It’s summer, Fourth of July weekend is approaching – it’s grilling time.
Last night I took an inaugural trip on my new grill. I broke out the cedar planks, 3 pounds of briquettes and half a gallon of lighter fluid. The weather was perfect, the flame was high; it was glorious.
I don’t profess to be a master griller but over the years I have had some grilling revelations that are worth passing on.
I do use the term grilling here instead of barbecuing. Simplified, grilling is cooking food over direct and high heat whereas barbecue uses indirect or low-level heat. I try to blend these two techniques when I cook, depending on what kind or quality of meat and veggies I’m using, but for the everyday backyard hamburger stampede, the correct term is grilling.
Marinades and rubs are a simple start to spice, sweeten and flavor veggies or meats. Whether I’m tea-smoking salmon, grilling veggie shish-ka-bobs or cranking out some regular ol’ burgers, I always marinade and season.
(Try this – take your favorite dry rub, I prefer something spicy in this case, and drowned a piece of salmon in it. Place the salmon on a cedar plank (soak in water at least 2 hours). Place the planks and salmon on medium heat on the grill. As soon as it’s cooked drizzle a little maple syrup over the top. Sure, may sound gross at first, but I promise the mix of sweet, salty and spicy works well together on salmon. Plus the cedar plank turns your grill into a kind of convection oven making the meat a perfect texture.)
For chicken I usually use something fruit based, like pineapple and orange juice, and if you haven’t experimented with hoisin sauce I recommend trying some in a marinade.
One of the benefits I have found to grilling as opposed to barbecuing is the ability to sear the meat or vegetables. Searing is quickly charring each side of the meat or veggies on high heat. It helps to lock in the moisture and flavor and keeps veggies crunchy.
One of the myths I had been taught when I first started grilling was to turn the food as little as possible. This may work in barbecuing when the goal is to slow cook, but in grilling I have found flip and flip often to work better. When food is cooked, the heat forces the moisture up and out the top of the food. If you sear and flip often, it helps keep the food moist. This works best for steaks and high-quality meats. Be careful with foods like chicken and burgers that need to be fully cooked through the center.
If you want to really look fancy in front of your grilling friends, add some barbecue wood chips. They add a smokier flavor than just plain charcoal, especially if you’re barbecuing something from sunup to sundown.
And finally, at the end of your feast, scrape the rack with a wire brush and close lid. The remaining heat will cook off the residue of food and the remaining oils season the rack keeping it non-stick longer.
These are just a few lessons I have learned over the past few years of daily grilling. I am not a chef or a master of the coals but I hope a few of these tips make your Fourth of July weekend a little more tasty.
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