Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Thrill of the Grill

Oh yes, people. It's grill season again. I've been under the radar again, pesky "real" job and other things getting in the way of my blog time, although I do have a few new posts up my sleeve (thanks to "Single Jen(n)s". But given that the weather has finally started to *act* like spring here in the Boston area, and it's been wonderful to grill, I thought it would be more appropriate to talk about grilling.

Grilling is a great way to cook food in a healthy way - you don't need a lot of fat, you can impart flavor without calorie-rich sauces, and you can do a lot of "one dish" meals on the grill. You can spend time in the great outdoors, with or without a cocktail in hand (your choice), and be alone with the grill and your thoughts. To me, this is heaven.

The key to getting enjoyment out of grilling is ensuring that you are prepared. You don't need to have fancy equipment, but you do have to know how to use what you've got. "Flaunt what your mama gave you," as they say. Or, for those of us who lust after super fancy Weber grills but have an aging Kenmore, "Love the one you're with." So here are the main bits that you should prepare to make sure you are making the most of your grilling experience this summer and beyond (oh, yes - I said beyond. There will be a grilled turkey this Thanksgiving!). Mind you, I have a gas grill, so most of this is being written with a bit of a gas grill bias. Yes, I know, there are purists among you who will chide me for not embracing charcoal... but what's the working girl to do? Gas is convenient and cleaner...and it's what I have right now. So - where were we - ah, yes: healthytastyeasy's Grilling Tips!
  1. Most importantly, preheat! You want to heat that grill until it's well over 500 degrees F. You can achieve this by keeping the lid closed with all burners on their highest setting, and it usually takes 10-15 minutes to get there.
  2. Clean and season your grill: The grates clean best when they are hot. Don't let the heat intimidate you from giving the grates a good scrubbin', but don't get burned either. A good grate brush with a long handle should do the trick. Once the grill is nice and hot, brush the grates. After you have taken all the food off of the grill, turn off the burners and (guess what?) brush the grates! Seasoning the grill refers to rubbing the grate with an oil-moistened paper towel, held with tongs, to help encourage a nonstick surface.
  3. Experiment with wood chips: I just bought a stainless steel wood chip smoker - it's a little box that you put your moistened wood chips in (hickory, applewood, whatever floats your boat). Soak the wood chips in water for about half an hour, drain, and put them in the box (or in an aluminum foil tin). Place the chips over one of the burners BEFORE YOU LIGHT THE GRILL and allow the smoke to develop as the grill heats up. The smoke of the wood chips can impart a really nice flavor that's calorie-free.
  4. Try new marinades and dry rubs. Here are just a few of my favorites; mix the marinade in a big zip lock bag and let the meat sit for a few hours or overnight, depending on the strength of the flavor. For steaks, especially the tougher cuts like skirt or flank, pierce the meat in several places so it absorbs the flavors of the marinade:
  • For beef or pork: 1 T. Chili powder (like Penzeys Chili 9000), chipotle powder to taste, 1 T. brown sugar, 1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce, 12 oz. can Beck's beer
  • For chicken: Juice of 1 lemon; 8 or so fresh basil leaves, cut or torn into strips, 1 T. coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
  • For beef or pork: Chili powder, garlic, maple syrup, 1 T. coarse sea salt, 12 oz. dark beer (like Guinness)
  • For beef or pork: 1 T. dijon mustard, 1 T. brown sugar or maple syrup, 1/4 c. low-sodium soy sauce, 12 oz. Beck's or Duvel beer.
  • Dry-rub variations of the above can be done (for the beef and pork marinades) by mixing the spices, salt and sugar and rubbing it on the meat, then letting it sit, refrigerated, for a few hours or overnight.

Enjoy! More recipes for marinades and grilling, and sides, to follow.

What flavors would you like to see a marinade or dry rub recipe for?

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