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4 burning BBQ questions answered

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This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Want more expert advice? Check out the May issue for tips and tricks from the country’s leading grill experts.

How often should I clean my barbecue, and how?

You really should be spot cleaning yours every time you use it. Cooking this weekend’s chicken on top of the remnants of last weekend’s chicken is gross. And a dirty barbecue attracts both bears and grease fires. At a minimum, scrape off the grates, and inspect your grease tray or pan. “It doesn’t need to be spotless, but if it’s looking full, you need to scrape it out,” says Mike Rumolo, a co-owner of Dickson Barbeque Centre in Toronto. If you notice what looks like black paint flaking off the underside of the lid, it’s probably carbon buildup. Scrape it to loosen, and wipe away. Careful if you use a barbecue cover. A damp cover on a damp barbecue encourages mould, says Jo Carroll, the owner of BBQ B Clean in Vancouver. “The barbecue needs to be dry. Which is hard when it’s raining every day,” she says. “We had a lot of rain last year, and we saw many more mouldy barbecues.”

Why do I have to let my meat “rest” when it comes off the grill?

As meat cooks, its protein fibres contract and release fluid. When cooking stops, and the hot meat begins to cool down, this process reverses. So if you cut into a piece of meat as soon as you take it off the grill, a lot of that fluid is immediately released before it has time to redistribute. “The meat will be less juicy,” says Peter Purslow of the Meat Science Research Group at the National University of Central Buenos Aires Province. Resting also allows for the meat’s temperature to equalize through carry-over cooking. “Resting is critical,” says Michael Allemeier, a culinary instructor at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. Rest meat by tenting it loosely with foil. A steak may only need five minutes. A large roast? “I’d let that thing rest for up to an hour,” says Allemeier. You know the meat hasn’t rested nearly long enough if, when you cut into it, “the juices and blood are pouring out onto the cutting board. It’s like, ‘Holy cow, I’m gonna need a bigger board!’ ”

My barbecue’s lid is rusty. Can I restore or replace it?

Sure. You can buy replacement lids or, better yet, get one free, if it’s covered by your warranty. If the rust patch is small, it’s worth attempting to salvage the existing lid, at least for the time being. Scrape off the rust, clean with dish soap and water, and dry thoroughly. Done! Put another shrimp on the barbie. Except, wait: even if the grill is working fine, rust isn’t a great sign. If the lid is starting to rust, what’s next? Rust could compromise the barbecue’s integrity, especially if it’s on the legs or near the wheels. “We pay so much attention to the cooking parts of the barbecue that sometimes we forget about the other parts,” says Dickson Barbeque’s Mike Rumolo. “But a lot of times, rust sets in towards the base.” So inspect everything. Nothing ruins dinner like your grill collapsing while you’re trying to cook on it.

Is it necessary to bring meat to room temperature before I grill?

“For me, it is,” says chef Michael Allemeier. “I find that I always end up with a better product.” Bringing a steak to room temperature (about 18°C or 19°C) reduces the extreme difference between the cold fridge (less than 4°C) and a nice medium rare (about 52°C). If your meat is at room temperature when it goes on the grill, “that’s 15 or 16 degrees that you don’t have to cook it,” says Allemeier. With frozen meat, you’re better to first either defrost it in the microwave, or thaw it fully in the fridge. Grilling involves high temperatures applied to the exterior of the meat. So stone cold meat on a screaming hot grill is a recipe for uneven cooking; the exterior can heat up much faster than the centre. “It’s all a question of heat flow,” says meat scientist Peter Purslow. “The bigger the temperature difference between the outside surface and the centre, the more problems. You burn the outside, or leave the centre insufficiently cooked.”

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