I'm not trying to recruit an army of BBQ professionals to fly over to Afghanistan to feed all of the troops or anything (yet... because that would be awesome), but I smile whenever someone I've helped in the past calls to tell me, "Hey, my brisket/pork/chicken was great last night and my family loves me!"
- Temperature is EVERYTHING!
- Temperature is STILL everything!
- Charcoal, not Propane. Just do it.
- If you must use Propane, FIX IT!
- The order of Meat on a grill.
- Rarely put anything right over the fire!
Temperature is EVERYTHING!
Learn your grill's environment. What I mean is, you'll encounter a recipe (for example) that calls for "225 degrees for an hour per pound" or something. Well, where is your grill 225 and under what circumstances? If the temperature falls below 200, what's the quickest way to heat it back up? I know my smoker responds instantly to the damper. If I open it another inch, the response on my thermometer is instant! The heat will climb another 15 degrees. Of course, my fire will burn out more quickly... but this is to be expected if I'm trying to smoke some pork shoulders in January, vs. July.
Temperature is STILL everything!
White Meat Chicken: 160
Dark Meat Chicken: 170
Pork Chops: 140
Big Meats (Shoulders, Briskets, ribs, etc): 190, but only because it takes that kind of heat to break down the connective and "chewier" tissues.
Charcoal, not Propane. Just do it.
So, if you want to impart smoke and flavor to your food, get a charcoal grill. Then get some lump charcoal (burns hotter with less ash) and some chunks of wood (Mesquite or Hickory to start with). I might even suggest, even if you have a multi-thousand dollar super-grill, that you spend $100 at a garage sale and hide a small charcoal unit in your backyard somewhere to experiment with. You'll be converted in a season or two.
I have a buddy who was amazed that the "Searing Station" on his new propane grill fired all the way up to a ridiculous 1,500 degrees. Seriously, it melted the decorative trim around the outside of the grill. That's more than double what you would ever need to put a good sear on a steak. A few inches over open flame is about 500 degrees in a normal grill so, he had some adjusting to do. Turns out, he had the regulator valve on his propane tank all the way, "wide," open! I suggest that you take a trip out to your grill and take its temperature, adjusting all of the propane valves to where they are supposed to be for the burners to operate properly. This is basically the same procedure as calibrating your oven! Dial up or down as necessary. When you adjust your burner to "Medium," you want "Medium heat!"
Most people want to pull all of the meat off of the grill at the same time, so they can serve it all to their guests at dinner. You can't tell your grandmother, for instance, "You have to wait, Gramma, because you wanted chicken and that takes longer!" Super thin burgers will be done twice as fast as thick steaks, and stuffed pork chops roast up more quickly than stuffed chicken breasts, etc (see temperature chart, above). There are lots of variables here, grill temp, type of meat, starting temp, etc. My advice is to keep a generous "warm spot" on the grill that's not near the flame. Apply your food to the grill according to how long it should take to cook (longest first). Keep a close eye on everything (with your temp probe) and move stuff to the warming area when it gets close to its target temperature. Move slower meats to the hot zone, etc. My secret? I almost always move everything to the warming zone before I put the steaks over the fire. Steaks are sacred (and expensive) and they deserve your full attention. They cook quickly so there is very little danger of anything in the warming area overcooking.
Rarely put anything directly over the fire!
Good luck, and happy grilling!!