Although some of us grill year-around (it’s always Grilling Season!), I know there are a number of folks who primarily only grill in the Summertime. Regardless of when you like to grill, here are some ideas to change it up a little bit and add some variety into your grilling recipes.
Use Indirect Heat
Grilling meats with indirect heat is a great way to slowly cook foods up to temperature without burning the outside of them. This is my preferred method for grilling fish, brats, chicken wings, smoked chicken thighs and pork tenderloin, just to name a few. To use this method with a gas grill, just turn on the burner(s) on one side of the grill and leave the other side off. You can turn the burners up to a medium or medium-high heat since they need to heat the whole grill. But place your meat on the “cool” side of the grill and let it cook slowly up to temp. For charcoal grills, pile your hot coals on one side of the grill and place your meat on the other side. And for pellet grills, close any direct-sear vents that you may have on your grill and grill the meat as normal. As mentioned above, this is a great way to cook brats or hotdogs without charring the outside skin, and while still keeping all the juices in the brat or dog.
Use Wood Chips and Chunks
I’ve written about this before in earlier articles – if you’re going to grill, you might as well use some wood chips or chunks to generate some more flavor for your food through smoke. For a gas grill, put some wood chips in a smoke box, smoke tube, or foil container. No need to soak them, that just delays the smoke and might even give you a wet, musty smoke. Put the smoke box or container under a grate and over a burner and turn the burner up high enough to start generating some smoke. On a charcoal grill, use wood chunks (chips burn up too fast.) After you have your charcoal started, throw a chunk or two on the coals about the same time you place your meat on the grill. And for a pellet grill – there’s nothing you need to do! Your pellet grill is already generating smoke based on the wood-type of pellets you’re using. Experiment with using different types of wood with different meats. I like pecan with chicken wings and thighs, fruit woods (apple, cherry) with baby back ribs, and hickory or mesquite with beef.
Use a Smoking Tube
Instead of wood chunks and wood chips, another option is to use a smoking tube to generate smoke to flavor your food. A smoke tube is usually a 6-12” stainless steel tube with lot of holes in it. You put wood pellets in it and light the pellets to generate the smoke. You can get pellets in all the different types of woods, but you can also get pellets that are a blend of different woods – like a Maple-Hickory-Cherry blend, or an Oak-Hickory Cherry blend. And I’ve written before in another article, too – smoking tubes are a great way to cold-smoke foods like cheese, bacon, fish, and nuts. Smoke tubes can also be a great addition to pellet grills, if you feel you’re not getting enough smoke flavor from your regular pellets.
Use hardwood Lump Charcoal
If you’re a charcoal griller, and you’re still using charcoal briquets, give hardwood lump charcoal a try. Hardwood lump charcoal burns hotter, produces less ash, and reduces flare-ups compared to briquets. You also get a “purer” taste, as you don’t get any side-tastes from binders used in the production of the briquets. (Also, as a side note, please stop using lighter fluid! Even if you let it burn off all the way, your food is still going to have some of the residual smell and flavor from the use of it. Use a chimney and/or any of the other multitude of fire starters out on the market.)
Try Different Rubs & Sauces
An easy way to give some of your favorite foods a different flavor profile is to use different rubs and sauces. Especially if you’re using the indirect method of grilling, rubs are a great way to add more flavor to your meat. A word of caution though, if you’re grilling direct – some rubs may burn over direct heat due to their sugar content. Also, if you’re going to put a sauce on the meat, wait until near the end of cooking your meat before you add the sauce. Putting the sauce on too early during the grilling process, and again, it will burn. Add sauces for the last few minutes that the meat is on the grill and closely pay attention. You want the sauce to caramelize some, but you don’t want it burnt – it can be a fine line!
The idea here is to try new things! There are so many different ways to grill and smoke foods, try different things to see what you like. Burgers and hotdogs are always great on the grill, but there’s so much more that can be done, too. ENJOY, HAVE FUN, BE SAFE and LET’S GET GRILLIN’!!