I’m ashamed to say, I am not a strong barbecue-r. Ever since I met my husband, there has been an unspoken (and ridiculously stereo-typical) understanding that the grill is his domain. This has never bothered me, and in fact, I usually enjoy the clear cut division of labour when bringing a meal to the table.
But things have changed. We have a new grill. And it’s really pretty. Really, really pretty. I want in.
The other night I was in charge of bringing a chicken dish to a family gathering. The husbands were away on a boys trip leaving just us ladies and a gaggle of kids to have a lovely Sunday night dinner. Perfect excuse for me to take over the grill without any of the Dads trying to elbow me out of the way.
I made a delicious Greek marinade from one of my new favourite food blogs Recipe Tin Eats for my two pounds of chicken thighs and off I went. I grabbed a beer, heated up the grill and threw those marinated babies on.
It was a disaster.
Instantly I knew my meat was doomed. I could see the flesh gripping on to the grates. I ripped those thighs apart trying to pull them off when they were done. Big time #fail.
So what went wrong?
Why is it that meat sticks to the grill?
I asked a few people and kept on getting different answers. “Was the grill hot enough?” asked my husband. My sister in law swears by taking it low and slow. Even my desperate google search of “meat sticks to the grill” provided a few different theories as well – did you cook it on direct heat or indirect heat? This way is best, no this way! None of the explanations I was getting had the air of authority and truth that I was looking for.
Bottom line – if I’m ever going to grill chicken thighs again, either for my family or for a group, I NEED to know why my chicken thighs stuck to the grill and what I can do differently next time to avoid it.
So I pulled out the big guns. I went down to Johnstone’s, my local bbq store, and talked to the expert. Then it became crystal clear. I missed a crucial step.
I didn’t oil the grill before I put the meat on.
Stainless steel is going to stick, and if you put cold meat on the grill without enough oil, it’s going to grab hold and not want to let go. – my new bff at Johnstone’s BBQ
It was as simple as that. Even though I gave a light spray of cooking oil before heating the grill, and even though my marinade had some oil in it, it wasn’t enough to prevent the stainless steel “teeth” from sticking.
There are so many great recipes out there that focus on the flavors and ingredients of a dish, but rarely do they go into the technical detail required, assuming that the average home cook knows these things. Sometimes they don’t! So regardless of what recipe you are following, here are some simple tips to prevent your meat from sticking to the grill:
- Before you start, make sure your grill is clean. Scrape off any old food or debris as it will ensure that your meat sticks to the grill! Weber has a good article on how to do this.
- Temperature is up to you and/or the recipe that you are following. I prefer to cook over direct heat on med/high, but every cook has their preference and will swear up and down that theirs is the best way!
- Oil – this part depends on how your meat is prepared:
*Meat with a spice rub (or no seasoning) – spread a thin layer of vegetable oil on both sides of your meat. This ensures an even coating of oil on all of the contact points between the meat and the stainless steal grill.
*Meat that has been marinated – spread a thin layer of oil on the grates directly. I simply dip a wad of paper towel in oil and wipe the grill area that I’m going to use, however some people recommend using tongs to hold the paper so that you don’t burn yourself.
- “Glide” your meat across the grill to it’s grilling place. Starting at one side, you gently slide your meat over the hot grill a few inches before placing it down. It warms up/seals the meat making it less likely to grip, This was a tip from Johnstone’s and I experimented with it last night. Half the chicken simply on an oiled grill, half the chicken “glided” (is that a word??) on to an oiled grill. The unglided chicken had a few sticky areas, but not bad at all. Not a single piece of the glided chicken stuck. Theory proven!
- Flip – If you are ready to flip and your meat sticks to the grill, it might be a sign that it’s not cooked enough. Meat tends to “let go” when it’s cooked.
- Grill your meat with confidence knowing that you have properly prepared the meat and/or the grill for your masterpiece.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned during my studies a cooking school is that technique and simple “know hows” is often more important than the choice of recipe. So remember these tips the next time you are grilling chicken on the bbq:
- Clean Grill
- Oil – either the meat or the grill
- Glide On
- Don’t flip too soon
Cooking a steak? Some simple (and similar) rules apply for perfect steak every time! Check out this article for 7 key tips for grilling an amazing steak.