So what do you do when you have a Saturday in February with temperatures above 50°? Grill here; grill now. As much as I love the soups and comfort foods of winter, it is so good to enjoy the reminiscent flavors of summer when there is a break in the weather. Yes, it is even worth a special trip to the store to select whatever suits your grilling jones—burgers, thick meaty steaks, barbecue chicken, fish, lamb chops, or vegetables—for us it will be a porterhouse steak cooked over natural wood briquettes. Gas or briquettes, it doesn’t matter, if you’ve got ’em, light ’em, and enjoy this respite from the cold because winter is not quite done.
A few tips for great grilling:
1 ) Marinade is key. There are a number of marinades on the market, but there is nothing like homemade. Here are a few suggestions and links to find something that is just right for you. Remember to use a non-reactive pans or bowls for marinating.
This is one of our favorite marinades for chicken:
1 tablespoon minced chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 medium garlic cloves — minced
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Whisk together all the ingredients in medium bowl to create marinade. Place marinade and chicken in gallon-size zipper-lock bag and toss to coat; press out as much air as possible and seal bag. Refrigerate at least 1 hour, but more is better.
2) Let the marinade work its magic before and during grilling. Once the marinade is prepared, reserve 1/2 cup to use for basting the meat when grilling. If you forget to reserve some, most marinades can be heated on the stove once the meat is removed to make it usable and safe for basting. Some can even be used as the base for a dipping sauce to be served at the table. Just remember to boil any marinade that has had raw meat in it for at least 5 minutes before using it for anything else.
3) Use direct and indirect heat. Boneless and skinless meats can dry out and overcook when kept over direct heat. Start meats over direct heat to sear and create the familiar grill marks, but finish over indirect heat to retain moisture yet capture all the flavor of the grill.
4) When is it done? The trip to the store, food costs, lighting the charcoal, and special care to marinade is all for not if it ends up dangerously undercooked. For me, it just took practice to get a feel for it. For some good guidelines, check out this site to know when it is ready for the table.
5) Give it a rest. Vegetables should be served immediately after grilling so they do not get cold and unappetizing. Meats, on the other hand, need to rest for a few minutes to optimize flavor and texture. This also allows the cook to finish sides or sauces, set the table, or pour the wine.