illustrations: Tim Lahan

BBQ Tip Sheet: How to Perfectly Grill Your Favourite Meats and Veggies

By AMA Staff

The allure of grilling is its simplicity: start a fire, put some food on it and feast! But there is an art to barbecue. Get to know your cuts and brush up with these BBQ tips from award-winning Calgary pitmaster and AMA member Janice Smella.

Simple ways to give your meat, fish and veggies a good grilling

Rib-eye: With good marbling, it’s one of the most succulent cuts of beef. Set over indirect heat, close the lid and cook 20–30 min. for medium-rare. Finish by searing over direct heat, about 2–3 min. per side.

Porterhouse: Cut from the loin section, it has less marbling than rib-eye but is more tender. Sear both sides for a couple of minutes with hot, direct heat. Dial down to medium and cook 15 min. more (for medium-rare), turning once. 

Skirt steak: Rarely more than ¾-inch thick, this muscular cut benefits from seasoning with a rub or marinade 30 min. before grilling. Sear over high heat, 5–10 min. per side. It’s a good option for fajitas and sandwiches. 

Burgers: Whether you choose beef or meatless patties, cook directly over high heat for 4–7 min. per side, depending on size, to reach 160 F (for beef). If you like, top with cheese for the last minute or so of grilling.

Sausages: Though typically made of pork, you can find ingredients to suit every diet. Put sausages in pan of water on stove; bring to boil and simmer about 15 min. Transfer to medium-low heated grill and cook a couple more minutes. 

Boneless chicken: Use a meat mallet to flatten cuts of unequal thickness for even cooking. Brush with oil; grill over medium direct heat: 4–8 min. per side for breasts (to internal temperature of 160 F), or 7–10 for thighs (to 180 F).

Rack of lamb: Prep for medium-high indirect cooking. Grill 5 min. per side over direct heat. Move to indirect zone and cook 15–30 min. more, depending on rack size and desired doneness (140 F for medium).

Salmon: When choosing a fillet, make sure it’s moist, vibrant and free of brown spots. Debone, brush with oil and season. Cook with medium-high direct heat, skin side down, for 5–7 min. Flip and grill 2 min. more.

Cauliflower: Cut head of cauliflower into one-inch thick “steaks.” Coat with oil and grill over medium heat, 8–12 min. per side, until tender. Remove and sprinkle with lemon zest and parmesan.

Eggplant: Loaded with fiber, this veggie makes a hearty meal. Slice and soak in salt-water brine (2 Tbsp salt in 8 cups water) for 30 min.; pat dry. Oil and salt, then grill 5 min. per side over medium-high heat.

Corn: Remove husks and silks. Grill over medium direct heat for about 10 min., turning occasionally, until kernels are lightly charred and bright yellow. Serve with butter and seasoning.

Pineapple: Ideal as a grilled dessert served with lime dip. Peel, core and cut into inch-thick rings. Dredge in brown sugar and cinnamon (1 cup + 2 tsp, respectively). Grill over medium direct heat, 4–8 min. per side.

Download a printable cheat sheet of all our BBQ tips!

Some cuts (brisket, ribs, pork shoulder) are best cooked low and slow 

Setup: Use indirect heat. Build your fire on one half; place a water-filled foil pan on the other to help regulate humidity and temperature (refill as necessary).

Wood: Hickory and fruit woods (e.g. apple, cherry) are good for all-purpose smoking. Chunks or chips work well; chips will start to smoke right away. Less is more: 1–2 handfuls should do it.

Airflow: Position vent opposite heat source. Open it for airflow, which helps keep coals and wood burning. Smoke exiting vent should be white; dark smoke indicates poor ventilation.

Maintenance: Keep temperature between 225 and 275 F. Lift the lid only when absolutely necessary to moisten meat with a spritz of water or cider vinegar. Be aware of wind: The extra airflow can cause temperature spikes.

A good steak needs only salt and pepper. But other meats could use an extra kick. Try a dry rub, like Janice Smella’s all-purpose spice rub. Apply it 30–60 min. before setting meat on the grill. 

BBQ Tips detailing the ingredients to make an all-purpose spice rub

Or try her tangy Korean beef marinade!

1/2 Bosc pear, with skin removed (approx. 1/2 cup)
2 green onion, minced
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ginger (or 1/8 tsp ginger powder)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

• Add all ingredients to blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
• Pour contents into large freezer bag, then add beef.
• Allow beef to marinate for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

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