The Art of Grilling

The Art of Grilling

It's grill season and there's nothing like the aroma of sizzling food to whet the appetite. To grill successfully-whether cooking a steak or vegetables-follow these easy steps.

| Published:


1) Clean the grill: Food sticks to dirty grates, and carbon buildup from previous cooking leaves an unpleasant grit. So it’s best to clean the grates with a stiff wire brush. For gas grills, also clean the burner jets with standard oven cleaner so the gas can flow evenly.

2) Oil and preheat the grill: After cleaning, wipe the grates with a towel slightly moistened with canola or vegetable oil. Then preheat the grill; a hot grill ensures that food sears on contact. Have tongs and spatulas handy to manipulate the food; avoid piercing with forks, which drains moisture. Keep several cups of water ready to douse flare-ups if they occur.

3) Dry, oil and season food: Wet food will steam instead of searing properly. To prevent steaming, dry the food completely with paper towels and then lightly brush with canola or vegetable oil (too much oil can cause flare-ups). Season food with salt and pepper or a spice rub just before placing it on the grill. The heat will drive the flavor of the seasonings into the food.

Grilling Tips

For great flavor and presentation, don’t move food for at least one minute after placing on the hot grates. Then use tongs to rotate food 90 degrees, which will produce appealing, diamond-shaped grill marks on the food. Sear one minute before flipping and searing another minute. Never press down; doing so forces out moisture and does not make the food cook faster. After searing, transfer food to a cooler area of the grill (or close the lid and reduce the heat). Most foods need to cook about 10 minutes for each inch of thickness.

Charcoal vs. Gas

The flavor of grilled food comes from searing and the ambient smoke produced by the grill’s fuel. Gas grills offer convenience because they heat up quickly. But a gas flame doesn’t provide any flavor. A smoky flavor comes from the incineration of fat that drips onto the flames and then infuses the food. Good-quality charcoal or hardwood renders better flavor than gas. The quality of the charcoal or wood is as important to the overall flavor as is the cut of meat and its seasonings. One caveat: Charcoal grills require more advance preparation and take longer to heat up than gas. Some gas grills have smoker boxes that can be filled with wood chips, which give off a smoke flavor while grilling.


Photos by Laura-Chase McGeheeGrilled Steak with Cowboy Rub

Serves 4


3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
4 large steaks, each at least 1-inch thick


1. Preheat grill. Make a rub of salt, pepper and chili powder.  
2. Season the steaks liberally with the rub 10 minutes before grilling.  
3. Place the steaks on the hot grill. Cook 1 minute, then use tongs to turn the meat 90 degrees. Cook 1 minute, dousing any flare-ups by flicking water or sprinkling beer on them.  
4. After another minute, flip the steaks and sear for one additional minute. If using a gas grill, close the lid and turn down the flame, or move the steaks to a cooler part of the grill. If using a charcoal grill, close the dampers and the lid.  
5. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes until the steaks are cooked through. Transfer to a clean plate or sheet tray.  
6. Let the meat rest for about 5 minutes before serving.  
7. Serve with chimichurri sauce.

Chimichurri Sauce


1 large bunch of fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, thick stems trimmed
1 handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stems
Leaves from 2 to 3 stems of fresh oregano
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 shallot, peeled and chopped
1 to 1½ cups extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper


1. Pulse the parsley, cilantro, oregano, garlic, shallot and about ¼ cup of the olive oil in a food processor until the leaves are coarsely ground.
2. Add the red wine vinegar, paprika, salt and pepper and pulse until combined. Continue to pulse while drizzling in more olive oil. The sauce should have a fair amount of liquid. For a drier sauce, check for desired consistency as oil is added.
3. Serve immediately or store in a lidded jar in the refrigerator for up to one month. If the olive oil thickens, allow the chimichurri to warm to room temperature before using.

Back to Bethesda Magazine >>

Leading Professionals »

Sponsored Content


* indicates required

Dining Guide