Does your grill erupt into a towering fireball whenever you add meat or veggies to the cooking grate? Known as a flare-up, it’s a common problem encountered by home chefs. While flare-ups are only temporary — meaning the flame dies back down shortly after it erupts — it can still scorch the exterior of your food. You may discover your meat or veggies have a charred exterior, or it could be burnt to the point where it’s no longer consumable. Regardless, you can prevent flare-ups when grilling by following a few simple steps.
Trim Fat From Meat
Before adding meat to your grill, trim any excess fat. Flare-ups are often the result of fat being melted and landing on the charcoal or wood. When you grill a piece of fatty meat, some of the fat will liquefy and fall through the grate. And once it hits the burning charcoal or wood, it will quickly ignite and burn, resulting in a flare-up. By trimming excess fat from your meat, you’ll discourage flare-ups from occurring.
Go Easy on the Oils
Follow the “less is more” approach when adding oil to your food. You can still brush meat or veggies with oil, but you shouldn’t use too much. Coating your food in oil is an easy and effective way to prevent it from sticking to your grill’s grate, but the more oil you add, the greater the risk of a flare-up. Like fat, oil has a tendency to ignite and erupt into a fireball when exposed to burning charcoal or wood. The less oil you use, the lower the risk of flare-ups. Besides, you only need a light, thin coating of oil to prevent food from sticking to your grill’s grate.
Clean the Grease Catch Pan
Assuming your grill has a grease catch pan, you should clean it each time you use your grill. As the name suggests, the grease catch pan is designed to catch and hold grease. It’s usually found at the bottom of a grill, with a small drain hole leading to it. As grease accumulates in the catch pan, it can lead to flare-ups. Some of the grease inside the catch pan may ignite once your charcoal or wood begins to burn. But you can prevent this from occurring by cleaning the grease catch pan each time you use your grill.
Create a ‘Cool’ Zone
While creating a cool zone won’t necessarily prevent flare-ups, it can protect your food from being burned if they occur. What is a cool zone exactly? A cool zone is an area of your grill that’s significantly cooler than the adjacent space. When a flare-up occurs, use a pair of tongs to quickly move your food to the cool zone until the flame dies down. Flare-ups are usually short, with most lasting just a few seconds. During that time, however, food can quickly burn if it’s directly exposed to heat.
To create a cool zone, simply pile all your charcoal or wood to one side of your grill. The other side will then be your designated cool zone. If a flare-up occurs, quickly move your food to this side. You shouldn’t leave your food sitting in the cool zone, as it may fail to reach a desirable temperature. But during flare-ups, take advantage of this cool space by temporarily moving your food to it. When the flame dies down, you can move your food back to the hot zone.
Use a Grill Basket
Another way to prevent flare-ups is to use a grill basket. Grill baskets are metal containers — typically with a porous bottom — that are used specifically for grilling. Their primary purpose is to prevent small foods, such as chopped veggies, from falling through the grate. But grill baskets can also be used to prevent flare-ups. If you place your food inside a grill basket, some of the melted fat or oil will remain trapped inside the basket. And with less fat or oil reaching the bottom of your grill, flare-ups are less likely to occur.
Don’t Spray With Water
When a flare-up occurs, many people assume that spraying it with water will extinguish the flame. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t always the case. Because flare-ups are often the result of grease or oil being burned, spraying it with water can actually make the problem worse. If you spray a flare-up with water, it may cause the flame to grow larger. The water vapor will essentially pick up some of the grease or oil, thereby fueling the flame. Rather than spraying it with water, allow the flame to die down naturally.
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