I only need a few days with a steady high of 65 degrees before I’m ready to declare it grillin’ and chillin’ season. Most, if not all, of my favorite summer meals involve a grill. Years ago, when I lived in an apartment in downtown Frederick, Maryland, I was so eager for a perfectly grilled burger I purchased a mini charcoal grill. It could barely fit two well proportioned burgers, but it was one of the best cooking purchases I ever made. I love the sincere, smokey flavor they impart. I mostly use a gas grill nowadays, because it’s convenient, but I’ll always have a soft spot for tending that tiny charcoal grill.
A grilled meal is quick to prep, fast cooking and best of all outside in the glorious spring and summer weather. The other awesome fact about grilling, cleanup is usually a breeze. If you’ve been hesitant to turn up the heat, hopefully these tips will give you the confidence to give grilling a try.
Know thy tools
Get yourself a good grill brush and a set of long tongs. You can do some good grillin’ and chillin’ with just these two tools. An instant read thermometer is another useful tool if you’re concerned with undercooking your food.
Feeling charcoal – just use the damn chimney
Don’t let self proclaimed “grill masters” fool you. There’s nothing wrong with using a chimney to get your coals nice and hot when using a charcoal grill. It’s the most effective way to light the charcoal pieces and it means you don’t have to use any chemical-filled igniting fluid.
Choose your adventure
With a grill you can use direct heat or indirect heat. Direct heat means you’re cooking the food within the flames (like hamburgers). Indirect heat means you’re using the heat radiating inside the grill to cook the meat without completely charring it. To achieve this technique ignite half the burners and place the meat on the opposite side of the grill to cook or use a rack to raise the meat above the flames. This is great for larger cuts of meat, like a whole chicken.
Allow your grill time to get nice and hot before you plan to cook. Before you throw anything on there, give the grill grates a couple good passes with your grill brush. It’s a lot easier to clean your grill when it’s hot and clean grates mean clean sears on your food.
Use the right oil
Olive oil may be good for marinades, but it’s not the best choice for high heat grilling. My choice is avocado oil (but canola, vegetable or any other oil with a high smoke point will do.) When it’s time to cook, wad up a paper towel and lightly dunk it in a bowl with a little oil in it. Using your long tongs, quickly oil your grill grates with your soaked paper towel.
You’ve got your grill grates nice and hot, you’ve oiled them, now it’s time to get cooking. Once you’ve placed the food on the grill, be patient. If you want those killer grill marks you have to give the food a chance to cook properly on the first side before you turn it. If you try to flip it and it’s still really sticking, it’s not ready yet. Most food will release easily when it’s cooked thoroughly on one side.
It’s not all about the meat
A quick google will provide lots of creative recipes for grilled vegetables (check out this grilled veggies recipe) and even fruit. One of my favorite summer desserts is grilled pineapple. It goes perfectly with vanilla ice cream, but is also just perfect with some fresh mint and a squeeze of lime juice.
Grillin’ and Chillin’
OK, so we can’t forget the “chillin” part, now can we? We suggest grabbing a few lawn chairs, or lawn games, inviting some friends over, and having a few drinks. Then, sit back and simply enjoy the warm weather, great company, and, of course, the deliciously grilled meal you’ve just made!
Here are some fun summer drinks to try:
• The Perfect Summer Manhattan (PS-It’s super easy to make!)
• Fruity Mocktails the entire family can enjoy
• Sweet Garden Mule (bonus-you can use ingredients from your own garden!)
• Coconut Lime & Mint Granita (it’s basically vegan-friendly ice cream!)
Happy grillin’ and chillin’!