Why Your Food Sticks to the Grill—And How to Prevent It

BCFT Food Scientists Spotlight: Webb Girard & Katherine Langel


Our in-house meat expert Anne-marie offers her 5 favorite tips to help you up your grilling game!


Emily Munday

As a lover of all things smoky, I try to grill all year round (picture this girl on a Seattle rooftop, tongs in hand, rain drizzling down her nose as she tries to keep the coals hot under her steak in the PNW winter rain). There is nothing like that smoke-kissed, slightly charred flavor of grilled food that makes my heart sing. So, when the sun comes out and the weather heats up, I get a little giddy because I know friends everywhere are going to light up those grills (…and hopefully invite me to dinner)! Outdoor grilling seems to flummox a lot of folks and along with the cleaning and restocking of the grill supplies come the grilling questions.

At CuliNex, we are all culinologists. This means that we look at every project from the culinary and food science perspectives, including how to translate complex flavors like smoke and char to a commercial food production environment. Some of the same principles that lead to successful home grilling are also important in the plant, but on a much larger scale.

So, to help you up your grilling game, I offer up five of my favorite grilling tips:


Emily Munday

1. Make Time for Flavor

Sure, that fire is going to add a lot of flavor to your food but take a little time to add a flavor step to foods your preparing for the grill. Rubs, marinades, and pastes contribute a lot of flavor but they take time to work. So, plan ahead and allow plenty of time (typically at least 4 hours for most foods) for flavor steps to work their magic.

2. Mind Your Temperatures

Temperature is key at every point in the grilling process. Be sure you let your meat come to room temperature before it hits the grill. Build a two level fire – one side as direct heat for searing, the other as indirect heat for finishing. Use a meat thermometer to check the doneness of foods, meats, seafood and poultry for sure but it never hurts to take the temperature of all foods before they leave the grill. Remember there will be carry-over cooking so be sure you’re removing food from the fire within 10-15 degrees of doneness.


Emily Munday

3. Make Room for Baby (…back ribs…)

The food on your grill grate should have lots of room to breathe. As with indoor cooking, resist the urge to overcrowd your cooking space to get food finished faster. In most instances, crowding your grill will lead to unevenly cooked, insipid looking foods, without all of the lovely signature elements of food cooked over flame. Leave a few inches of space between items to ensure they cook and brown evenly.


Emily Munday

4. Timing is Everything

Once your ingredients hit the grate, leave it alone. Really. Just let it cook for 5-8 minutes before you start tugging on it. The food will let you know when it’s ready to flip when it releases from the grill with little effort. If you’re running into foods that stick and shred as you cook, chances are, you’re moving too quickly. Leave the chop where it is for 2 more minutes and check again. Still won’t release? Give it a minute more.

Sauces and glazes, especially those with added sweeteners or sugar should go on in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to avoid scorching. It’s always nice to glaze one more time as foods come off the grill onto the platter or board to rest.


Mark Crowell

5. Aaaaaaaand…Rest

Before you cut into that juicy steak, give it time to rest. Transfer cooked foods to their serving vessels and carving boards and let them hang out for a few minutes before serving. This allows some carry over heat to finish cooking your dish and for larger pieces of meats, resting allows moisture to redistribute within the meat, resulting in a juicier and more flavorful end result.


Emily Munday

Grilling is one of the oldest cooking techniques known to man, and yet those perfect cross-hatch char marks and smoky flavors can be elusive. It takes time, care, attention to detail, and patience to execute perfectly grilled food. For help with your next meaty project, call us today!

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