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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Outdoor cooking: Learn about techniques and ingredients before buying

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Grilled Chicken with Spicy Ginger Marinade. Grilled Chicken with Spicy Ginger Marinade.
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Father's Day weekend is a good time to try a new barbecue utensil, cooking technique, specialty product, or luxury food. But before you make your selections, take some time to learn about what you are buying.

Using a holiday gift of a Cajun Injector Kit that included two jars of Injector Marinade and the kitchen syringe (injector), I've been preparing meat and poultry with mixed results.

For our first project, two pieces of pork tenderloin were injected with a Creole Butter Recipe, using about 1/2 cup. After roasting at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, the meat sliced beautifully and was tender. In terms of flavor, the marinade was average.

Using the injector marinade sauce on an inexpensive boneless ham was a disaster, even though the idea was advertised by the commercially prepared product. As I was injecting the marinade into one spot of the ham, it was shooting out from another spot, and marinade was all over the kitchen.

"Ham is 20 percent injected already," says barbecue expert Steven Raichlen who grills for his PBS TV show Barbecue University, classes he teaches, and books he writes, including the Barbecue! Bible series. "Ham's so oversaturated so the meat couldn't absorb any more."

Then I used Honey Bacon BBQ marinade on a chicken half, injecting less than a 1/2 cup in the thickest spots of the chicken. Next to this chicken half, we grilled a half without the marinade. The half that was marinated was done in 50 minutes; when it was cut, you could see pockets of marinade. The half that was not marinated was done in 65 minutes. (Injecting marinade may hasten cooking.)

Turkey and large pieces of meat like pork, but not beef, are recommended for injection marinade. "I use this method judiciously,' says Mr. Raichlen, who markets Steven Raichlen Best of Barbecue tools, fuels, flavors, and accessories, including a Marinade Injector (www.bestofbarbecue.com). "For best results, use injection marinade with meats that can be dry such as chicken, turkey, or pork. For chicken, inject the marinade deep in the breast and thigh. Or use it for a pork shoulder roast."

Try injection marinade when grilling turkey. Try injection marinade when grilling turkey.
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Injector kits are sold at sporting goods and specialty stores, as well as online. Extreme caution should be used with this equipment. The injectors can be dangerous for children, the elderly, and anyone with vision problems. You can really hurt yourself with these utensils. Storage of the sharp injector must be very high and safe; the plastic utility top should be secure around the needle for safety when reaching into the cabinet.

Also important, the flavor of the marinade, whether used for traditional soaking of meat and poultry or for injecting, is critical to satisfaction with the grilled food.

There is a difference between traditional marinades and those used for injector marinades. Traditional marinades can have chopped or minced garlic, parsley, onion, ginger root, fruit zest, and other fresh spices added to the liquid. Any of these particles will clog the injector. Injector marinades, therefore, should be liquid without any small particles.

Many commercial injector marinades have a barbecue sauce base with Cajun spices. An alternative is to make your own sauce such as the chicken broth-based Injector Sauce from How To Grill by Mr. Raichlen (Workman, $19.95), which is used with Cajun Smoked Turkey.

Asian Injector Sauce from Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades by Mr. Raichlen (Workman, $12.95) is recommended for chicken or pork for a sweet flavor.

With a traditional marinade, the meat or poultry soaks give flavor to the surface area, which is definitely easier. Try Grilled Chicken with Spicy Ginger Marinade made with a marinade that has a nonfat yogurt base.

Marinades not only add flavor, they tenderize. Most contain an acid (lemon juice, vinegar, or wine) and herbs and spices. The acid is important as a tenderizer for tough cuts of meat. Marinating should be done in a glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container, but never in aluminum.

Also convenient are smoker bags, a stovetop smoker, grilling planks, and specialty meats to bring flavor to your grilling repertoire.

For those who aren't sure whether they like smoked food, Kathy Hooker, owner of Essential Gourmet in Sylvania, recommends the Cameron smoker or smoker bag. The smoker bag ($4.95) can be used in the oven, grill, or campfire. You can use it with fish, poultry, beef, pork, vegetables, and game meats.

"This is milder in smoke flavor than the smoker," Mrs. Hooker says. "It's a good way to try out this method of cooking."

First, fill the bag with the food (five-pound maximum) to be smoked. Next, place the bag on the heated cooking surface and cook for the recommended time. Finally, open the bag and serve. Cleanup is easy: Just toss the bag.

The Cameron Li'l Smoker ($34.50) with two wood chip samples in hickory and alder can be used on the stovetop or outdoor grill or oven. It is easy to clean up and dishwasher safe.

Grilling planks sold in a combo pack of alder and cedar (two of each for $17) add subtle flavor to favorite foods without adding fat or oil, Mrs. Hooker says. The planks allow seafood, meat, chicken, or vegetables to roast slowly, baste in their own juices, and create a smoky flavor. They can be used on gas or charcoal barbecues with cooking times of 20 to 40 minutes.

Cedar planks can be reused if they aren't too charred or cracked. Once the plank has cooled, brush it clean with a grill brush, set it upright to dry, and store it in a brown paper bag. Re-soak before using.

D'Artagnan, the chef's food purveyor, has seven luxury barbecue items for a Father's Day Grilling Spectacular Kit. It has two 8-ounce Wagyu Beef Burgers, two 8-ounce Buffalo Ribeyes, Game Sausage Selection (12-ounce venison and 8.5 ounces each of rabbit, duck, and boar) and a four-pack of Venison Chops (14 ounce). Cost is $75 including packaging and shipping. For information, visit www.dartagnan.com; to order enter KITDAD as the code.

As for our house, we've put our kitchen injector in storage. I'll try this one more time on the annual Christmas crown roast of pork using Mr. Raichlen's classic marinade and my oven in hopes of making the holiday meat more moist. Stay tuned.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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