Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Grilling Season Basics

I’ve been trying to figure out why I haven’t blogged for a while. Yes, I’m busy, I always am - so that's not it.  But for various reasons the ‘busy state’ does not alleviate my constant need to cook (home cooked meals are healthier, cleaner, tastier and of course for us we have more choices). To ensure that my blog just doesn't die,  I thought I would look through my recent food photos to see what to blog about.  Then I realized why my last blog entry, “The Eclectic Duck,” was on April 24.  I’ve been doing a lot of grilling (outside) with my son.  I have never considered myself to be the ‘grill master.’  I prefer to cook and create special dishes and sauces and flavors.  But my son loves American style barbecued wings, chicken with barbecue sauce.  I don’t like barbecue sauce, but I do like a tasty Mediterranean shish kebob. I also love grilled vegetables. 

Since I know what I don’t know, I thought we would spend the month of May to improve our grilling skills.  Again, not really my forte, but if I’m going to do it, I have to do it right.  I know about indirect grilling and some of the tricks, but I still didn’t think I was even good (although others who consumed my grilled food said it was good).  So here are some tips that I find helpful in my grilling world:

  • I don’t use a gas grill.  I have a gas grill, but it serves as an overflow stand.  It’s a very nice grill too, but it just doesn’t produce the right flavor.  So I grill on a simple Weber grill.  I did replace the grate with one that has a way to lift up the sides.  This feature comes in handy for adding charcoal during cooking.  It’s also handy for adding wood chips (e.g., hickory)

  • I use charcoal not briquettes.  Yes, I’ve used the Kingsford briquettes because they are so easy to use and fast, but they do have some chemicals and if you grill it will add up somewhere in your system (if you grill frequently).  But then here and there the briquettes are fine (and are easier-charcoal can die out fast).

  • I use the ‘chimney’ to get the charcoal ready.  Yes, again, a bit tedious compared to the lighting fluid, but this is what middle school boys are for; they help with the fire (supervised). Typically I use two of these (actually my son creates these with some supervision...he loves fire...this is a good outlet).

  • Oil the grate (I think everyone knows this).  I recently saw this technique on Barbecue U – you saturate some papertowel (or cloth) in oil (regular olive oil)  and brush the grill with it (using tongs).

  • Use woodchips for flavor (smoked flavor)…again, this is something my son can play with.  He has his tshirt called “Grillfather” (a spin on Godfather)-he needs to prove he is.

  • I follow the well known technique of indirect heat for bone type meats and direct heat for boneless meats and vegetables.

  • Marinate, marinate, marinate-for wings and drumsticks, we’ve marinated in Leinkenkugel’s Honey Weiss. For boneless meats, I like going with a Middle Eastern or Asian type marinade that I create. 
Asian marinated pork tenderloin-very easy to make

Honey Weisse marinated wings 

Marinade is almost, sesame oil, grated ginger, garlic, sherry, olive oil etc.

Honey Weisse marinade

  • Baste with olive oil (but be careful not to get massive flares) that is seasoned with garlic and salt and any other flavor you are trying to infuse.

  • Grind your own meat-I’m not a big beef eater, but with pink slime and e-coli, I’ve realized that the only way my son can enjoy a  medium rare burger is if I grind the meat at home.  I have a Kitchen Aid attachment and grind the beef for the occasional burgers with it.

  • If you grill sausages-use the ones in natural casings and make incisions (this makes them more tasty)

  • Corn-grill directly-this is the best barbecued corn I’ve had.  I saw the technique on Barbecue U and it works wonder.  The sugar of the corn caramelizes.

  • Use a flat skewer instead of the round ones.  As I’ve said, I love Middle Eastern shish kebobs or Tandoori marinade for Chicken Tikka (non dairy version).  The chicken and vegetables tend to turn and it’s hard to get the right heat because of this.  I first saw these skewers on Barbecue U (such skewers are used in the Middle East and India).  I searched for flat skewers and only found some with wooden handles.  For me this is a bad idea because flare ups are unpredictable.  I found Steven Raichlen’s flat barbecue skewers on Amazon and used them tonight for the first time-they are phenomenal.

  • Have fun, I know this sounds cliché, but grilling seems to inspire my son in the culinary department and he is very good at it.

  • Do it in style-wear your retro Ray Bans.

And as always, look forward to some new challenges.  For me this will be making some non-meat grilled dishes.  The potatoes in foil (garlic seasoned) are great, but I would like to learn how to barbecue tofu.  I heard (I was in another room when the show was on) Steven Raichlen grill ginger infused tofu, this sounds really appetizing. I also plan on grilling more fish (but I know fish can tear).

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