Grilling To Perfection
Imagine your perfect summer day in North America – the humidity is low and a mild
scent of chlorine is wafting through the air from your above-ground pool. The scent itself may
just be enticing enough for you to indulge in an afternoon swim. Your back yard is full of friends
and family, soaking up the sun and splashing playfully. The only thing missing from this
beautifully painted picture is the food.
Whenever I think of the perfect summer day, my complete image includes the grill. If you
have ever grilled before, you will know that everything about the grill and its ability to transform
food is appealing. Using the grill sends one into sensory overload. From the smell of meat
getting wonderful char on its flesh, to the even more satisfying sound of its sizzle, there is
something about this fiery tool that is undeniable. Be it gas, charcoal, or wood fired, the grill is
the ultimate tool to create a wonderful summer menu. Here are a few essential tips when using a grill this summer:
1) Preheating and Cleaning – Before grilling anything (meat, vegetables, fish etc.), it is
important that the bars on your grill are clean and hot. Start off by opening up the top of your
grill and inspecting the bars. If the bars have food scraps leftover from pervious use, light the
grill and close the top to allow the inside to get searing hot (around 500 degrees F and 260
degrees C). Properly heating your grill is an essential step in the cooking process. It not only
melts the scraps from previous uses, but also ensures that your meats and vegetables will
have the proper sear or char marks on them. Once the grill has been heated, take a grill
scraper and remove all of the leftover scraps that are still clinging to the bars.
2) Greasing – Now that the bars have been cleaned, it is important to properly grease your grill.
I cannot tell you how many times I have put down lean cuts of chicken or fish and watched in
despair as I peeled only half of my chicken off the grill, while the other half remains burning
on the bars. To avoid this culinary catastrophe, apply cooking spray to the bars or lightly
brush on some olive oil. Important safety tip: both cooking spray and olive oil are highly
flammable! Therefore, when you are applying these products, apply with a healthy distance
from your grill so as not to catch on fire.
3) Grilling Meat, Poultry, and Fish – When you have finally finished this tedious prep work,
it is time for the fun part – GRILLING! It may seem simple enough to quickly throw burgers
or steak on the grill and watch them for a bit until everything fully cooked. However, there is
a way to maximize the natural flavor that is already in the meat. You have already waited
patiently for the grill to heat up. The next step is to season your protein of choice and drizzle
a small amount of olive oil over the top. Then, without hesitation or apprehension,
confidently lay the protein on the grill away from your body to avoid any splashing of hot oil
or flames. Properly heated bars will create that satisfying sizzle when the protein hits them.
Just like with sautéing, the application of the protein to a searing grill will create char and
provide amazing natural flavor. Not only are the fat and the flesh from the meat caramelizing,
but the meat is also getting amazing flavor from the bars themselves. The application of fire
to the protein gives it a sort of smokiness or fiery flavor that is not present when cooking
meat in a pan. Once the protein is cooked to your desired “doneness”, turn it onto its other
side to get the same effect. Helpful tip: When grilling fish, it is important to know which
types of fish are best for this method of cooking. The fish that are best fit for direct contact
with the grill (skin to bars) are firm, fatty, meaty fish that hold their shape once cooked. The
most common types of “grilling” fish include (but are not limited to) salmon, ahi tuna steak,
and swordfish. For more flakey fish such as filet of sole, flounder, and cod, place on the grill
in tin foil with herbs, lemon juice or wine, and a bit of seasoning.
4) Vegetables – For all of those reading and wondering if there is going to be any veggie love
do not worry, they will get all the attention they deserve. Vegetables are some of the staple
foods that I absolutely LOVE to grill. Preparing vegetables for the grill is very similar to
preparing animal protein. Firstly, for simple seasoning, toss your veggies in a bit of salt,
pepper, and olive oil. Make sure that the vegetables are thoroughly coated and that the
seasoning is even. Once you have completed the preparation, the vegetables are ready to be
grilled. When placed on the grill, the vegetables should sizzle, ensuring that you will be
getting char, caramelization, and maximum flavor. Fully-cooked produce on the grill should
be bright and vibrant in color. It should be slightly puckered/wilted, but should maintain its
original shape. It is imperative that you watch your vegetables and are ready to control the
heat exposure. If you have vegetables that are thinner and leafy, it is best to keep them on low
or indirect heat. Conversely, if the vegetables are thicker and have more “meat” to them, keep
them on direct heat and check on them every minute or so. Grilling gives the vegetables a
unique flavor that is simultaneously smoky and sweet. Helpful tip: Grilled vegetables are
delicious as is, but for a little more panache, dress them with a bit of extra virgin olive oil,
some crushed garlic, chopped parsley leaves, and a bit of balsamic vinegar. The combination
of the tangy vinegar, the rich, fruity olive oil, and the fresh, leafy parsley will go perfectly
with the fiery char on the vegetables.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below! Tell us
what your favourite thing to grill is!