You’ve mastered the art of cooking pretty much anything in a cast iron skillet and your cacio e pepe is legendary. But perfecting your barbecue game? A little more challenging. So we checked in with our friends at LongHorn Steakhouse and tapped some of the best female grill masters in the country for their top tips.
8 Barbecue Secrets from the Country’s Top Female Grill Masters
Get ready for this jelly
It turns out that your favorite morning toast topper is equally delicious for dinner. “I often season meat with jams, jellies and compotes,” says certified grill master Kimberly Markley. “One of my favorite combinations is basting pork chops with a raspberry jam that’s spiked with jalapeños—the fire of the grill plays great off of the sweet and spicy mix,” she tells us. Yum.
Turn up the heat
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when barbecuing steak is not letting the grill heat up enough (a high temperature is crucial for a hard sear and an even cook). Here’s a handy rule of thumb: Heat your grill up to 500 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit, which takes about 25 to 30 minutes for a gas grill and 45 to 60 minutes for charcoal. (It’ll be worth the wait, we promise.)
Foil packets are your friend
Markley’s favorite way to grill vegetables? In a no-fuss foil packet. Just chop up your favorite veggies (she likes onions, mushrooms, zucchini and squash), and place them into a homemade foil packet with some seasoning. Throw the whole thing on top of the grill, cook for about 15 to 20 minutes and that’s it—an easy recipe that’s great for camping or when you want a rustic meal at home with zero dishes to wash up.
Flatten your burgers
Nobody likes a tiny burger (come on, give us a grown-up portion). The secret to avoiding the dreaded burger shrinkage is to flatten your patties before grilling. And make sure that each patty is about one quarter to half an inch larger than your bun.
Think beyond vegetables
Want to wow guests with minimal effort on your part? Throw some fruit on the barbecue. Grill master Michelle Cerveny’s favorite summertime dessert of all time is grilled peaches. “Halve your fruit, remove the pit and coat with a brown sugar, butter and cinnamon mix,” she tells us. “Next, place them on a grill until they caramelize and get a little soft. You could eat them right off the grill—or cut them up and serve on top of ice cream or French toast.” Yes, to all of the above.
Raid your fridge for seasoning inspiration
There’s nothing wrong with salt and pepper, but don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavorings. Two surprising seasonings the experts swear by: Chicken wings marinated in Italian dressing before tossing on the grill and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of veggies. But whatever you do, don’t be stingy. A lot of the seasoning is going to fall through the grates as you’re flipping your food, so more is more.
Skip the lighter fluid
Yes, lighter fluid can speed things along, but it also impacts the flavor of your food. Instead, start your charcoal grill with paper. Here’s how: Wad the paper up tight, put it inside a charcoal chimney starter, place the charcoal on top, then light it up. Now, that flavor is all charcoal (and not lighter fluid).
Don’t fear fish
Grilling fish can be intimidating. (What if it gets stuck on the grates and everything you cook from now on tastes like fish?) But it doesn’t have to be. The key is to pick a hearty fish, like salmon or tuna, and cutting into one- to two-inch-thick pieces before grilling. Then, cook them like steak, but with one key difference—use a fish spatula (a metal, slotted one) to flip. Simple.