Nina’s Tips: Your Questions, Answered! Safe Grilling

grilled BBQ chickenHow long should I cook chicken on the grill? I know it’s not supposed to be pink inside, but the alternative tends to be really dry. Help!

How long does it take? This is my MOST FAVORITE cooking question! And the answer is “until it’s done!” My best suggestion to anyone learning to cook any kind of meat or poultry is to use an instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. No matter what a recipe says, you can never use time as an indicator for doneness. Think about it: no two pieces of chicken are the same. They could be thicker, thinner, heavier, one brand or another. And no two grills are the same. One might be charcoal, another gas, one tends to be super-hot, different brands, etc. For these reasons you should always rely on internal temperature to tell you when something is done! Insert your thermometer into the center of the meat (or right next to the bone if it is bone-in). Poultry should be cooked to 160 degrees F. This is the sweet spot between too pink and too dry!

I’m struggling with steaks too… I know you can cook it to your liking, but it’s always so tough you can barely chew it. What’s the best way to get it tender and juicy?

Once again, try using a thermometer instead of time. The tenderness of the meat (when cooked) is based on two factors: One, the cut. And two, the fat content… I’ll explain more!
1.) The cut… Different cuts are naturally more or less lean and more or less tough. It’s important to know what kind of cut you are working with. Lean meats can cook quickly at high temps and remain tender. Tougher cuts need longer, slower cooking times in order to break down connective tissue that makes them tough.
2.) The fat… Cuts with higher fat content (like ribeye and NY strip) need time to allow that fat to render out, or it will be chewy and tough. Look at the marbled fat in your beef; if there is a lot of it try marking you steaks on a hot grill, then moving them to the side of the grill where it’s not so hot to let the fat render gently into the meat until they reach your desired doneness.

Bonus Tips!

Rest your meat! And cut against the grain! No matter what protein you are cooking, let it rest at least 10 minutes after grilling before you cut into it. This helps the meat retain more of the juices that can spill out if you cut too soon. When slicing the meat look at the direction the grains in the meat run and cut perpendicularly. Imagine each grain as a long rubber band – cutting them cross-wise will help give you meat a more tender mouthfeel.

Recipe: Grilled Chicken with Cherry Peach BBQ Sauce