There are as many ways to barbecue as there are backyard pit masters. Everyone has their method or “secret sauce” that they use to create some really tasty concoctions.
But what if you want to ratchet up your grilling to the next level?
For your cooking inspiration, here are a few of our favorite fun ideas for making tasty treats:
The flavor intensity is not going to be as powerful as that of true smoker, but it still can add a significant amount of punch.
For adding smoke to a charcoal barbecue, the chips or lumps are simply added directly to the coals. With gas, you can either lay lumps of wood around the perimeter of the grate, or use a smoker box to contain smaller chips.
The heat from the coals or gas will ignite the wood, producing smoke which is then contained by keeping the lid closed.
Chips can be used either dry or soaked, but with lumps, soaking can actually delay the smoking action for a bit too long.
These come in as many “flavors” as there are trees and shrubs – almond, apple, hickory, mesquite, and pecan are some of the most commonly sold products.
Almost any fruit wood, like peach or pear, is also great for producing a flavorful smoke.
No, we’re not talking about the viral internet phenomenon of balancing oneself parallel to the ground. This is simply the practice of cooking food directly on a plank made of hardwood over indirect heat, and it is suitable for all grill types.
The results are somewhat similar to that of smoking, as the food absorbs the natural flavors found in whatever variety of wood is used.
Choose a plank appropriate for the size of your food that is to be cooked, and a wood “flavor” that will suit your selection.
Planks require soaking in water, wine, apple juice, or beer for 1-2 hours prior to going on the grill. Once soaked, the dressed food goes on the top of the plank, which then goes on the grate for cooking.
Or, you can first scorch the plank over high, direct heat before adding the food and transferring it to an indirect zone – this way, the food will have more of a smoky flavor to it.
Marinades will also add wonderful depth of flavor to proteins for the grill, and they produce the juiciest, most tender meat imaginable.
Plus, it turns out that marinating meat and poultry for at least 30 minutes before going on the grill is the best way to ensure healthy grilling.
Marinades require four things to be effective:
- An acid for enzyme action to tenderize the meat, which is readily found in liquids like lemon and lime juice, apple juice, wine, yogurt, buttermilk, and vinegar.
- Flavor intensives, such as pungent herbs and spices.
- A drop of healthy oil to add moisture, like avocado, coconut, or olive oil.
- Enough time to let the process work, for a minimum of 30 minutes.
A good sear locks in juices for succulent results, and takes the flavors of meats like beef, pork, and lamb to whole new levels. Here’s the procedure:
1. If you’ve marinated your meat, drain it, pat it dry, and allow it to come to room temperature.
2. Generously coat both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper.
3. Preheat the grate to 500°F or set your sear burner to high, and grill on the first side for 90 seconds.
4. Using tongs (not a fork, which will puncture the protein and release those precious juices), flip the meat and sear for another 90 seconds on the other side.
5. When done searing, move to a medium-hot section of the grate and continue cooking until done to your liking.
4. Veggies and More!
Don’t forget – grilling isn’t all about meat! Cooking up delicious summer veggies on the grill couldn’t be easier.
Dense items like winter squash or potatoes will take longer to cook than watery veggies like zucchini, so grill in batches of similarly sized and textured items that require approximately the same cooking times.
Here’s what you need to do:
1. Brush all sides of your whole, chunked, or sliced veggies with a bit of oil.
2. Sprinkle with some freshly ground pepper and some minced fresh herbs.
3. Lay out large pieces such as slabs of zucchini or eggplant, thickly-sliced potato, corn on the cob, halved peppers, asparagus spears, or wedges of squash directly on the grate. Flip with tongs at about the halfway mark, and finish on the other side.
Thread chunky-cut veggies like pieces of zucchini, peppers, onions, and whole mushrooms onto skewers. Spin a quarter turn every 3-4 minutes until cooked through.
Another option for smaller pieces is to use a foil packet. Lightly oil the inside before adding the veggies to prevent sticking. Add a drop or two of oil or your favorite vinaigrette, and some fresh herbs. Seal tightly, and cook with the package placed seam-side up on the grate until tender.
Pizza cooked on the grill is another tasty option. You’ll need a good pizza stone or steel to assist in recreating that wood-fired pizza oven taste.
The secret to success with pizza on the grate is to have all of the ingredients ready before you begin, because the toppings go on after the dough has cooked for a couple of minutes.
- Preheat the grill to a hot 550°F, and assemble all of your ingredients and utensils close by.
- Make and shape your dough, then brush one side lightly with olive oil.
- Lay the dough on the pizza stone oil side down, and cook for 3 minutes or just until it’s set, but not crispy.
- Flip the dough with a pizza peel or spatula. Working quickly, lay down some sauce, cheese, and toppings.
- Close the lid and cook for 3-6 minutes or until the crust is done. Remove with the peel and enjoy!
Remember: For all cooking methods, too many toppings generally leads to pizza that’s soggy in the middle. Don’t overload your grilled pizza with toppings either, as the dough will burn before they’re thoroughly cooked.
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About Lorna Kring
Recently retired as a costume specialist in the TV and film industry, Lorna now enjoys blogging on contemporary lifestyle themes. A bit daft about the garden, she’s particularly obsessed with organic tomatoes and herbs, and delights in breaking bread with family and friends.