Barbecue season is upon us, Canada, and there’s nothing better to complete the perfect patio setup than smoky ribs or burgers with just the right amount of char.
For seasoned grill masters, new recipes keep a labour of love from becoming a tired routine. And for those new to the grilling game, a little experimentation can teach the lessons that help an apprentice become a master.
Let this summer be one for new discoveries. The Brick has scoured cookbooks, the Internet and our own recipe collections to find some unconventional tips that will help you transform your BBQ style from rookie cook to seasoned gourmet chef. Give them a try this summer and let the food do the talking.
1. Keep Your Burgers Juicy with Flavour-Infused Ice Cubes
No one likes their burgers to be as crispy and dry as charcoal briquettes. The next time you prepare hamburgers from scratch, place an ice cube in the centre of each patty. As they cook on the grill, the ice cubes will melt pretty fast but not without leaving your burgers juicy and delicious.
This works best with other freezable liquids. Beef broth can be a savoury addition to hamburger, while a lemon-herb mixture is great with poultry. You could even go off the map and choose something unconventional, like tomato soup, gazpacho or dill pickle brine.
As a fun experiment, use one kind of ice cube for half of your patties, and a different kind for the other. Then see if you or your dinner guests can tell which is which.
2. Use Aromatic Herbs for a Succulent, Smoky Taste
If your herb garden is overflowing or your store-bought ones are reaching the end of their run, don’t let either go to waste. By tossing them on the grill alongside your food, you can transfer their aromatic notes to a delicious, smoky BBQ recipe.
Which herbs work best? Rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, mint and oregano. Mix them together or pair the classics together (thyme with pork, tarragon with white fish, rosemary with everything, etc.). Just be sure to wet your herbs down before using them on the grill so that they slowly smoulder instead of flaming up in seconds. Chuck them in by the handful and refresh throughout as you see fit.
For a charcoal grill: Place the wet, fresh herbs directly on the coals then re-cover the grill so your food will be infused with as much flavoured smoke as possible.
For a gas grill: Place the herbs in a small metal container on the bottom rack alongside your other items.
3. Use Fruit Juice to Infuse Your Food with Flavour
Not enough time to prepare a marinade? No problem. A spray bottle and your juice of choice are all you need to add a complementary flavour and keep your meat from going dry.
If you’ve never grilled with juice before, try this as experiment and let your taste buds be the judge: As you grill, give half your food a liberal dose of juice from the spray bottle, leaving the other half alone as your control group. Though apple juice will also give lighter-coloured meats a nice amber appearance, only a taste test will truly tell the difference.
Here are a few pairing suggestions:
Apple juice with pork
Mango juice with cedar plank salmon
Peach or pear nectar with chicken
Raspberry juice with beef
4. Keep Hot-off-the-Grill Food Warm with a Covered Ceramic Dish
As any couple who has shared a sunset dinner on the beach can attest, even the slightest breeze can cool your food down in a hurry and spoil your meal. So what do you do if you have a small grill and need to work in batches? How do you keep your barbecued treats full of heat and ready to eat?
Perhaps the best tool for this project is a covered ceramic dish, like a Dutch oven. The heavier and more insulated, the better. Before cooking your food, warm up the inside walls of the dish with some warm water or else place the dish in the oven for a few minutes at a low heat. Like a cold thermos or coffee cup, a cold Dutch oven will have the opposite effect of what you want and cool your food down sooner.
Once your food has had enough time on the grill, scoop them into the dish and replace the cover, sealing in the heat. If you’re worried about grease or other juices pooling at the bottom of the pot, use a cake rack (a circular grill with small feet).
For those looking to continue experimenting, test the heat-sealing abilities of the warm Dutch oven against a room-temperature covered dish or a sheet of tinfoil covering the plate.
5. Give Your Grill Brush a Break by Testing Two Common Household Items
Any BBQ master worthy of their novelty apron knows that keeping a clean grill is essential for preparing the best burgers, steaks and kebabs. But is that fancy wire brush worth its $35 price tag?
Time to be certain. When you’re ready to give your grill its next cleaning, try out of these two popular BBQ hacks:
When the grill has cooled down, crumple tinfoil into a ball and run it back and forth across the rack to remove charred-on residue. Unlike many scrapers, tinfoil can conform to the rounded grates, saving you plenty of back-and-forth scrubbing.
While the grill is still warm, chop a medium onion in half and stick a fork in the rounded side that wasn’t cut. Run this makeshift utensil up and down the grill and watch as the blackened residue falls off. Your grill may even be left seasoned for your next BBQ meal.
Now that you’ve tried both, which method was best?
Bonus: Help Your BBQ Cover Find its Way Home with a Luggage Tag
A whistling wind could see your new barbecue cover hop the fence and take off like a tumbleweed. Instead of shelling out another $75 for a replacement cover, spend $2 on a colourful luggage tag on which you write your address. Once the wind has died down, a helpful neighbour may soon show up at your door with your missing cover.
Tip: A small luggage or key tag might get overlooked in a tangled ball of black canvas. The brighter the tag colour, the better.
Know a BBQ enthusiast who would like to mix things up this summer? Be sure to send them this article. Who knows, you may be the recipient of some delicious meals!
And don’t forget to share your results with us on our Facebook page, as well as any other BBQ tips and tricks.