Barbecue Basics

Follow these simple steps to seafood grilling success.

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 Keep the sizzle. If unsure about your remaining fuel level, buy spare charcoal or propane.

 Start with a clean grill, since food sticks to dirty grates. It's easier to clean a hot grate than a cool one. A few good passes with a stiff wire brush after each cookout will keep the grill prepped for your next one.

 Move freestanding grills away from flammable materials such as dry grasses or shrubs.

 Preheat and don't cheat. Wonder why your food sticks to the grill? It's not that you need to coat the grate with more oil (and get more flare-ups); instead, make sure the grill is hot enough. Listen for the sizzle when your food touches the hot grate. When you're ready to turn it, try to loosen food with a spatula. If it doesn't move, it needs to sear longer. Seared food will release easily and show the distinctive marks.

 Add a hint of smoky flavor to grilled foods with aromatic wood chips. But use sparingly as the effect can overpower delicate fish. For a different twist, try sprigs of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or oregano.

 Cook firm, meaty fish such as tuna, salmon, or swordfish directly on the grill. Put delicate flounder or trout in a grill basket. Turn fish only once or flesh may break apart.

 Skewer shrimp and scallops for easiest handling. Thread 2 skewers, about 1/2 inch apart, through the food to keep it from rotating while it's being turned during cooking.

 Grill large shellfish directly on the grate; place smaller varieties such as mussels or clams in an open grill basket for simple removal. Some shellfish, especially oysters, may not open fully when cooked; if they don't open at least 1/8 inch, discard.

 Marinate seafood 30 minutes to an hour in the refrigerator. When marinade doubles as a sauce, set some aside before combining with fish. Or combine it, and after removing the fish, boil the marinade for 5 minutes to kill any bacteria present.

 Don't play with your food! Flipping meat repeatedly, squeezing it with a spatula, or piercing with a fork lets out flavorful juices and dries food.

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