Grilling days are here; new recipes and equipment promise a full season

5/22/2007
BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR
Grilled kabobs
Grilled kabobs
Marinated Tennessee hickory flank steak.
Marinated Tennessee hickory flank steak.

Memorial Day weekend isn't complete without at least one cook-out on the deck or backyard picnic table. Once the grill is in full operation, the warm-weather season is officially launched.

With new recipes, cookbooks, and equipment, and plenty of barbecue events, grilling includes everything from simple foods to gourmet menus.

While the charcoal grill and the gas grill are the two major types, there are plenty of other options. In fact, you could cook on a different type of grill every night of the week.

Charcoal burns hotter than gas, and it is easier to use wood chips or herbs on the coals. We use dried and fresh sage leaves and wood chips on our gas grill without any problem. Plus, the heat can be more easily controlled on the gas grill.

This only proves there are pros and cons for every type of grill. For example, the electric grill has a thermostat for easy heat regulation. But the food lacks live-fire flavor and it cannot be cooked indirectly on the heat source of most electric models.

The rotisserie roasts rather than grills the food. Chickens self-baste while they cook, which keeps them juicy and moist. Rotisseries cook long and slowly, allowing most of the fat to drip off while the meat remains moist.

Smoking is a form of live-fire cooking. The meat becomes very tender and has an intensely smoked flavor. There are water smokers (which use liquid at the base to keep food moist during cooking) and barrel smokers (which crisp the food).

The hibachi grill is traditional in Japan. It consists of a metal firebox with grates over coals.

New to me is the Tuscan grill for use in a fireplace. Four metal legs stand in the fire and a grate is raised four inches over it.

The ceramic cooker is a charcoal grill modeled after a Japanese kamado, a domed clay oven. The clay construction allows it to hold heat, and it is ideal for cooking large, whole birds.

The table grill looks like a large table; the top has a shallow rectangular box that holds charcoal. Some are fitted for gas. This is popular among backyard barbecue enthusiasts in Australia.

The grill pan is made of cast iron and is often covered with a nonstick coating. It is designed for the stove top.

The electric tabletop grill, such as the George Foreman Grill, is popular because it can be used year round. It is ideal for boneless meat such as boneless skinless chicken breasts and thighs, chicken tenders, or kebobs.

Whatever grill you use, you can never go wrong when cooking the classic burgers, hot dogs, and steaks. But the bounty of grilling options today can really keep you busy the whole summer and into the fall.

This year, the Asian influence is evident even in burgers. In Barbecue Nation by Fred Thompson (Taunton, $18.95), there are at least 25 different burger recipes using beef, buffalo, turkey, fish, lamb, and pork. The author thinks one-third pound of meat is the best weight for burgers made at home. It's the best size for them to cook evenly.

The author traces his Korean Burger recipe to a small Korean restaurant in the East Village of New York City. Korean barbecue is marinated and grilled with a sweet, salty, and tangy result. To achieve the same flavors for the Korean Burger using 1 pound sirloin, add 3/4 cup grated onion, 4 teaspoons sugar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, 5 teaspoons dry sherry, and 2 cloves garlic, minced.

The cookbook also includes recipes for grilled rabbit, buffalo shish kebob, and southwestern flank steak. Flank steak is a popular lean cut of beef. Slice the flank steak across the grain in thin slices or it will be tough. Flank steak is often marinated, but it can also be grilled with homemade and commercial barbecue sauces.

The Blade tested a flank steak recipe using a Korean marinade from The Stubb's Bar-B-Q Cookbook written with Kate Heyhoe (Wiley, $14.95). The recipes are based on those of C.B. "Stubb" Stubblefield and the Austin restaurant that bears his name, and the sauces he began bottling in 1992. Korean Steak, Stubb-Style is grilled over a charcoal pit. The marinade is also good on lamb when charcoal-grilled.

In King of the Q's Blue Plate BBQ, Ted Reader (Home, $21.95) writes about his favorite method of grilling fish: planking, which is cooking fish on cedar planks set directly on the grill. He traces the method back to the Haida people on Canada's west coast. Mr. Reader also uses other rustic methods, such as wrapping fish tightly in banana leaves or aluminum foil to keep it moist and delicious.

Cedar Planked Salmon cooks on a charcoal fire in 25 to 30 minutes.

Another popular flavor for grilling combines jerk seasoning and tropical salsa. Jerked Chicken and Plantain Kebabs with Papaya-Avocado Salsa is made with chunked boneless chicken thighs threaded onto skewers with pieces of plantain.

While barbecue events are scheduled throughout the summer (see related article on Page xx), new and intriguing grill equipment can help you produce your own food event.

At a food exhibit in Chicago, I saw the Weber "Q" Rolling Cart in action. The cart is part caddy and part stand: it's like a rolling suitcase, but in this case, when the cart is folded down, a series of Weber grills, including the Weber "Baby Q" and 100 or 200 series gas grills, can be hauled around without awkward pulling and tugging. To park the grill, remove it and unfold. The tank and grill are not included with the purchase price of the cart. For information visit www.weber.com.

For those who want to roast a pig, the La Caja China's pig roasting box cooks a pig in less than four hours. It is a wood box with an aluminum-lined interior and wheeled leg supports. It uses charcoal or wood to create radiant heat from above the meat. Turkey and other meats can also be cooked in the roasting box. For more information, visit www.lacajachina.com.

From Steven Raichlen's 2007 product catalog, the stainless steel seafood rack can cook oysters, clams, and mussels in the shells. The rack is designed to hold shellfish flat during grilling to keep juices in the shellfish not on the coals. A second product, Cherry Beer Barbecue Sauce, is recommended for pork, lamb, poultry, wild game, and grilled sausage. The combination of cherries and robust dark beer make a barbecue sauce with a slightly sweet, earthy aromatic finish. For information on both of these items, visit www.bestofbarbecue.com.

Contact Kathie Smith at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.