast only to realize there isn't enough propane left to satisfy those taste buds.

Tansey said her trick to figuring it out beforehand is boiling a kettle of water, then pouring the boiling water over the tank on the side. Touch the side of the tank right away.

"Wherever it feels cold, and it will feel quite cold, that's where you still have gas," she said.

"If most of the tank is feeling kind of room temperature to warm, it's probably time to get a backup tank."

Sticky situations

To keep food from sticking, Tansey said there are two essential steps. First, it's important to pre-heat the grill well.

"Leave that thing on full blast for like 15 minutes before you even start."

Don't go moving it around and flipping it right away.- Claire Tansey

Then, just before putting anything on the grill, spray the grates with a cooking spray, or take a clean rag, dip it in a neutral oil like Canola, then wipe it over the grill grates.

"Let the meat sit there for a bit, let it cook for a bit. Don't go moving it around and flipping it right away," Tansey said.

Too hot sauces

Sauces can add the perfect amount of flavour to top off a meal. However, Tansey said when it comes to sauces burning before the taste test, the culprit is the sweetness.

"If you're using a marinade and it's like lemon juice and herbs, no problem," she said.

"But as soon as you add something like brown sugar or honey, or if you're using barbecue sauce, you can't really use those sauces as a marinade."

Tansey said barbecuers have to wait to add sauce, otherwise it will just caramelize and burn.

"Instead, put your chicken breast on, your pork chops, whatever it is, get them like three-quarters of the way cooked, and then you can brush them with the sauce the last couple of minutes."

What to try

Tansey suggested giving pizza on the barbecue a try this summer.

"Taking that raw dough and throwing it right on the grill, it's so fun and really delicious."

Tansey said one of her new favourite barbecue items is pizza. (CBC)

Another two of her latest barbecue favourites are asparagus, which she said is delicious this time of year, and artichokes.

"Poach them first, then finish them off on the grill. You want to sort of precook them in boiling water then just finish them on the grill, so [for] a couple minutes."

With files from Information Morning Moncton