More than eight out of ten households, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, own an outdoor barbeque grill or smoker. And, while we tend to view the start of summer as the start of the grilling season, the truth is that over half of grill owners now use their grills year-round, and not just at home. Many tailgaters, for example, find packing the grill and the coolers into the back of the SUV and enjoying the culinary entertainment that takes place before and after the game as much a part of game day as what goes on inside the stadium. The old fashioned picnic hasn't gone out of style, either. It offers an ideal combination of getting away from it all and the fun of grilling.
We're more creative than ever about the foods that go on the grill now. In fact, practically any food can be found on the grill today. All cuts of beef, pork, poultry, wild game, sausages, fish, vegetables, beans, soy foods, side dishes, and even fruits and breads are prepared over hot coals for the delicious, savory flavor that only this method of cooking can provide.
- Always start with a clean grill. This will help reduce the chance of flare-ups from burning grease, and it will also help keep smoke from previous barbeques from permeating the flavor of your food. That grilled salmon last weekend might have tasted pretty good, but salmon smoke on the grilled fruit kabobs you've prepared for tonight's dinner might not be quite so appealing.
- Position your grill in an open area, away from anything flammable, including your house. Heat from a grill that's set too close to the house will cause siding to scorch or melt and can even start a house fire. The same is true for grilling on the porch -- it poses a serious fire risk.
- To get the charcoal started, place crumpled newspapers or fuel cubes (another new invention since the 1960s!) in the center of the charcoal grate located in the bottom of the grill. Make sure the air vents on the outside of the grill are in the open position.
- Determine how much charcoal to use. One layer of charcoal should suffice for most foods; for larger foods, such as roasts, turkeys, or whole chickens, use two layers. When grilling in cold weather, use more charcoal.
- Place the charcoal briquettes over the newspapers or fuel cubes. Stack them in a pyramid shape and light the starter materials using a long match or fire starters.
- When the charcoal is coated in a light gray ash (after about 25 minutes) the coals are ready.
- Before cooking, the hot coals must be spread out according to the cooking method you'll be using. For the direct method, arrange them evenly across the charcoal grate. For indirect cooking, stack the coals on the sides of the grate, leaving an open space in the center of the grill.
- Place the cooking rack in the grill. If you're planning to cook low-fat meats, tofu, tempeh, or other foods that might stick to the rack, you may want to first coat it with oil.
- Close the grill lid, and give it a few minutes to thoroughly heat up before putting the foods on.
- Keep in mind that when cooking with indirect heat for long periods of time, fresh charcoal will need to be added throughout the process. Add 5 to 6 briquettes to each side of the grill as needed to maintain the heat (generally about every 45 minutes).
- Stay with the grill at all times! An unsupervised grill can heat up too quickly and overcook the food, and a flare-up, where grease from the food catches fire, can virtually ruin the meal or even cause a fire.
When first starting out, grilling is mostly guesswork and a series of trials and errors that lead to improvement. The grillmaster learns from experience to recognize when foods are prepared to their ultimate peak of flavor, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of some basic grilling tips to get you started.
When grilling, always keep food safety in mind. Keep meats refrigerated until they're ready to head to the grill. To prevent food-borne illness, use one platter to transport meats to the grill, and a different one to serve your finished meal, unless you've washed the platter with hot, soapy water in between. And make sure that all meat is thoroughly cooked (no "rare" options), as undercooked meat is a significant risk factor for food-borne illnesses. (The best way to test is by using a meat thermometer to test the internal temperature. Beef patties, for example, need to reach 160 degrees.)
The following grilling times are offered as general guidelines, but keep in mind that altitude, outside temperature, the volume of food being cooked, and personal taste preferences (such as whether you prefer your steak medium or well done) will impact cooking times.
- Steaks (T-bones, New York, porterhouse, rib-eye, sirloin, or beef tenderloin): 1- inch thick, 10 to 12 minutes over direct heat
- For thinner cuts of steak, cook a few minutes less. For thicker cuts, sear over direct heat for about 10 minutes, then finish grilling over indirect heat, anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes (for 1 1/4- inch thick steaks) to 10 to 14 minutes (for 2- inch thick steaks)
- Hamburgers: 3/4- inch thick, 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat
- Boneless rib eye roast: 5 to 6 pounds, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, indirect heat
- Rib roast: 12 to 14 pounds , 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 hours, indirect heat
- Veal loin chops: 1- inch thick, 10 to 12 minutes, direct heat
- Pork chops: 3/4- to 1- inch thick, 10 to 15 minutes, direct heat
- For thicker chops (1 1/4- to 1 1/2- inches thick), sear 8 minutes over direct heat, then 6 to 10 minutes over indirect heat
- Pork roasts: For loin roasts (blade, sirloin, center rib): 3 to 5 pounds, 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, indirect heat. For rib crown roasts, 4 to 6 pounds, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, indirect heat
- Ribs: 3 to 4 pounds, 1 1/2 to 2 hours, indirect heat
- Whole tenderloin: 3/4 to 1 pound, 25 to 30 minutes, indirect heat
- Bratwurst: 25 to 30 minutes, indirect heat
- Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless): 6 ounces, 8 to 12 minutes, direct heat
- Chicken breasts or wings (bone in): 30 to 40 minutes, indirect heat
- Chicken legs and thighs (bone in): 40 to 50 minutes, indirect heat
- Whole chicken: 3 1/2 to 5 pounds , 1 to 1 1/2 hours, indirect heat
- Cornish game hens: 1 1/2 to 2 pounds , 30 to 45 minutes, indirect heat
- Whole turkey: 10 to 11 pounds, 1 to 2 hours; 12 to 17 pounds, 2 to 3 hours; 18 to 24 pounds, 3 to 4 hours, indirect heat
- Turkey drumsticks: 1/2 to 1 1/2 pounds, 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, indirect heat
- Turkey breast (bone in): 4 to 5 pounds, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, indirect heat
- Lamb chops: 3/4- to 1 1/4-inch thick, 8 to 12 minutes, direct heat
- Leg of lamb: 6 to 7 pounds, 2 1/2 hours, indirect heat
- Rib crown roast: 3 to 4 pounds, 1 to 1 1/4 hours, indirect heat
- Lamb burger: 3/4 inch thick, 10 minutes, direct heat
- Rack of lamb: 1 to 1 1/2 pounds, 25 to 35 minutes, direct heat
- Fish fillets or steaks: 1/2- inch thick, 4 to 5 minutes; for 1- inch thick cuts, 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat
- Whole fish: 1 pound, 15 to 20 minutes; 2 to 2 1/2 pounds , 20 to 30 minutes; 3 pounds , 30 to 45 minutes, indirect heat
- Shrimp: 2 to 5 minutes, direct heat
- Scallops: 3 to 6 minutes, direct heat
- Mussels: 5 to 6 minutes, direct heat. If some don't open, throw them away.
- Clams: 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat. If some don't open, throw them away.
- Oysters: 3 to 5 minutes, direct heat
Some people prefer to grill fish in foil packets, with the addition of herbs, fresh lemon or other ingredients. Place the fish on a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, and lift the edges of the foil enough to hold a tablespoon of water or wine, a teaspoon of butter (optional), herbs, seasonings, and other ingredients. Close the foil packet tightly by folding the top and ends, leaving a small opening for steam to escape.
Fruits and vegetables prepared on the grill offer a unique and delightful taste experience in which whole new elements of the food's flavors are released, thanks to the caramelization of natural sugars. Virtually any fruit or vegetable can be prepared this way, and the leftovers make a great addition to green salads, pasta or rice dishes!
As a general rule, grilled vegetables are ready when the edges start to turn brown, but the following list provides some estimated grilling times. Foods should be turned halfway through the process and monitored for doneness.
- Artichokes: Steam whole artichokes for 20 to 25 minutes, then cut in half and grill 8 to 10 minutes over direct heat.
- Asparagus: 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat. Try brushing with sesame oil for added flavor.
- Bell peppers: Whole, 10 to 12 minutes; halved or quartered, 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat.
- Cabbage: Whole, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, indirect heat.
- Chiles: Whole, 7 to 9 minutes, direct heat. To reduce the pepper's own heat, cut off the stems and pull out the seeds before eating.
- Corn: Shucked, 10 to 12 minutes; in husk, 25 to 30 minutes, direct heat.
- Eggplant: 1/2-inch slices, 8 to 10 minutes; halved, 12 to 15 minutes, direct heat.
- Garlic: Whole, 45 minutes to 1 hour, indirect heat.
- Green beans: 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Green onions: Whole, 3 to 4 minutes, direct heat.
- Leeks: 14 to 16 minutes, direct heat.
- Mushrooms: Shiitake or button, 8 to 10 minutes; portobello, 12 to 15 minutes, direct heat.
- Onions: Whole (do not peel), 45 to 50 minutes; halved, 35 to 40 minutes, indirect heat. Onion chunks, 1/2-inch slices, 8 to 12 minutes, direct heat.
- Potatoes: Slices, 1/2-inch, 14 to 16 minutes, direct heat; new potatoes, halved, 20 to 25 minutes, direct heat; whole potatoes, 45 mins to 1 hour, indirect heat.
- Summer Squash (yellow or zucchini): 1/2-inch slices, 6 to 8 minutes; halved, 6 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Sweet Potatoes: Whole, 50 to 60 minutes, indirect heat; 1/4-inch slices, 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Tomatillos: 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat.
- Tomatoes: Halved, garden or plum varieties, 6 to 8 minutes; whole plum tomatoes, 8 to 10 minutes; tomato slices, 1/2-inch, 2 to 4 minutes; cherry tomatoes, 2 to 4 minutes, direct heat.
- Winter Squash (acorn, buttercup, butternut, etc.): 1 lb., 40 to 45 minutes; 2 lbs., 50 to 55 minutes, indirect heat.
Consider these fruit suggestions for your next grill-out, but again, keep in mind that these grilling times are simply guidelines. The ripeness of the fruit you're using, the heat of the grill and other factors will impact grilling times.
- Apples: Whole, 35 to 40 minutes, indirect heat; cut into 1/2-inch slices, 4 to 6 minutes, direct heat. Grill extra to use in your next pie or cobbler!
- Apricots: Halved, pit removed, 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat.
- Bananas: Halved lengthwise, 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat.
- Cantaloupes: Cut into wedges, 6 to 8 minutes, direct heat.
- Peaches and Nectarines: Halved, pit removed, 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Pears: Halved lengthwise, 8 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Pineapple: Peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch thick rings or one-inch thick wedges, 5 to 10 minutes, direct heat.
- Strawberries: 4 to 5 minutes, direct heat.
Nothing compares to the crisp, lightly charred crust of a grilled pizza. With the right ingredients, preparation and careful technique, you can learn how to grill pizza in a few simple steps. For complete ingredients and directions, see Grilled Gluten-Free Italian Herb Pizza Crust.
1. Mix together flours, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast then sugar into warm soymilk to activate the yeast. Whisk together flax and water and let sit until mixture thickens.
2. Combine flour mixture, oil, yeast mixture and flax mixture.
3. Drizzle remaining soymilk and knead mixture in bowl until it forms a rough dough ball. Transfer to a floured, hard surface and knead for 5 to 7 minutes, until soft and smooth.
4. Place in large mixing bowl, then drizzle with sunflower oil and cover with a towel. Let rise undisturbed in a warm spot for 45 minutes.
5.Get all of your pizza toppings ready to go on a large tray next to your grill before you put your pizza on the grill. Keep the toppings fairly light when grilling pizza. If using heavier/wet toppings (like artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, etc.) chop them well and distribute lightly.
6. Preheat your grill to 400 degrees. Divide the dough into four segments, rolling each into an oblong shape (the dough is easiest to work with at this size and shape). Cover with parchment to prevent drying. Brush your grill grates with high-heat safe oil and gently flip the pizza crust onto the grill. Grill for 4 to 6 minutes, then gently flip, sliding a large metal spatula under the dough and carefully turning over using your other hand as a brace to slowly lower back to the grill.
7. Top with sauce, cheese and other toppings, then close the grill until the cheese has fully melted, about 3 to 4 minutes.
8. Remove from the grill with the help of two metal spatulas and place onto a baking sheet. Place in a warm oven (about 225 degrees) to keep warm while you grill remaining pizzas.
Seasoning Grilled Food
An artful touch with rubs and marinades can mean the difference between good and great when it comes to backyard barbecue and grillwork. Knowledge of how much to use, how long to use it and which one works best with what, are all things that come with experience. But there are some fundamentals that are important to know.
Rubs and marinades: What’s the difference?
Broadly speaking, rubs are dry spice mixes and marinades are wet. But that doesn’t tell the whole story — some rubs are wet too, and a seasoning is not a rub. Oddly enough, rubs actually marinate, but marinades are not rubbed. What they do have in common is that they are used to flavor and sometimes tenderize foods before they get cooked, and they need some time to do their work.
The time aspect is what differentiates rubs and marinades from seasonings and bastes. While the ingredients may be similar, or even identical, seasonings and bastes are applied lightly during cooking, rather than heavily and well-before cooking.
Which should you use for what?
Generally, use rubs for wet, higher-fat foods like meat and fish, and use marinades for dryer, leaner foods like vegetables and fruits. Of course, like everything in cooking, there are exceptions to rules and personal tastes to be considered.
The basics of rubs
Rubs are usually dry mixes of spices and herbs that often include salt and sugar. They are applied liberally, and massaged into the meat. They add complimentary flavors and often foster the formation of a crust. This process takes time, and the general rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of 1 to 2 hours of marination per inch of meat.
Rubs should not be confused with cures. A cure involves copious amounts of salt, designed to draw the liquid out of the meat. This is how, for example, prosciutto and salt cod are made.
The zone between rubs and marinades includes wet rubs, or pastes. These begin as dry rubs, but have a small amount of liquid added — often oil, water or even yogurt — and this is smeared all over the meat.
The essentials of marinades
Marinades are liquid-based flavoring and tenderizing mixtures of herbs and spices with oil, various acids or dairy. The ones that contain acid do an effective job of tenderizing the food. In fact some do it so well, they literally cook it: Ceviche — raw fish soaked in citrus juice — is one such example. The more acid, and/or the thinner the food product it is marinating, the faster the acid will penetrate and tenderize.
Vegetables on the grill, such as a kabob, revel in a good marinade. Drier, leaner cuts of meat and fish prefer the liquid as well. Most importantly, when using an oil-based marinade on an item to be grilled, use a brush, rubber spatula or gloved hand to scrape away as much excess marinade as possible before placing it over the fire in order to avoid big flare-ups. With the indirect heat of barbecue, this is less important.
Ways to add spice to your grilled foods:
- Add to the pre-grilling soaking water for vegetables and fruits.
- Combine with melted butter for basting.
- Include in marinades.
- Add to fish, vegetable or fruit foil dishes.
- Use directly as a rub.
- Try our grilling seasonings: Chicken, Steak & Chop, Vegetable, Steak and Cajun Seasoning.
Here's a list of spices and their common uses on the grill.
- Allspice: marinades, poultry, fish, carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash
- Anise Seed: fish
- Apple Pie Spice: apples, pears, citrus fruits
- Basil: meats and poultry, tofu, tempeh, fish, seafood, vegetables
- Bay Leaves: marinades
- Caraway: potatoes, cabbage, carrots. (When grilling bratwurst or other sausages, put a pan of sauerkraut with a little caraway added on the grill, too, to serve as a side dish.)
- Cardamom: pork marinades, apples, pears, citrus fruits, cabbage, carrots
- Cayenne: hamburgers, chicken, tofu, tempeh
- Chili Pepper: seafood, chicken, tomatoes
- Chili Powder: steak marinades, beef, pork, fish, tofu, tempeh, corn
- Chives: chicken, fish, seafood, lamb, tofu, tempeh, potatoes, carrots
- Cilantro: vegetables, chicken, tofu, tempeh, marinades
- Cinnamon: apples, pears, peaches, lamb
- Cloves: beef roasts, pork roasts, sweet potatoes, onions, winter squash, apples, pears, citrus fruits, peaches
- Coriander: pork, poultry, apples
- Cumin: beef, hamburger, pork roast, chicken marinades, tofu, tempeh, cabbage, beans, lentils
- Curry Powder: beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, tofu, tempeh, vegetables
- Dill: veal, chicken, lamb chops, fish, shellfish, tofu, tempeh, potatoes, vegetables
- Fennel: pork, beans, vegetables, fruits
- Fenugreek: beef, beans, lentils, vegetables
- Garlic: beef, pork, lamb, game, beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, marinades, grilled breads
- Ginger: steak, chicken, fish, seafood, fruits, marinades
- Herbs de Provence: marinades, kabobs, chicken, pork, tomatoes
- Italian Seasoning: tomatoes, vegetables, chicken, tofu, tempeh, grilled breads
- Lemon Pepper: fish, tofu, tempeh, potatoes, vegetables
- Mace: fruits, poultry
- Marjoram: hamburgers, chicken, fish, lamb, poultry, vegetables
- Mexican Seasoning: hamburger, beef, chicken, beans, tofu, tempeh
- Mint: Lamb, fruits, vegetables
- Mustard: pork, beans, vegetables
- Nutmeg: veal, chicken, beef, lamb, vegetables, fruits
- Oregano: hamburger, beans, lentils, poultry, fish, tofu, tempeh, vegetables, grilled breads
- Paprika: poultry, vegetables
- Parsley: fish, poultry, potatoes grilled breads
- Poppy Seed: potatoes, cabbage, carrots, onions, zucchini
- Rosemary: chicken, lamb, pork, beans, potatoes, winter squash, grilled breads
- Saffron: chicken, fish
- Sage: veal, beef, hamburger, poultry, fish, tomatoes, vegetables
- Savory: beef, chicken, lamb, vegetables, beans
- Thyme: beef roast, hamburger, lamb, game, fish, beans, vegetables
- Turmeric: lamb, beans, zucchini
Part of what makes grilling so appealing is the delicious, sultry, smoky flavor it imparts in the food. Many enthusiasts use wood chips to enhance and control this flavor.
Wood chips must be pre-soaked in water for about an hour before being added to the grill. They can then either be placed in a smoker box inside your grill or tossed directly onto hot coals. (Wood chips can also be used in gas grills, but you should refer to your user's manual for instructions.) Start with about 1/4 cup of wood chips, and work up from there to achieve results that match your personal tastes and preferences. Here are some guidelines to get you started -- but be adventurous and experiment with other woods as well:
- Alder: light-flavored smoke that complements salmon, fish, and poultry
- Almond: nutty, sweet flavor that goes well with all meats
- Hickory: strong flavor, good with beef and lamb
- Maple: sweet flavor, a great choice for poultry and ham
- Mesquite: strong smoky flavor, good with most meats
- Oak: especially good with beef or lamb
Sauces & Glazes
Any of your favorite sauces or glazes can be applied to foods on the grill. Be sure to apply these only during the last 10 minutes of grill time, as the sugar and fat in sauces and glazes can cause flare-ups and burned food.
Try some of these recipes to get you started, and see Frontier's recipe collection for even more great grilling recipes.