With Memorial Day around the corner, it’s officially grilling season. As Alice Waters wrote in The Art of Simple Food, "To grill over an open fire is to cook at the most primal level. There is a universal magic in fire that transforms food as it grills." But for many of us, grilling does indeed seem like magic, a mysterious art form best left to a designated friend or relative. Whether you fear grilling or have just have never been taught its tricks, learning to grill a perfectly charred steak or burger is possible, as long as you understand a few basic principles. With these tips under your belt, you’ll be tending the coals in no time.
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So what makes a good griller? It’s important to remember that grilling skills don’t originate from some mysterious know-how or talent, but are, like most things, acquired through practice. Grilling is like the golf or archery of cooking; only through time and experience do you gain consistency. No recipe or cookbook will spell out the secret of grilling success; you must spend time learning the feel of it — how to gage when the coals are the right temperature, when it’s time to flip your chop, or how to judge the doneness of a perfectly rare steak.
That being said, we have some guidelines to get you started if you’re a first-time griller. We’ve picked the brains of grill masters near and far, consulted well-respected cookbooks, and compiled the best advice to make your first attempt at the grill a solid one. It’s time to abandon all of your preconceived notions and fears, and take up your tongs. After you’ve bitten into that first masterfully seared rib-eye, you'll want to replicate that feeling of accomplishment over and over again throughout the season.