The weather is warm, days are longer, and everyone’s mood is mellow. Summertime is the perfect time to fire up the barbecue grill and bring your cooking outdoors. Nothing beats the freshness and flavor of food cooked outside. Fresh seasonal vegetables, home-grown herbs and a little imagination will result in some great grilling recipes!
Many people find outdoor grilling daunting. Once the almost-exclusive domain of middle-aged men in plaid shorts and golf shirts on their patios, grilling today has expanded to include just about everyone. Grills come in all shapes, sizes and fuel types, and fit in all spaces, whether on a city balcony, or in a large suburban backyard.
Charcoal is still the most popular fuel type, but requires some practice and patience to master. Because you are technically cooking on fire, it is difficult to maintain a consistent, constant temperature for long periods of time. However, the juiciness and flavor that result from this method are well worth the effort. Many charcoal grills now come with systems that allow the cook to more easily replace the dying coals with fresh ones so heat levels don’t suffer.
Gas grills offer better control over temperature. Fueled by liquid propane, a gas grill’s burners can be set to a specific temperature. There is no need to swap fresh coals for dying embers, and the flavor, although not as intense as with a charcoal grill, is still delicious.
Electric grills are gaining in popularity, especially in areas where a more traditional barbecue grills may be prohibited. City dwellers in particular benefit from this equipment. These grills are generally smaller, there is no odor from fuel, temperatures can be maintained much like with a stove, and their non-stick surfaces make cleaning up simple. However, barbecue purists argue that using an electric grill is much like using a portable stove, since the flavor is virtually identical to something cooked indoors.
Most meats that can be cooked using the dryheat method (pan frying or roasting for example) can also be grilled. Just remember that grilling requires foods to be very close to the heat source, so additional care should be taken when choosing what meats or vegetables to use.
Chicken lends itself well to grilling. You can grill parts or the whole chicken with equally tasty results. Easy to portion and quick to cook, grilled chicken breast is a family favorite, as are thighs. Using a marinade beforehand adds flavor and helps retain moisture.
Larger meats can also be barbecued. A beef brisket or a well-marbled pork shoulder is an excellent choice for this method. The results on a charcoal grill are outstanding, but will require persistence and preparation to achieve a succulent outcome every time. Gas grills allow better temperature control, but the flavor isn’t quite the same. Devotees of the gas grill method add wood chips such as mesquite or oak which have been soaked in liquid and placed into a heatproof pan on the grill’s grates to impart a charcoal smokiness with good results.
Another popular grilling recipe is the kabob. Whether you use chicken, pork, beef or seafood, the most important consideration is to make sure all the pieces are the same size. This will ensure everything cooks equally. Use colorful vegetables, like tomatoes, mushrooms, summer squash or peppers, cut into uniform pieces between chunks of meat or seafood for a vibrant meal. Serve over rice, couscous or with a crisp salad, it’s a complete meal in very little time.
Taking the party and cooking outdoors is a wonderful summer tradition. Some people become so loyal to this method they refuse to limit their outdoor cooking to just the warmer months. So stop feeling intimidated and give it a try!
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