Grilling Meats, Vegetables & Fruits
Americans love the flavor of grilled foods. While a steak could just as easily be prepared in an oven broiler, there's simply no comparison to the flavor of a steak that's pulled off the grill. The same is true of other foods, like vegetables. Steam a fresh tomato or a bunch of asparagus spears, and they're good, but grill them, and they're nothing short of fabulous.
There's a reason for that -- and it's all about the heat. On a grill, you're working with two sources of heat (and very high heat, at that): direct and indirect. The direct heat comes from the gas burners or the charcoal, while the indirect heat is what circulates throughout the grill when the lid is down. Controlling the balance of these two kinds of heat -- by raising or lowering the cooking rack, readjusting the charcoal or gas temperature, and opening or partially closing air vents -- is the key to that special grilled flavor.
While both direct and indirect heat come into play in any grilled foods, specific types of foods call for focusing on one method or the other. The direct method, where the food is cooked directly over the heat source -- the charcoal or the gas -- should be used for foods that take less than 25 minutes, such as kabobs, sausages, steaks, pork chops, cut-up chicken, soy foods, fruits, and vegetables. Foods that take longer than 25 minutes should be cooked with the indirect method, in which coals are positioned along the sides of the grill, and the foods are placed in the center, away from the heat source. The heat from the coals circulates, slowly cooking the food on all sides. This method is recommended for larger foods, such as turkeys, whole chickens, roasts, ribs, and thick steaks, as well as some more delicate foods, such as fish fillets (or even vegetables), which sometimes fare better when cooked more slowly.
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°F.)
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!
Tips for grilling fruits and vegetables:
- Grill whole, halved, or in chunks.
- Soak fruits and vegetables in cold water for about 30 minutes prior to grilling to maintain juiciness. For fruits, add a little lemon juice to the soaking water to preserve color.
- After soaking, pat dry, then brush lightly with oil to prevent sticking. For vegetables, olive oil is a good choice, but for fruits, use a less distinctive oil, or melted butter.
- Place small vegetables or fruits, such as baby carrots or strawberries, in 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.
- Skewers for fruit or vegetable kabobs or wire grilling baskets may also help make grilling fruits and vegetables a little easier, as they'll prevent foods from falling through the grill rack onto the coals. If using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about an hour before using. Metal skewers are preferable for kabobs that include meat. Choose flat metal skewers rather than round ones, as round skewers can cause the food to roll when turned, resulting in unevenly cooked foods.
- Grilled fruit makes an excellent side dish or simple dessert. While any type of fruit can be grilled -- everything from apples to strawberries -- harder fruits such as apples, pears, and pineapples are a little easier to work with, as they hold their shape better while on the grill. Peaches, mangos, and other soft fruits can be grilled successfully, but they need to be closely watched so that they don't overcook and become mushy.
- When preparing most fruits for grilling, cut in half and remove seeds, pits, core and stems, but leave the peels or skins intact to help the fruit keep its shape during the cooking process (whether you decide to eat the skins after grilling is totally up to you). Citrus fruits should be cut into slices before being placed on the grill, and smaller fruits, such as strawberries, should be left whole.
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
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.
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