Special Report

Tips for the Perfect Barbecue From the Experts

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11. Cook with the grill hood open

There are two schools of thought on this, and lowering the hood will make the food cook more rapidly and use the fuel more efficiently. On the other hand, Del Grande points out, “Once you close the hood, grilling becomes roasting. Plus you can’t see the food so you never know if something has caught fire.”

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12. Create airflow

“One of the most often overlooked but I think most important tools for grilling,” says Wayman, “especially with hardwood, is something to create airflow.” This insures that the wood gets plenty of oxygen, which it needs to burn hot. He uses a woven cane fan from Mexico, but says that using a bellows or even just waving a piece of cardboard will work just as well.

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13. Don’t forget the vegetables

Hook reminds grillers that poultry, meat, and seafood aren’t the only things that grill well. Among his favorites: fingerling potatoes, marinated with garlic and rosemary, oiled, and grilled until done; oiled cherry tomatoes “grilled till charred and soft, then tossed in a savory vinaigrette;” and radicchio, “stuffed with mozzarella, oiled, and grilled till oozy.”

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14. Remember the music

Music is essential, says Van Aken (himself an accomplished blues harmonica player). “When you’re hanging out with your friends around the grill, you don’t want to do without a playlist,” he says. His favorite grilling music is a mix of classic blues (Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan, for instance) and classic country (like Chris Stapleton and George Jones).