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People barbecue early in spring and late in fall, but it's not until the truly nice weather hits that we fashion entire meals based on this easy, carefree form of cooking, alfresco.

Of course barbecuing isn't always a piece of cake. A common complaint is that food burns too easily on the grill-people tend to cook at temperatures that are too high, which causes flare-ups. We also poke and prod a little too much, losing valuable juices, and don't trust that food will readily come off the grill when it's done.

If food is left alone to caramelize it should not stick. Otherwise a few tools go a long way. A water-filled spray bottle helps keep flare-ups in check. Using tongs rather than forks for turning keeps the skin from being punctured, and using a meat thermometer means you don't have to cut into the meat before it's ready.

There are also grill baskets, which prevent vegetables from falling through the grate, fish baskets that allow you to turn the fish in one simple step, and hot dog baskets, to ensure even grilling.

To all backyard chefs: I hope you are inspired to dust off your barbecue, don your apron and create a wealth of great meals and memories... with or without good weather. 

Grilling glory

Seven tips to take the sting out of grilling meat.

  1. Shrinkage factor - to prevent burgers from shrinking use lean meat, and dredge in flour before grilling so juices don't escape.
  2. Hold the sauce - sauces are great for flavouring meat but if you put them on too early, they will burn or brown quickly, making a mess of the grill while not adding much flavour. Hold the sauce until the meat is almost done.
  3. Steady on - make sure meat is fully defrosted, and don't place it directly on the grill from the fridge-let sit at room temperature for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Take your temp - know when your steak is done. Remember, medium rare is 145°F (65°C); medium 160°F (70°C) and well done is 170°F (80°C). An instant-read thermometer gives you the internal temperature immediately.
  5. Give it a rest - after grilling, let meat sit for a couple of minutes to let the juices redistribute before cutting into it.
  6. Good old soak - if you're using wooden skewers for kebobs, soak them overnight to prevent flare-ups.
  7. Clean slate - after you've taken the last thing off your gas grill, place aluminum foil over it, and turn the gas to high for one minute. The foil focuses the heat on the grate, burning everything to a fine ash. After the grill cools, crumple up the foil and use it to brush the ash off.
Recipes featured in this article:

Editor's tip: "Tie a handful of herbs-such as rosemary, sage or mint-on the outside of your barbecue. As it warms up the herbs provide a lovely aroma."

How do you barbecue? Share your tips on our facebook page...

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