Grilling not only adds a delicious distinct flavour to foods, it also keeps your kitchen cool during the sweltering days of summer. If you get stuck in a rut of grilling the tried-and-true foods such as burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steaks and spareribs, step outside the grill box and experiment cooking non-traditional food over gas flames or hot briquettes.
To ensure best results when grilling, be sure to clean your grill before starting the fire to remove food residue and prevent old flavours from infusing new dishes.
Meat and poultry
Marinades and rubs easily transform meat and poultry from plain and simple to exotic or ethnic. Red or white wine infused with fresh herbs gives a rich European flavour. For a tropical taste treat, use citrus juices and fruit peels as the marinade base and add hot chili flakes or freshly minced jalapeno to make the fruity flavours pop. Rub pork and beef cuts with a mixture of granulated garlic, smoked paprika and generous amounts of salt and pepper and refrigerate overnight to add complexity and depth to the meat. If you use rubs on skin-on chicken, gently lift the skin and apply the mixture directly to the flesh — it won’t penetrate the skin. Use an instant read meat thermometer to ensure your meat and poultry are cooked to perfection without guessing.
Fish and seafood
Many cooks shy away from cooking fish on the grill because it’s so delicate and prone to falling through the grate when you try to turn it. Choose meaty fish such as salmon, opah (sunfish) and swordfish for grilling, all of which nicely withstand careful turning and won’t dry out as easily as more delicate varieties such as sole, flounder or tilapia. If the idea of losing a prized piece of fish to the fire still scares you, use a disposable grilling pan with holes in the bottom to prevent mishaps and still get the smoky flavour into the fish. Shrimp is easy to grill if you thread it onto water-soaked bamboo skewers. To give it extra stability, use two skewers and thread one through the tails and the other through the head ends of the shrimp. Crab legs and lobster are scrumptious cooked on a gas or charcoal grill. Fish and seafood cook very quickly, so don’t leave the grill unattended and check for doneness every two to three minutes.
Marinated vegetables are easiest to cook on the grill, because the oil in the marinating liquid deters sticking. Lightly marinated eggplant, mushrooms and beets take on a smoky flavour when cooked over open fire. To grill fresh tomatoes to perfection, cut them in half, brush the surfaces with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill covered over medium heat until the skins get soft, about six to eight minutes. Skewered cherry tomatoes cook in two to three minutes. Corn on the cob grilled with the husks on becomes tender and sweet if you soak the ears in water for 10 minutes before grilling. For a charred taste, husk the corn and grill it directly over the fire until the kernels start to brown. Wow your guests with grilled potatoes, a simple dish made with parboiled red or white potatoes skewered and brushed with oil and fresh rosemary during cooking.
The natural sugar in many fruits caramelizes on the grill and transforms it into an elegant side or dessert dish. Pineapple spears get soft and brown in just a few minutes per side. Grill peaches to serve with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream by pitting and halving them, brushing the cut surfaces with olive oil and placing them directly over the heat for eight to 10 minutes. Drizzle them with honey while hot and let the honey soak in for an hour or two before serving. To add a unique flavour to banana splits, grill the bananas for a few minutes before slicing them and building the dessert.