Kitchen Helpline: Summer Cookout

Is the stress of outdoor entertaining getting you all fired up? Worry no more because The Kitchen Helpline is officially open, and we're ready to answer your cookout conundrums.

An illustrated guide to direct and indirect heating on the grill, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen.

Photo by: David Katz, David Katz

David Katz, David Katz

Question 1--"How can I prevent my chicken from getting burnt on the outside while it's still raw on the inside? Please help!"

The answer is simple: Give the sweet a seat! Many sauces and marinades such as BBQ and teriyaki contain high amounts of sugar, causing them to burn quickly. That sugar turns to carbon under high heat and ruins a perfectly cooked piece of meat. Our solution is to consider acid or oil-based marinades like Italian dressing or pesto. They break down and tenderize the meat before it hits the grill, without burning the outside.

When you're cooking with sugary or sticky sauces, brush them on in the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking or immediately after they come off the grill to avoid burning. Use direct heat sparingly when cooking with sticky sweet marinades.

Question 2--"Sometimes when I'm grilling, the recipes are talking about direct or indirect heat and it's really confusing. What is indirect heat, what is direct heat, and when do I use them?"

This one's easy: Get into the zone! As a general rule, use direct heat for things that cook quickly, like seafood, veggies and smaller cuts of meat. Indirect heat is used for things that take longer--like bigger pieces of meat.

Create 2 zones on your grill from front to back or left to right depending on your model of grill. On a gas grill, you'll turn one side on and leave the other off. The side that is on is the direct heat side and the other is indirect. The same goes for charcoal grills. Just build your fire on one side to create the direct heat side.

Use direct heat to cook thinner cuts of steak such as flank or skirt. Direct heat is also perfect for fish, shrimp and veggies. Cook larger/thicker/tougher cuts of meat like ribs and large pork chops on indirect heat. Some proteins require a 2-step process. Meats like porterhouse steak, bone-in chicken breasts, bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks should be cooked first over direct heat to get a sear and a bit of char, then moved to the indirect side to be cooked to the ideal temperature.

Now you're ready to master the grill!

Question 3--"Is it OK to store leftover chilled beer at room temperature? Or will it get skunked?"

Just remember this… flavors won't fade if it's kept in the shade! It is commonly thought that skunking occurs when temperature change creates a foul, unappetizing odor in beer or wine. Temperatures would have to change drastically for this to occur. Skunked beer and wine is more commonly caused by a very specific chemical reaction triggered by exposure to sunlight's UV rays.

So, what's the solution? Pay attention to the color of glass that your beer is sold in. Clear glass bottles are the most vulnerable to skunking, green glass is slightly more resistant and brown glass offers the best protection from the sun's harmful rays. If you're drinking beer out in the sun (i.e. beach, picnic, etc.), aim for brown or green bottles.

Keep glass bottles out of direct sunlight in a cooler with a lid and store them away out of direct sunlight. If, for some strange reason, your guests don't polish them all off, just drain your cooler, close the lid and store the leftovers in the shade of your garage or another shady spot. The next time you have party guests, just throw on a few bags of fresh ice, let 'em chill and you're ready to rock!

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