While some people seem to have a knack for barbequing – always grilling up a perfect meal – for the rest of us, it is something that must be learned, not something that just comes naturally.  Believe it or not, there is a technique involved. It’s not just a matter of following your cooking instincts.  

One of the main secrets of knowing exactly how to make a beautiful, tasty meal every time is knowing how and when to use high heat or very hot coals.

Though you may have heard the term “seal in the juices” when it came to barbequing, you may even have tried some techniques now and then, but unless you’re doing it properly, you won’t be getting it right.  For the best results, many barbeque chefs cook vegetables and medium-rare steaks by first using high heat to sear the outside of the food and seal both the juices and the flavors inside.  

Though this technique is good for foods that you don’t want to cook thoroughly, it shouldn’t be overused.  If you’re cooking meat such as hamburgers or pork ribs, they must be cooked all the way through to avoid bacterial contamination.  Therefore, searing them to seal in the juices doesn’t do anything but give you dry, or charred food.

This can be explained by understanding the way that meat cooks on a barbeque.  As it is heated, the cells and the fibers of the meat will tighten, squeezing out much of the juices.  Therefore, if you’re only cooking meat partially, searing it will help to seal in the juices by quickly cooking the outer layers of the food.  However, if you should leave the food on this high heat, the inner layers will cook too quickly, vaporizing all of your precious and tasty juices.  Try the technique a few times until you get it right. Pay attention to what you’re doing, so that when you do accomplish the right technique, you know how to repeat it.

When you are using high heat, the rule of thumb is to cook on each side for a maximum of five minutes (a total of ten minutes).  After ten minutes, anything that you’re cooking should be moved aside to medium heat so that it can finish cooking at that lower temperature.

There are many ways to recognize how hot your fire is, to make sure that it’s always perfect for any kind of food that you’re cooking on your barbeque.  One of the most common tests is simply to hold your hand a couple of inches away from the grill. If you’re only able to keep it there for about a second, your grill is at high heat (that is, over 600ºF).  If you’re able to hold your hand therefore a few seconds, it’s at medium heat (around 400ºF). At a lower heat, you’ll be able to hold your hand there for over five seconds.

Remember, when it comes to high heat, practice makes perfect, and the perfect is well worth the practice!