Summertime and the living is easy. It’s time to fire up the grill. And grilling isn’t just for meat anymore, either. You can do virtually all your cooking on the grill – vegetables, foil pouch entrees, dessert, even pizza. Instead of spending sultry summer evenings broiling along with your food in a hot kitchen, why not plan to fix your meals on your deck or patio? Grilling adds no extra fat to your food, takes no more time than conventional cooking, and best of all, clean up is a snap. If you’ve never tried your hand at grilling, it’s time to learn this great American cooking technique. See the end of this blog for a couple easy grilling recipes.
Let’s start at the beginning. What kind of grill are you going to use? Each type has its fanatical adherents, but it’s really up to you. Some of the pros and cons: Gas grills: are easier to clean; add fewer carcinogens to food; give you better temperature control; and require less prep time. Charcoal grills: are less expensive; add no gas taste to food; are more portable; and it's tradition!
Most grills come with instructions – how to set up the grill and make sure it works properly and a cooking time chart. This is the part that confuses the most people. What’s the proper procedure for lighting a charcoal fire and how many briquettes do you use? How do you tell if the fire is hot enough? How do you know when the food is done to the point where it won’t poison your guests? Good questions, all. Below are some answers.
With a gas grill, it’s a lot like a gas stove – turn on the gas and light it. Most gas grills even have temperature settings so there’s no guesswork. Charcoal’s a little trickier, but doable if you know the secrets. For one pound of meat cooked with the direct-heat method (smack over the fire), a good rule of thumb is 30 briquettes. For the same amount of meat using slower indirect heat, you’ll need about 50 briquettes. There are many ways to light a fire. Some use an electric heat element, some use lighter fluid, some use a charcoal chimney. Some even use gasoline, but we don’t recommend that (he lit a tree on fire in a Texas national park).
Pile your briquettes in a pyramid before lighting. It takes about 20 minutes for charcoal to reach the proper temperature for cooking. It should be about 70 percent covered in ash with a faint glow. Spread the charcoal out so that it extends at least an inch beyond the edges of the food to be cooked.
Using a wood burning fire in a charcoal grill is an excellent way to add a smoky flavor to your food. To start a wood fire place a couple larger pieces of wood in the center of your grill(6 to 8 inches), then surround with smaller pieces of wood(1-2 inch pieces that are less than 1/4in thick). Then you can use a couple of charcoal briquettes soaked in lighter fluid to get the fire started. Wait until the flames are 1 to 2 inches below your grill grate to start cooking.Care should be taken wile cooking on a wood fire, they typically burn much hotter than a charcoal fire and can easily over cook food if left unattended.
To make your grill grates non stick and add some flavor without using artificial sprays, half 1 onion and rub the cut side on the grates just before adding your meats.
To add more smoke to your fire, soak some wood chips(I recommend apple wood or mesquite) in water for 30 minutes then add to your fire. To do this on a gas grill,wrap your wood chips in heavy aluminum foil and poke holes in the top of the package, then place over the fire.
If you inherited your grill and have no instructions, here’s a time-honored method to determine temperature: hold your hand palm down over the fire about six inches above the coals. Count in seconds how long you can comfortably hold your hand there: 5 mississippis: 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit; 4 mississippis: 300-350 degrees; 3 mississippis: 350-375 degrees; 2 mississippis: 375 and above.
What equipment is absolutely necessary? You need a good set of spring-loaded long-handled tongs for turning meats. Do not use a fork as spearing the meat will cause it to lose flavorful, tenderizing juices. A sturdy wire brush is absolutely necessary to clean your grill racks. While the racks are still hot from cooking, use the brush to remove stuck-on bits. For turning meat or serving, a long-handled spatula will serve you well. Different sizes of basting brushes come in handy. Skewers come in metal, wood and bamboo varieties. To keep the last two from burning up over the fire, soak them in water, fruit juice or wine for 30 minutes before using. Wire baskets and grids are great for vegetables and items that break apart easily like whole fish filets.
A few miscellaneous tips to help you perfect your technique:
l Remove and properly dispose of grill ashes as soon as they cool down. When mixed with water, ashes can eat through metal.
l For maximum flavor and tenderness use an acidic marinade(vinegar,wine, beer,cider or citrus based)
l Always allow meats to rest for a minimum of 10 minutes after grilling prior to cutting and serving
l Arrange food at least ¾ “ apart for even cooking.
l Keep children and pets away from the grill when it’s in use.
l Set up your grill on a flat even surface.
l For gas grills, don’t store extra gas tanks under or near the grill.
l Don’t wear loose, flowing clothing when working with fire.
l Use nonstick cooking spray on grill racks, but don’t spray it over the fire, which can cause flare-ups.
l To prevent charring, which adds carcinogens to your food, trim excess fat, put on sauces near the end of cooking time, use the higher racks of your grill and keep your grill clean and well-oiled.
Here is a quick and easy marinade recipe that works great on pork
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup pineapple juice(or other fruit juice)
1 tsp salt and pepper
1 - 2 TBS Sriracha Hot sauce
1 - 2 TBS brown sugar
Marinate in large zip-lock bag for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator
Here is a simple glaze that works great on shrimp,chicken and pork. Adjust the ratio of honey to sriracha to fit your tastes
4 TBS Honey
4 TBS Sriracha Hot Sauce
Salt and Pepper to taste
Wisk together all the ingredients and brush onto meat prior to cooking. Baste once more right before removing the meats from the grill.
Here is a recipe for grilled romaine lettuce, the perfect side dish to any grilled meats
1 head of romaine lettuce, cut in half lengthwise
Drizzle with olive oil
evenly apply salt and pepper
Grill over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes until the lettuce begins to lightly char
Top with shaved Parmesan cheese and the vinaigrette of your choice prior to serving
Finally here is a simple grilled desert recipe, Grilled appricots
half apricots and remove pit
lightly coat cut side with olive oil and place cut side down on grill over medium heat until grill marks form
Flip the apricots and add a soft mild cheese to the center, preferably brie or chevre. grill for no more that 1 minute, untill cheese starts to melt
Top with chopped walnuts and a drizzle of honey or a good aged balsamic vinegar