That barbecue taking up space on the deck isn’t just for burgers and steaks; it’s a multipurpose culinary tool. It’s as useful as any indoor kitchen appliance, able to cook everything from pizza to fish without heating up your kitchen. BONUS: grilling adds flavour, imparting a wonderful smokiness and a slightly charred, caramelized crust.
Whether you use charcoal or gas, the high, direct heat you get from an outdoor grill is similar to the broiler in your oven. Closing the lid traps heat and creates an oven environment, enabling you to cook food through (think melting cheese, big pieces of meat, even baked goods) without relying on the one-sided heat source. If you have a gas grill with three elements, you can cook food over indirect heat. Turn both side elements to low, and place the food you want to cook in the middle. (If you need insulation on the bottom, place food on an old inverted pan or balls of aluminum foil.) Close the lid and the thermometer on the outside will tell you what the temperature is inside – just like an oven. Besides meat, consider what you might cook over high heat in your kitchen, and give it a try on the grill – grilled cheese, corn on the cob, panini, potatoes. Give your oven a summer vacation and do it all outdoors!
Oil your grill to avoid food sticking. Before turning the barbecue on, dip a wad of paper towel in
cooking oil and wipe it over the grate, or remove the grill and spray with nonstick spray. Then close the lid and let it preheat, just as you would do with your oven. Try soaking wood chips and sealing them in a packet of foil to impart a smoky flavour; poke holes in the top with a knife and set it in the corner of the grill as you heat it up. As the wood starts to burn, it will begin to smoke; cooking with the lid closed will trap the smoke and add flavour to whatever it is you’re cooking, without the need for a smoker.
Never push down on meat, particularly burgers, with a spatula (unless a recipe instructs you to).
This squeezes out the flavourful juices and causes flare-ups. Try to turn steak, burgers and other
proteins only once. Brush on sauces and marinades that are high in sugar within the last few
minutes of cooking time, as sugars tend to burn easily over high heat. Let grilled meat rest for 5–10 minutes once it’s finished cooking. Tent it with foil to keep it from cooling off before slicing; if you cut into it to check for doneness, the juices will gush out, leaving your meat dry.
Published June 2010