How to Keep Food From Sticking to the Grill

Tired of EVERYTHING sticking to the grill? You’re not alone. The Never Cook Naked guys explain how to make certain chicken, burgers, steak, and more will release from your grill grate as if it were nonstick.

In answer to the question on how to keep food from sticking to the grill, two large chops on a grill, one being turned by metal tongs.

How to keep food from sticking to the grill

Dear Never Cook Naked Guys: Why does every single thing I grill ALWAYS stick to the grate?—Tired of Torn Food

Dear Tired: We have an easy solution for you. Oil the grate, not the food.

Yes, some celebrity grilling mavens insist that oiling the food takes care of the problem. It doesn’t. It creates more problems. Namely, flare-ups. Trust us. We lived an entire summer without bangs. Thank you very much, cable TV.

You can slick that grate–and, in so doing, solve your vexing problem–in one of two ways:

1. Before you light the grill, remove the grate and coat it with nonstick spray oil. (Never ever shoot nonstick spray oil onto a hot grill.) Then fire up the grill and wait, wait, wait until it’s good and hot before carefully replacing the grate. Then wait just a few minutes and add your food. (You want the grate to be hot enough so you can get a good sear but not so hot that the oil burns off before you toss on the food.) Or, failing that….

2. Heat the grill with the grate in situ, dab some oil on a wadded-up paper towel, grab the paper towel with long-handled tongs, and swipe the wad of recycled tree over the hot grate. If you’ve got a really hot grill, you’ll need to work fast as the paper towel can—and will–ignite.

Seems simple, right? Actually, there’s more. When you put your chicken breasts or strip steaks on the grill, resist the temptation to turn them within seconds of their hitting the heat. The fats and proteins need to sear, brown, even caramelize. All before the meat will, at long last, release with just a gentle tug of the tongs–for a chicken breast, that may take three or four minutes over high heat and for a strip steak, it can take up to five minutes. So relax. Have a swig of beer. Take a breather. You can thank us later, when your family applauds their meal not being as desiccated as usual.

One last thing. Food sticks at your backyard barbecue because food stuck at your previous backyard barbecue. Always use a wire grill brush to scrape the bits of burnt-on, carbonized junk off the grate when you’re done barbecuing, preferably while you let someone else tend to the dishes. Then let that grate sit for a spell over high heat to burn off any lingering cooties. There. Ready for next time.

Our very clever, very clothed Never Cook Naked columnists are at your disposal, able to troubleshoot everything from questionable table etiquette to tricky cooking techniques (as well as, natch, proper cooking attire). Curious to learn more solutions to culinary conundrums? Just ask!

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