Cooking Tip Thursdays: The Perfect Grill Mark

Cooking Tip Thursdays is dedicated to making time in the kitchen quicker, easier, and just plain better….

Memorial Day Weekend marks the ritual of dusting off the barbecue and firing up the grill. And blessed as we are with this recent burst of beautiful weather, what better way to celebrate than to invite some friends over for an outdoor cookout (or an indoor grill-pan party if you live in this concrete jungle we call New York City)?  To bolster your grill-master game and impress guests, the crosshatch grill mark is a must.  Getting these marks is not a difficult a task, given the right tools, a little preparation, and a few tips on technique.

Basic Rules and Tips of Grilling:

  • You want to grill foods that are naturally tender and less fatty; fat melts and creates burning carcinogens, and I imagine no one wants that…
  • Grilling is a quick cooking method, so you want meats without a lot of connective tissue.
  • If your food is not tender, grill it at low heat for a longer period of time.
  • Marinades impart flavor and act as a tenderizer.
  • The fattier the cut of meat, the longer it should be marinated; this will tenderize it.
  • Never use a lot of acid in your marinade because it will start to cook the protein, like a ceviche.
  • Best fish on the grill: ones with medium to high fat content such as salmon, tuna, halibut, striped bass, and trout.
  • Tofu: always press the water out of it before grilling.
  • For vegetables, you want ones with a higher water content such as zucchini, squash and eggplant.
  • Allow food to come to room temperature before grilling (about 30 minutes prior to cooking).
  • Make sure the grill is clean and oiled.
  • Food will stick to the grill if you try to move it before it has seared.  To avoid this, it’s important that either the grilling grate or the food has a nice coating of oil.  Even well oiled food may have a little stick when first put down on the grill, but with the right lubrication, the food should release from grate after the marks are nicely branded in.
  • Heat your grill ahead of time to ensure it is really hot, as in close to 500 degrees hot.
  • Presentation side always goes down on cooking source first.

The Perfect Grill Mark:

The crosshatch, called the quadrillage in French, is a way to flip your protein or vegetable back and forth to create even cooking and even grill marks.  The idea is to think about your piece of food in quarters. To achieve the crosshatch, the food should start out at a 45-degree angle to the grate.  Cook ¼ of the total cooking time.  Lift it from the grill and rotate (not flip) 90 degrees and sear again, cooking an additional ¼ of the time.  Flip your food over and repeat.  The way I have found is easiest to achieve this is to think of the grill as a steering wheel.  First placing the food and 10 o’clock then at 2 o’clock (repeating on the flip side).  This leaves a diamond grid that will let everyone know that you’re a true grill master.

*Some say these marks don’t add flavor, some say they do.  I’m with the latter.  Plus, I’m certain eating starts with our eyes, and grill marks are definitely evocative in that respect.  What’s better looking than a flawless piece of grilled (fill in the blank: chicken, salmon, tofu, eggplant, bread) with perfect diamond forming lines?



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