Geoff Tracy of Chef Geoff’s offers tips for grilling

Geoff Tracy in the Glass Enclosed Nerve center. He offers tips for summer grilling. (WTOP/Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON – There’s more to a successful cookout than just tossing some burgers and dogs on the grill.

Geoff Tracy, owner and operator of Chef Geoff’s, LIA’S and Hank’s Tavern & Eats, offers some tips for Fourth of July grilling.

First and foremost, don’t stress about it.

“Grilling is an ancient cooking skill, and it’s really not particularly challenging. We’ve been throwing meat and vegetables and other things on top of fire for eons. It’s time-tested,” Tracy says.

So instead of over-thinking it, try these tips, instead:

  • Cook on a clean, hot grill: Before you start your cookout, make sure the grill is clean. Then, get the grill nice and hot.

    If you’re cooking a protein with the skin on, such as a chicken thigh or drumstick, keep the grill at a lower temperature to avoid flare-ups caused by the fat dripping.

    “All that fat is going to render, and it’s either going to become crispy and lovely or it’s going to drop all that fat on to the flames and then flare up,” Tracy says.

  • Dry the food and spray it with canola spray: Pat your proteins and vegetables dry before you put them on the grill. Then spray the food with canola spray and add your seasoning. This method keeps the added fat content to a minimum.

    If you are using oil-based marinades, let the liquid drip off before you put the food on the grill. This will prevent flare-ups that pose a threat for grill fires and burnt dinners.

  • Leave the food alone: Don’t keep turning the food over once it’s on the grill. “You really want to make that one time turn so you get the grill marks,” Tracy says. In between the turn, keep the grill cover closed so the grill stays hot.
  • Save the sauce for later: Most barbecue sauces have a high sugar content, so save the sauce for the end of the grilling process, once your protein is cooked through. Otherwise, you will have a protein that is charred on the outside and raw on the inside.
  • Fish on the grill: Cooking fish on the grill? Choose something that is meaty, such as rockfish, salmon or halibut. And remember to keep the cooking time to a minimum. Fish does not need more than 4-5 minutes, total.

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