Grilling from A to Z

Check out our 26 great tips, products, and recipes to get you cookin'.

A is for Alder Wood

Photographer: David Hillegas

A is for Alder Wood

This is one of the best woods for grilling or smoking vegetables and seafood--its light, woody aroma doesn't overpower mild foods. Remember to soak wood chips in water at least 30 minutes before grilling, so they'll smoke instead of burn.

B is for Bacon

Photographer: David Hillegas

B is for Bacon

Bits are for wimps. Burgers' Smokehouse Bacon Steak Cuts are thick-sliced so they grill up moist and smoky-delicious. ($30 for 2 pounds) smokehouse.com

C is for Cheese

Photographer: David Hillegas

C is for Cheese

Warm Brie is divine, but you can take it to a whole new level by heating it on the grill. Wood planks add rich flavor to the elegant appetizer, but you can use heavy-duty aluminum foil, too. Be sure to choose cheese with a rind around the entire piece, or it will melt and run onto the grates.

D is for Dessert

Photographer: David Hillegas

D is for Dessert

Don't abandon the grill just because it's time for something sweet. Make your entire meal an alfresco event by finishing with a grilled dessert. Our fruit cobbler is a tasty way to enjoy plump summer berries. Use a cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron skillet, and don't pile on the ingredients--just fill to a little more than halfway, or they will bubble over.

E is for Eco-grilling

Photographer: David Hillegas

E is for Eco-grilling

Grilling's gone green. Opt for eco-friendly charcoal instead of chemical-infused briquettes. Natural hardwood lump charcoal contains no fillers or coal and, best of all, it cooks hotter and faster than traditional briquettes. New on the market: aFire Coconut Charcoal, compressed coconut cylinders that burn like lump charcoal with less ash. ($13) afireinc.com

F is for Foil Packets

Photographer: David Hillegas

F is for Foil Packets

Grilling in aluminum foil packages is a practical riff on the French technique en papillote, where ingredients are wrapped in parchment paper and baked. The food steams, making it tender and flavorful. For the grill, use heavy-duty foil, or double up on the regular kind.

G is for Gloves

Photographer: Ted Tucker

G is for Gloves

When you need to move a hot grill grate, flimsy potholders just won't do. Opt for extra-long leather grill gloves to protect both your hands and your arms from the heat. Many styles available at amazon.com.

H is for Hibachi

Photographer: David Hillegas

H is for Hibachi

Hibachis were traditionally used for heating, but now function as small tabletop food grills. Remove the grill liner and the design-savvy Eva Solo Table Grill doubles as a chic salad bowl. ($330) thefusioncompany.com

I is for Indirect Heat

I is for Indirect Heat

Grilling foods over indirect heat is similar to oven-roasting, but you also get extra texture and flavor. Gas grills make it easy: Heat the enitre grill, and then simply turn off the side where food will be cooked. For charcoal fires, arrange hot coals on either side of the grill with a metal drip pan in the center, under the food. For both gas and charcoal fires, keep the grill covered so heat can circulate around the food.

J is for Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Photographer: David Hillegas

J is for Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

From merely hot to incendiary, this Caribbean seasoning gets its kick from a blend of ingredients such as chiles, thyme, cinnamon, garlic, and nutmeg. Sprinkle on meat or vegetables.

K is for Kebabs

Photographer: David Hillegas

K is for Kebabs

Shish! Everyone loves a good kebab. The trick for great ones is to make sure meat and vegetables are cut into equal-size pieces before skewering so that everything has a chance to cook evenly. Don't forget to soak wooden skewers in water at least 30 minutes before using so the ends not covered with food won't burn.

L is for Lighter

Photographer: David Hillegas

L is for Lighter

Is the Girl Scout in you still trying to light a fire the old-fashioned way? Give it up and rely on the new Looftlighter. It looks like a funky curling iron, but the perforated metal tube lights wood in charcoal fires in a flash. Touch the tip of the Looftlighter to the wood for 15 seconds, and then hold it 6 inches away--the warm air fuels a crackling fire. You can get that badge now. ($80) looftusa.com for retailers

M is for Marinade

Photographer: David Hillegas

M is for Marinade

Grilling may seem macho, but it has a tender side--and so will your meats if you marinate them. Marinades add flavor as well as juiciness, and research shows that marinating meat before grilling it can reduce up to 90 percent of its naturally occurring carcinogens.

N is for Nectarines

Photographer: David Hillegas

N is for Nectarines

Nectarines are ideal on the grill--the slight hit of smokiness intensifies their sweetness. Cut 4 nectarines in half, discarding pits. Brush with 1 tablespoon melted butter and place cut sides down, on a well-greased grill grate. Grill over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) about 4 minutes or until warmed through. Remove from grill. Combine 2 tablespoons each melted butter and maple syrup and spoon over nectarines. Serve on their own or with ice cream.

O is for Oil

Photo courtesy of Bertolli

O is for Oil

Oil keeps your grill grates lubricated so that food doesn't stick and then fall apart. Dip a folded paper towel in vegetable oil and, holding it with tongs, swipe quickly over grates. Fire up the grill and let the heat cook the oil onto the grate (similar to seasoning a cast iron pan). Keep oil and paper towels by the grill, and swipe before each new piece of food is cooked.

P is for Potatoes

Photographer: David Hillegas

P is for Potatoes

For a big flavor boost, coat potatoes with seasoned oil before grilling, but save the oil. After potatoes are grilled, toss them in it again. The rosemary will burn off on the grill, but what's left in the infused oil adds amazing flavor.

Q is for Quesadillas

Photographer: David Hillegas

Q is for Quesadillas

Vegetables go from boring to brilliant when grilled and placed in a quesadilla. The trick to keeping the flour tortillas together is cheese--it must melt to hold everything in place. We added easy-melt Monterey Jack, plus a little goat cheese for flavor. For more heat, try pepper jack.

R is for Rotisserie

Photographer: David Hillegas

R is for Rotisserie

Rotisserie cooking is an ancient technique where meat rotates on a spit above a heat source. The roation allows foods to self-baste, so they stay juicy and brown evenly. Motorized units can be added to existing grills, but we like the self-contained FYRKAT Cone Charcoal Grill--it's portable, and the colors make us smile. ($180) bodumusa.com

S is for Steak

Photographer: David Hillegas

S is for Steak

Ever since man first decided to cook meat over an open flame, steak has been making its way to the top of our list of favorite fired-up foods.

T is for Thermometer

Photographer: David Hillegas

T is for Thermometer

Is it done yet? For juicy, perfectly cooked foods, use the Talking Digital Grill Thermometer. An audible alert means you can set the table or chat with friends instead of keeping a solitary vigil over the hot grill. ($60) chefscatalog.com

U is for Utensils

Photo courtesy of Home Depot

U is for Utensils

You want to get a guy near the grill? Give him tools. Here's a list of the six most useful must-haves:

1. tongs

2. spatula

3. basting brush

4. meat thermometer

5. charcoal chimney or electric charcoal starter

6. food baskets

V is for Vegetables

Photographer: David Hillegas

V is for Vegetables

Don't let the meat eaters dominate--veggies deserve a front row on the grill. Lightly coat vegetables with oil; they tend to stick to grill gates. If you don't have a grill pan, cut pieces in half lengthwise, so they're less likely to drop into the flames.

W is for Water

Photographer: David Hillegas

W is for Water

Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to douse flare-ups, which happen when oil from marinades or fat from meats hits hot charcoal or gas burners. Use aluminum spray bottles; plastic can melt. And always drain food well of marinades and trim excess fat from meats before grilling.

X is for X-Grill

Photographer: David Hillegas

X is for X-Grill

An oceanside picnic is a great time for a hot, juicy burger. The X-Grill BBQ folds flat to store in your trunk for impromptu beach barbecues. ($45) picnictrend.com

Y is for Yakitori

Photographer: David Hillegas

Y is for Yakitori

Traditionally, this is the Japanese term for chicken that's skewered and grilled. Try our easy version of this popular Japanese street food.

Z is for Zest

Photographer: David Hillegas

Z is for Zest

Don't keep all the fire under the lid! Brave grill masters add some heat with spicy marinades and tongue-tingling hot sauces.

(From left) 1. Oyster, Clam & Everything Else Sauce in Backfire-X-Hott, $6.50; crazyjerrysinc.com  

2. Greta Hot Sauce in Sweet Vidalia Habanero, $5.50; ladybirdandfriends.com  

3. Huey Fong Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, $7; amazon.com  

4. Plametto Pepper Potions Molten Golden Hot Sauce, $8; hotsauceworld.com  

5. Captain Redbeard's Sharkbite Garlic Pepper Sauce with Shark Tooth, $4.50; hollywoodsauce.com

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