Quick Tips: How to Keep Your Food From Sticking to Your Grates
July 22, 2013
It’s a basic tip, but one worth repeating: keep your grill clean! Meathead of AmazingRibs.com helps us get the meat to the plate.
Unless you are using a nonstick coated grill grate, and you should not, food will stick to the cooking surface, especially if it has not been cleaned properly. Always pre-heat the grill before adding food, and always clean the grates thoroughly so no grease or carbon remains.
The compounds that compose food are cold, and the metal is hot, and when the two meet a bond forms between them. If food is sticking and you try to lift it you will likely leave some attached to the metal. If you leave it alone for a few minutes the meat will let go.
The best way to prevent sticking is to pat your meat dry and then put some oil between the meat and the metal. It fills the microscopic nooks and crannies in them both and makes a relatively smooth surface. And, as you know, oil is just plain slippery. Use an oil that has a high smoke point. Most refined cooking oils will do the job. I use olive oils and peanut oils.
As the cool food hits the hot metal, oil slips into the microscopic ridges and ruts in the metal, and the heat causes water vapor to exit the meat where the metal is. That’s the sizzle and it continues until the surface above the metal dries out a bit. Because oil and water don’t mix, this vapor lifts the meat above the oil.
Most of the time, just coating the food is sufficient, but sometimes you need to coat the grates as well. I know a famous BBQ book author says “Keep it hot, keep it clean, keep it lubed” but I am not a huge fan of putting oil on hot grill grates. Try it and tell me what happens. First thing is the oil “cracks” and almost immediately it starts to smoke. That’s burning oil, and it doesn’t smell or taste good. It rapidly carbonizes on the metal surface.
If you oil the meat, the cool mass of the meat will keep that burnt oil residue off the food.