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Cooking over an open flame is the oldest know method of cooking and despite the numerous recipes for barbecuing, there are three basic tenets that recipes usually do not explain.

They are the heat of the coals, the proximity of the food to the heat and how long it needs to cook. Unfortunately, many outdoor grillers have had to learn by experience, wasting a lot of time and food before becoming the renowned grill expert they claim to be.

Many grills now have a thermometer built into the lid, but knowing when charcoal is hot enough to cook the food can be just as easy using your hand.

Once the charcoal has ashed over and appear ready for the food, hold the hand, palm down about four inches above the coals and see how long they can remain there without burning. It will take about two seconds if the heat is about 375-degrees or higher and five seconds or higher usually means the heat is below 200-degrees.

When lighting the grill, do not spread the charcoal out. Instead, form a pyramid of the charcoal and then spray on the lighter fluid.

Wait a minute or so before approaching with an open flame, to give the lighter fluid time to soak into the charcoal. Balled up paper can be use to light the charcoal, but once the lighter fluid is soaked into the charcoal, a long lighter is much safer.

To maintain flavor and the juice in meats, the meat can be placed on the grill, at high heat for a few seconds on both sides to ‘seal’ in the juices.

Depending on the thickness of he meat, six to eight minutes on both sides will cook the meat thoroughly. Constant turning of the meat will not help it cook any faster or more thoroughly.

Also, never use a fork to turn meat of any type, as poking holes in the meat will allow the juice and its flavor to spill out onto the coals. Us a spatula or thongs to grip and meat and turn it to protect the seal.

Always use clean utensils to prevent cross-contamination, especially between different species, such as chicken and hamburgers, as they do not cook at the same rate and can cause illness if cooked improperly.