Tips for Outdoor Grilling
Desert Lil's Delicacies - A DesertUSA Food Feature
One of the easiest, tastiest and healthiest methods of preparing food is also one of the oldest -- outdoor grilling. For centuries, meats have traditionally been prepared on the grill in the form of steaks, chops, and shish-kabobs. This grilling method is generally regarded as healthier, because it allows excess fat to drain into the fire, while retaining optimum moisture if not overcooked.
Fresh vegetables are also wonderful prepared on the grill. They are simple to cook and provide a spectrum of complex flavors not possible by boiling or steaming. Because of their slight sugar content, vegetables brown on the outside and seal quickly, locking in moisture and flavor. During hot summer months, outdoor grilling offers the additional advantage of keeping the kitchen, and the house, cool.
Cooking with the hood off increases the draft and makes coals hotter. Because food will brown quickly, both meats and vegetables should be somewhat thinner or bite-sized for open grilling.
Cooking with the hood down allows more control of the fire by adjusting both flame and vents. Covered, food can bake as well as brown without burning the outside while leaving the inside raw. Whole vegetables and roasts require covered grilling.
Heavy-duty aluminum foil is great for certain types of grilling, especially small vegetables that may fall through the grill, delicate foods like fish that may not be easily turned on the grill; and foods that may require preserving moisture. Whether using foil as a complete wrap, or just a sheet on the grill, oil lightly to avoid sticking and pierce it with small holes to allow that smoky flavor through.
Both vegetables and meats can be threaded onto wooden skewers and grilled, if the pieces are too small and would fall through the normal grid, or for the purpose of making a shish-kabob.
Shish-kabob normally involves marinating the meats and vegetables, then threading them in alternating fashion onto the wooden skewer. It is best not to compress them which can keep the heat from penetrating between the various skewered items.
Flavoring the Fire
The choice of grill and fuel can greatly affect the flavor of grilled food. But flavor can be further enhanced by adding herbs and other items directly to the coals or flame immediately before cooking. Sprigs of rosemary or thyme, orange or lemon peels, even coarsely ground pepper will add exotic flavors to grilled foods.
Impart that smoky flavor to your grilled foods by adding any of the following wood chips: hickory, mesquite, alder, oak, olive wood, grapevine, nut and fruit woods. It is best to soak the chips 30 to 60 minutes before placing them directly on coals or the gas flame immediately before cooking. This allows the chips to smoke instead of simply bursting into flame.
Most meats, fish and vegetables will benefit by being lightly brushed with oil before grilling. In addition to enhancing flavor, oil prevents sticking to the grill. Olive is my oil of choice for most purposes. I love the flavor it imparts, and it won't burn at high temperatures. Peanut, canola and safflower are vegetable oils that also burn only at very high temperatures and are, therefore, good for grilling.
Marinades & Sauces
Marinades have long been popular for meats because, in addition to creating fantastic flavors, the acids in marinade sauces act as tenderizers when meat is allowed to marinate in them overnight.
Vegetables, too, can be greatly enhanced with marinades and sauces. They can be brushed on just before grilling, or marinated for 30 to 60 minutes before grilling. Since vegetables are not generally fibrous, they do not require tenderizing; excessive soaking in a marinade can make them soggy.
Some aluminum and other vessels may chemically react with acids in a marinade or sauce, to produce a bad taste or worse. Use only glass, stainless steel, porcelain or wooden bowls or dishes for the purpose of marinating.
A wide variety of meats, fish, foul, fruits and vegetables can be deliciously grilled by simply brushing with oil, adding salt and pepper and cooking 15 to 20 minutes on a covered grill. Fresh, grilled chiles of all kinds are especially tasty. Do not oil. Simply grill, on all sides until completely blackened, then remove the black skin with a damp towel. Grilled Anaheim chiles can make impart Southwestern flair to most any meal.
Remember, cooking time varies with the type of grill and fuel used. Mesquite burns hotter than regular briquettes and gas grills set at low. For best results, check the items periodically for doneness; use a wooden skewer like that used for making shish-kabobs.
Next we'll prepare some marinades and sauces, then try some more elaborate recipes for grilling salmon, chicken, beef, eggplant, broccoli, garlic, summer squash, chiles and mushrooms. M-m-m-m-m. Index of Desert Lil's Delicacies
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