Grill season is just about open for business, and if there's a grill in the household, chances are there's a grill master too. You know the type. This fire-starting, apron-wearing, tong-taming, and (often self-proclaimed) pro of the perfect char has the bbq game down, and isn't shy about showing it. But what separates the average grill master from the true master of all grill masters comes down to creativity. There's so much more that can be done with a grill beyond hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob! Read on for the in-the-know tips that separate the best from the rest in the wonderful world of barbecue.
Raid the produce bin. Take a cue from professional chefs, who take advantage of the grill all the time .. but often use it for untraditional means. Vegetables – and fruits! – of almost all varieties can benefit from a short stint on the rack, which tenderizes their texture and induces a seductive caramelization. A truly great barbecue can and should include a few unexpected additions as a topping or side for inventive cooked dishes. Some grill-friendly favorites to try include avocados, lemons, leeks, lettuce, and summer fruit like peaches.
It's all in the secret sauce. The act of grilling has a tendency to dry out food, regardless of what's going onto the barbecue. And though it's common knowledge that a little bit of TLB (Tender Loving Basting) while grilling makes all the difference in moisture retention and flavor enhancement, why stop at oil (or a jar of store-bought barbeque sauce)? A quick homemade sauce, glaze, or marinade is as easy to make as a smoothie, and can be created in endless healthy varieties: from a herbaceous spicy green sauce like a chimichurri, to a sweetly spicy barbecue sauce made extra special with some superfoods like acai powder or or pureed goji berries. How's that for a great “secret?”
Embrace the color. A big mistake home cooks make is taking food off of the grill too early for fear of burning. Letting food sit for a minute longer than one would think gives it a chance to get fully browned – and will only serve to maximize the flavor.
Garnish, garnish, garnish. Garnish doesn't mean a sprig of parsley that's instantly pushed to the side of a plate. A great garnish both enhances the visual appeal of a dish, and adds an additional texture or flavor element. Anything coming off of a grill is prime territory for a garnish, as the glaze on the cooked food will naturally help garnishes adhere easily. Try a generous sprinkle of minced fresh herbs, like cilantro or dill; Toss superfood seeds like hemp seeds and chia on top; Or, dust with colorful spices like paprika or turmeric. A little freshly cracked pepper and flaked sea salt is almost always a guaranteed yes, too.
It's all in the secret sauce (yes, again). The truth is, the greatest of the great grill masters rarely stop at one sauce. Pairing a second sauce as either a drizzled final dressing, or dip for cooked and plated foods can make the difference from “great” to “epic.” Creamier sauces like aioli's are simple to whisk together, and can be enhanced with spices like chipotle, or sneaky superfoods like wheatgrass. Chutney's and salsas can also help freshen up the plate and add a welcome note of acid – try using finely chopped seasonal fruit along, some citrus juice or vinegar, and add a tart dried fruit like goldenberries or cherries for an extra bit of zing.
New season, new tricks... how will you change the barbeque game?