Late spring and summer are the perfect times for setting as many impromptu al fresco tables as you can. But dining outdoors is just half the fun. Everyone knows that the grilling itself is the other half of the party—if you know how to do it right. That’s why we asked Heinen’s Corporate Chef Jacki Novotny to share some of her tips for a successful grilling season. Follow these steps and you’ll impress everyone with your newfound grill knowledge!
Fire It Up: Preparing your Grill
The key to getting perfectly cooked foods with those great grill marks is a clean, hot, well-seasoned grill. Four simple steps will get you there: HEAT—BRUSH—SEASON—GRILL.
- Allow the grill to heat up completely.
- When it’s good and hot, brush with a wire grill brush.
- Seasoning a grill simply means applying a lubricant to the grill to prevent the food from sticking while cooking. Take a stainless steel bowl with a clean, “sacrificial” towel that’s been moistened – but not to the point of dripping– with vegetable oil. (Note: Don’t use olive oil here; it has too low of a smoke point and it’s pricey for this purpose.) Then, grasp the oil-moistened towel with metal tongs and rub the grill’s entire surface. Put the towel back in the stainless steel bowl.
- Position food on the hot, seasoned grill and begin cooking.
Grilling the Meat, Chicken or Seafood Entree
The side that is to be presented up on the plate should always god own on the pan or grill first. The reason? You get the best grill marks the first time around.
- For chicken breasts: Position skin side down with the breast on a 45 degree angle to the grill bars. If skinless, brush each side with a just small amount of vegetable oil. Too much oil will cause flare-ups, which will cause a soot build-up.
- For salmon: start skin side up. (Note: The skin is very helpful in allowing fish keep its shape during cooking) If it is a skinless fillet or salmon steaks, brush each side with a small amount of vegetable oil.
- For shrimp: These cook fast. Just get them pink—and if using a marinade be sure to drain it off before grilling. Otherwise, flare-ups will leave a sooty coating on the delicate shrimp.
- For marinated meats: Same here. Drain well before grilling.
- For beef steaks: Remember the first rule. Serve the first side down on the grill as the presentation side up on the plate.
Finally, we believe in meat thermometers! Always use one to determine the degree of desired doneness.
Start with relatively uniform-sized vegetables. If they are small enough to slip through the cooking grate, place the veggies on a perforated and seasoned grill rack which rests directly on the grate. (Season the grill rack in the same manner as the grill grate.) If the veggies have been marinated, drain off any liquid cooking.
Combine any of these local veggies or serve them up solo:
- Thick tomato slices, slowly grilled to create a smoky, sun dried tomato-like flavor
- Eggplant slices
- Summer squash
- Peppers, any type
- Sweet corn—peel down the corn, de-silk it and then rewrap in the husks
- Thick onion slices
Another hint? Once you’ve fired up the grill, cook extra veggies and save them for a grilled salad the next day.
Make Mine Fruit
Fruits are perfect for grilling. Their natural sugar content allows them to caramelize beautifully on the hot grill, imparting a concentrated caramel flavor combined with the smokiness of the grill.
Fruits that grill well:
- Stone fruits—peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines and mango
- All citrus fruits
- Pears and peeled apples
- Avocados—Yes, they are fruits (cut in half and just remove the stone or pit)
Spray the fruit with cooking spray (away from the heat) and place them on the hot, clean grill. Allow the surface to caramelize and release. This only takes a few minutes.
Cut or slice the cooked fruits to make fabulous grilled fruit salad as an accompaniment to a meal. They make great desserts as well, served straight up or with ice cream, sorbet or whipped cream. For a real classic, simply drizzle with a bit of balsamic syrup or balsamic vinegar.