By Mary Ellen Psaltis
Warmer weather. Dry days. Evenings that stretch out past dinner. Together these make up a perfect recipe for getting your grill on! Maybe your grill heats up with the turn of a switch. At our house we need to roll out the Weber and fire up the coals. Even a campfire can be utilized for your meal. For me, food tastes especially good when it’s cooked and then eaten outside. Hopefully, my barbequing will involve fingers coated in barbeque sauce, husks of corn dripping with salty butter and oozing marshmallows.
As produce becomes more plentiful through the late spring and summer, why not get what’s fresh. Asparagus, eggplant, corn, peppers and onions are all candidates for outdoor grilling. Kabobs of chunked vegetables can be marinated ahead of time with a bit of olive oil, basil, garlic, and lemon juice – or any salad dressing you have on hand. If you want to cook whole pieces, you might use a wire basket. This way you flip the whole lot of them at the same time. Corn on the cob can be cooked with the husks on. Remove the outermost layers and the silk, soak for 15 minutes in cold water then put onto the grill. They get hot, so be sure to have tongs or a heavy oven mitt.
The Master Griller
Cooking on the outdoor barbeque is more than slapping burgers on the grill and hoping for the best. Just a little technique with the vents and using the cover can control the heat so that things are not burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. You will end up with tender chicken, juicy burgers and nicely roasted vegetables.
First, use high quality charcoal and lighter fluid. My favorite griller likes Kingsford.
Open the underside-vent all the way. Remove the cooking grill (where you will place the food) and make a pile of charcoal to one side. Douse soundly with lighter fluid. Light. Let the coals get to white hot (uncovered) which takes about 20-30 minutes.
Spread the hot coals evenly across the bottom of the grill. Put the metal mesh (what the food is set upon) back in place. Let it heat up a couple of minutes.
Place meat onto the grill and cover. The top vent should be half way open. Partially closing the lower vent will lower the heat.
For boneless chicken, let pieces cook about 6-8 (depending on thickness) minutes, then turn. When there is a bone, the heat can be higher. Place that side down first and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn on to flesh side for an additional 6-8 more minutes.
For burgers, let cook about 4 minutes per side medium heat for rare and 6-8 minutes for well done. Veggie burgers take only minutes per side. Vegetables will vary on size and density.
When both vents are closed, the air is limited and the fire will go out. Full open vents allow the maximum air movement and will keep the coals hot.
I chatted with Chris Murphy, owner with brother-in-law Lance Anderson, of Marv’s Marvulus Pit Bar-B-Q. He urges you to remember to marinate well ahead of cooking, and even if you are using a dry rub, apply several hours ahead of time to allow the flavors to soak in. Murphy also recommends that you don’t cook too fast. He advises a lower temperature (below 300 degrees).
Though it may seem obvious, remember to preheat. “Preheating is a big deal,” Murphy emphasized. Just like with an oven, you need to let the propane/gas grill heat up before putting on the food. It is the same with charcoal. Let the metal grill heat up a bit after the coals get hot. This enables the heat to be even throughout. When the surfaces get hot, give them a quick clean with a wire brush. Now you are ready to grill.
Remember basic food safety. Keep hot foods hot and cold food cold. You can wrap up cooked foods in foil and set on low heat. Put cold foods back on ice or in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Finally, “have a fire extinguisher available.” Safety is always good.
A few treat ideas:
Cut apples in half and removed the core. Stuff with cinnamon, raisins, and a dab of butter. Wrap each apple in foil and place on the grill for 5-10 minutes.
Remove the skin and cut into quarters. Put on the grill until you get grill marks. You might add a little sugar and/or cinnamon.
Use a tube of breadsticks or biscuits. Wrap a piece around a cooking fork. Spiral it down the fork and make sure the dough is flattened so it’s not too thick. Hold over coals and turn as it browns. You need to be careful not to burn the outside. It takes a bit to get it cooked through. Drag cooked dough through melted butter then roll in cinnamon sugar.
Eat Well – Be Well