Summer is America's season of pleasure—long weekends, refreshing swims, cold drinks—and the annual coronation of grilling as the seasonal king of cooking methods. It doesn't feel like summer has truly arrived until you're outside and your backyard is filled with the heady smoke of a grill. While you might already know your way around a grill, there are plenty of ways to make this outdoor cooking season your best yet. We tapped lifelong griller Bill Briand, a three-time James Beard nominee and the executive chef at Playa at Sportsman Marina and Fisher's at Orange Beach Marina, for his top grilling secrets.
Grill and grill often
Whatever your favorite kind of grill is, Briand says, cook on it as much as you can while the weather holds out. The more comfortable you are with the grill, the more possibilities you can explore with this method of cooking. "I pretty much grill every night that I'm not cooking in the restaurant," he says. For grilling novices (or experienced grillers looking for even more delicious and consistent results), Char-Broil TRU-Infrared cooking technology creates the closest thing to no-fail grilling. The magic lies just below the grates: a steel emitter plate retains the natural infrared heat of the flames and radiates that heat back to your food, yielding tastier, juicier meat, fish, vegetables, you name it.
For big meat flavor, don't be afraid of fat
Cooking on the grill lends itself well to cuts with a higher fat content. The high heat melts that nice marbling, resulting in tender, flavorful meat. Briand’s favorites are ribs, rib-eye steaks, and pork butt. Be mindful when using fattier cuts as fat dripping on flames can cause sudden flare-ups and burn quickly. Char-Broil TRU-Infrared cooking technology features an emitter plate between the flames and your food, which helps prevent flare-ups and ensures your meat is perfectly cooked.
Don't forget about fish
While steaks, burgers, and chicken are always crowd-pleasers, seafood is also a fantastic—and healthy—choice for the grill. A Gulf Coast native, Briand is a longtime fisherman and loves grilling that day’s fresh catch. “Don’t be afraid to grill meaty fish like mahi-mahi and snapper,” he says. “Just oil the skin side and use the highest heat you can to keep it from sticking.” About 400°F will do the trick.
A salt-forward marinating technique that is often forgotten after Thanksgiving, brining is Briand’s favorite way to prep chicken and pork for the grill—it turns out juicy, flavorful meat every time. Briand advises planning ahead, as you’ll need to brine overnight for optimum flavor. Start with a 1/2-gallon of liquid (Briand likes to use a blend of water and beer, or water and tea) and add ½ cup each of sugar and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil to dissolve, remove from heat, and add handfuls of fresh herbs like bay leaves, thyme, or rosemary. When the brine is cool, submerge the meat and refrigerate overnight.
Juice up your wood chips
Wood chips are an excellent way to add a subtle smoked flavor to whatever you're grilling. "To give your smoke a pleasant citrus flavor, soak your chips in orange juice," says Briand. He suggests soaking them for two hours before using to make sure they don't burn up on the grill. When you're ready to grill, put the chips in a smoker box and place over direct heat to get them smoking, then transfer to a cooler side of the grill before you add your ingredients. Char-Broil offers a variety of wood chips, from mesquite and whiskey wood to Tabasco and cherry.
Prep everything first
Briand likes to prepare his meat, vegetables, and any accompanying sauces in the kitchen before he even lights the grill. He recommends bringing the entire setup outside whenever you’re ready to start cooking. That way you can chat with friends and family on the deck or patio and concentrate on the food without having to pop in and out of the kitchen.
Split the space
One of the most convenient things about grilling is that you can cook meat and vegetables in the same space, with minimal cleanup after dinner. When cooking over a single flame (and therefore just one major heat level), Briand puts vegetables on one side and meat on the other to make keeping track of cooking times easier. The Char-Broil Commercial Series TRU-Infrared Double Header Gas Grill further simplifies the process with two separate cooking zones along with four main burners, including a stovetop and griddle side burner. Make sure you've stocked up on the right tools, from tongs to spatulas, to manage the flow.
A good sear is half the pleasure in grilled food. If you want your meat to have a proper crust, be sure not to turn your meat too soon. Heat your TRU-Infrared Grill to medium or medium-high (400°F), then use this handy guide to determine how many minutes per side your protein needs. Once you've achieved that elusive sear, don't forget to test doneness—it's all about the internal temperature. "I always use a grilling thermometer to check whether my meat is done," Briand says.
Enjoy the moment
Grilling season is short, so make the most of it. Part of the pleasure of cooking outside is taking in your natural surroundings, inhaling the tantalizing aroma of what you’re cooking, and enjoying the party itself, says Briand. After all, it’s summertime, and the entertaining should be easy.
Once the barbecue is over and the grill cools down, scrape the grates with a Char-Broil Cool-Clean brush. The nylon bristles make it easier to use than metal or wire brushes. Then take a rag and wipe down the grates with a thin coat of cooking oil to keep rust at bay, which can be especially challenging if, like Briand, you live somewhere humid. Briand recommends wiping down your grill with lard because "it sticks to the grates really well"—there's no better advice from a Southern chef.