After a gray, cold winter, it’s finally time to get outside, breathe in that fresh spring air … and fire up the grill! To make your first backyard barbecue of the season a rousing success, start with our summary of cooking techniques, and then build a menu full of mouth-watering, flame-grilled favourites.
Grilling Tools and Techniques
Before you start grilling, make sure to give your gas or charcoal grill a thorough cleaning with Dawn dish soap and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser – get the complete cleaning guide here. Then get acquainted with the best method for cooking each food on your menu.
This method refers to cooking foods directly over the heat source, be it charcoal or gas. Direct cooking works best for quick-cooking foods like thin cuts of meat – think steak, chicken breasts and pork chops – fish fillets, sausage, burgers, fruit slices and vegetables. (Bring proteins to room temperature before grilling.)
This method refers to grilling food opposite the coals on a charcoal grill, or opposite the burners on a gas grill. Indirect cooking is ideal for slow-cooking fatty cuts of meat such as whole chickens, spareribs, pork shoulders and racks of lamb. To cook indirectly on a charcoal grill, push the coals to the sides of the grill, separate them with an aluminum pan and cook on the grate so the drippings fall into the pan. For gas grills, keep at least one burner turned off, and cook over it.
When you indirectly grill with wood chips, the food retains a rich, smoky flavour. Different hard, dry woods such as hickory, mesquite and cherry impart different tastes. Add chips directly to hot coals, or encase them in an aluminum foil packet, poke holes in the top and place under gas grill grates for the duration of cooking. Always soak wood chips in water first – it slows the burning and results in more-flavourful meat. To speed up the process, place moistened chips in a resealable plastic bag, freeze and use as needed.
From savoury starters to lip-smacking-good sauces, make a full grill-out menu with these easy ideas. (And keep cleanup quick and easy with Cascade Platinum – just toss serving trays, plates, cups and cutlery in the dishwasher after the meal is finished!)
Try some grilled shrimp on skewers or a simple quesadilla. Layer fresh tortillas with slices of cheese and diced veggies, and then grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until the cheese melts and the tortilla browns.
Go beyond burgers and hot dogs with these out-of-the-ordinary entrées! Try grilling chicken, baby back ribs or kebabs.
To make your grill-out an all-hands-on-deck affair, let family and friends build burgers they’ll truly love! Set up a buffet-style spread of patties, toppings and more. Place a roll of Bounty paper towels or a stack of Bounty napkins on the table to keep messes at bay.
Let your entrée influence your side. Pair heavier courses with green vegetables or light salads, and lighter ones with potato and bean dishes. Here are a few ideas: Dish up grilled versions of Caesar salad, corn on the cob, asparagus and artichokes, or give the grill a break with cold make-ahead dishes like macaroni or potato salad.
Sauces and Spreads
Finish steaks with a dollop of compound butter, spoon citrus sauce over grilled fish and brush chicken with teriyaki sauce or some homemade barbecue sauce.
Keep the grill going with some interesting desserts – grilled cake comes to mind – or cool things off with some ice cream. You can also give classic s’mores grown-up appeal by sandwiching grill-toasted marshmallows and dark-chocolate squares between shortbread cookies.
Grill-outs are a chance for grown-ups to socialize and kids to play, but with these tips, the center of attention will definitely be the delicious foods you serve up.
What dishes do you love to grill, or what grilling tips would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the comments!