15 Grilling Tips Every Savvy Griller Should Know
I'm always reading cooking magazines and books, looking for time-tested information to pass on to you. One of my favorite haunts for this exercise is our local thrift store. And just last week I found some terrific grilling ideas from writer Kristin Donnelly in an old issue of Food and Wine Magazine. See what you think:
When cooking kabobs on the grill, leave a 1/4 inch space between each piece of food. Not only does this allow the items to cook more quickly, it's easier to baste them thoroughly.
Baste your burgers with butter. It adds flavor while keeping them moist and evenly browned.
Dip meat in cold water before grilling. Chef Laurent Tourendel says burgers come out juicier if the patties have been dunked in cold water for about 30 seconds before grilling.
Become a marinade master:
Use mayonnaise in marinades because it creates a beautifully blistered crust on foods when they're grilled. The fat in the mayonnaise also adds flavor and helps lock in juices.
For extra moist and flavorful meat, marinade in onion juice. Try this tasty combination: In a blender, combine (to taste) some onion, garlic, parsley sprigs, lemon zest, lemon juice, allspice, and salt and puree until smooth. Transfer the marinade to a re-sealable plastic bag, add your meat and turn to coat. Seal the bag, pressing out any air. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight.
Add yogurt to marinades (for the same principle as the mayonnaise addition.)
Soak vegetables in ice water. This way they'll come off the grill moist yet crisp.
Prevent bones from burning. Wrap them in foil to prevent them from charring.
Sweeten rubs just a little with a bit of sugar to help meat brown. Then finish the dish over low heat so the sugar doesn't char the outside.
Leave some fat on steaks - at least a quarter-inch of fat around steaks and chops will keep them moist. Score the fat in advance so that the meat doesn't curl up on the grill.
Become a rib expert.
Cook ribs low and slow.
Know your ribs. For instance, spare ribs, from the lower part of the pig's rib cage, are fattier and more succulent than baby backs, but they take longer to cook.
Become a wood wizard.
Create faux wood flavor. For instance, jerk chicken gets its aroma from being grilled over wood from pimento trees, the source of allspice. So follow Chef Jose Garces (of Philadelphia's Amada) lead by mimicking jerk by soaking whole allspice in water, then throwing the berries onto hot coals.
OR, grill with real wood. Adam Perry Lang, chef at New York City's Daisy May's Barbecue USA and author of the book Serious Barbecue, uses wood to boost the smoky flavor of a charcoal fire and recommends using wood chips for quick-cooking items, like steaks and chops, and wood chunks for slow-cooked meats like ribs and pork shoulder. "Don't use freshly cut wood, because it smokes too heavily and makes food taste bitter," he says.
Alder: This wood gives off a light, mild smoke. Best for fish, especially salmon.
Cherry or Apple: Sweet and fragrant but not overly strong. Best for mild meats like chicken and pork.
Mesquite: Burns superhot and gives off an intense flavor. Best for game meats.
Oak: A great all-purpose wood. It burns evenly and has a clean flavor.
Tie fresh herbs to a basting brush. This is especially nice for chicken.
Use a citrus squeeze (lemons, limes, oranges, even grapefruit) for a real zing. Then follow up with a drizzle of olive oil.
Try different leaves for wrapping fish before grilling, as well as for cooking bundles of ingredients.
Bamboo: Sold dried, these leaves are used throughout Asia for steaming but give off a lovely fragrance on the grill.
Banana: Often sold frozen, they are used in Latin America and Asia for wrapping all kinds of foods.
Grape: Brined, jarred grape leaves are easy to find (Amazon.com), but young, fresh leaves are also delicious.
Fig: The fresh leaves, while hard to find, have a wonderfully sweet, smoky flavor when grilled.
Build one fire for two dishes. Chef Kerry Simon (of Simon at Palms Place in Las Vegas) grills steak and vegetables over a hot charcoal fire, then smokes a whole chicken over the smoldering coals to eat later. That's working smart!
Plan for leftovers. For instance, here are just a few ideas on what you can make with leftover grill-smoked whole chicken:
Barbecued-chicken soups of all sorts