Some people really know how to barbeque. It seems like everything they make turns out delicious, whether it's flavorful veggie shish kabobs or a thick, juicy steak.
Probably one of the reasons things go so well for these backyard chefs is that they've learned some of the secrets of how to barbeque - like when to use high heat or hot coals.
Seal In the Juices
You've probably heard someone say that the best way to cook meat and other foods on the grill is to use high heat to sear the outsides of the food and seal in juices and flavor. Many people who know how to barbeque use this approach with veggies or medium rare steaks.
In fact, searing over high heat works great for most foods that you don't want to cook thoroughly. But if you have a menu item like pork ribs or hamburgers, for instance, you need to cook the meat all the way through to avoid bacteria and other health concerns.
Ask anyone who knows how to barbeque -- if you were to use high heat for these foods, and cook them for 15 or 20 minutes, you end up with dry, charred ribs or burgers.
The reason for this is because as meat cooks, the cells and fibers tighten and the moisture and juices are squeezed out. Searing will help seal those outer layers of food that cook first, but if left on high heat, the inner layers will cook too quickly and the juices will vaporize. It takes some trial and error when first learning how to barbeque different foods.
10 Minutes Tops
The best bet is to use high heat for up to 5 minutes on each side. If you like your steaks medium rare or your veggies still a bit crunchy, they should be done by then. After 10 minutes on high heat, any other food should be moved to a part of the grill with medium heat and allowed to finish cooking at a lower temperature.
How the Experts Do It
Those experts who know how to barbeque everything, from delicate shrimp or fruits to thick juicy burgers, have several ways to tell how hot their fires are.
One common test is to hold your hand a couple of inches above the grill grate. If you can keep it there just for a second, you have high heat (over 600(). If you can hold your hand over the coals for a few seconds, the heat is in the medium range (about 400(). And with low heat, you can typically stand the heat for 5 or more seconds.
High heat is an important technique to master when learning how to barbeque. Used correctly, it helps seal in delicious juices and gives food that perfect browned look. But given time, high heat will also turn foods dry, tough, and even charred.
It can take a bit of practice to learn which foods cook best with high heat, but practice is the name of the game when learning how to barbeque.