Grilling 101: Tools and Tips to Get the Beginner Griller Going

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Growing up, I learned how to grill from my dad.  It didn’t matter what time of year it was. Even in the middle of January with a foot of snow on the ground, you could find my father on the deck in a parka — boots and a spatula in hand — with the tantalizing smell of grilled chicken, fish, steak and veggies wafting throughout the neighborhood.  As an adult I carry on that grilling tradition.  After all, grilling is almost fail-proof.  You can cook just about anything, even dessert and pizza, and have it taste amazing.

A lot of my friends are intimidated by the idea of cooking on a grill, maybe because it’s traditionally a guy’s domain.  When I was asked to attempt the Ziploc® Fresh 180 challenge, “Think Outside the Box and Inside the Grill,” I knew this was my chance to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years.  After all, this girl loves to grill!

Start with the Right Stuff

Guys love their tools and we know why.  It’s fun to play with gadgets. Here are the basics to get you started:

  • A grill – gas makes life a lot easier but you may opt for a traditional charcoal grill if you like that flavor
  • Cutting boards – use separate boards for meat, chicken, seafood and vegetables
  • A marinating tray
  • Tongs
  • Spatula
  • Long-handled fork
  • Marinating brush
  • Cleaning brush

Cedar-grilling salmon adds a ton of flavor without the fat and extra calories of oil.

Once you’re ready to kick things up a notch, here are the items I love to use:

  • Steel or wooden skewers – perfect for making colorful kabobs
  • Wood grilling planks – infuse food with a wonderful smoky flavor and add moisture and a delicious aroma.  Grilled salmon has never tasted so good! (One of my favorite ways to add flavor without fat is grilling on a cedar plank.)
  • Grilling baskets – you can find perforated aluminum foil trays that are great for grilling edamame, vegetables and shrimp
  • Pizza stone – grilled pizza is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.  The smokiness of the grill adds a whole level of depth to the flavor.  The stone helps to keep the cooking temperature consistent.  You can also use a heavy-bottomed cast iron skillet.

Pizza cooked on a pizza stone on the grill has a ton of great flavor!

Clean the Grill

Dirty grills with buildup from meat juices and grease are potential storehouses for foodborne illnesses. Even scarier, grilling creates smoke laden with potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which end up on the surface (as ash) of whatever you’re cooking, and can be absorbed back into your food. Use a non-toxic cleaner made with natural, plant-based ingredients to cut through the grease.  A stainless steel grill brush can also help get rid of stubborn meat, cheese and vegetables.

Tandoori chicken legs and chili-rubbed corn take your BBQ on an international journey.

Make It Full of Flavor

Grilling doesn’t have to mean traditional.  Let your BBQ take you on a culinary journey with the right flavors.  You don’t have to use exact measurements – just borrow the ingredient palette from different countries.  For a taste of India, try a Tandoori style marinade combining nonfat Greek yogurt, pureed onion, crushed garlic, curry powder, black pepper and a meat of your choice.  The yogurt also helps the meats cook faster.  If you like Korean BBQ, you can combine flavors like low-sodium soy sauce, white vinegar, sesame oil, fresh garlic and ginger.  I grew up with Middle Eastern-influenced flavor, which combines citrus, smoky herbs and a little heat to kick it up a notch.  For a harissa marinade, combine red chili flakes, lemon juice, crushed coriander seeds, cumin, sea salt and olive oil. I like using the Ziploc® Brand Storage Containers and Bags for marinating – just keep each grilling ingredient separate.  The longer your meat marinates in those amazing flavors, the better.

Keep It Lean and Clean

Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or any other type of “-arian,” grilling gives you the opportunity to explore all types of “clean” foods.  For a big splash of color, choose a selection of fresh veggies and add some cloves of garlic, then toss it all in a mixture of lemon or lime with a touch of sea salt and pepper.  Bell pepper, zucchini, squash and eggplant make a flavorful and healthy combination.

I always recommend picking ingredients raised without chemicals, antibiotics or hormones. Opt for grass-fed, free range beef; natural or organic chicken; and wild caught seafood.  Select seasonal vegetables and be sure to wash them thoroughly.

Now that you’re armed with the tips and tools of the trade, it’s time to get grillin’, and there’s never been a better time to fire it up with summer on the horizon!

Disclaimer: I was paid to develop this post and to provide related images for Ziploc®. As always, all opinions are my own.

Photo Credit:Getty ThinkStock, Mareya Ibrahim, Mareya Ibrahim, Mareya Ibrahim

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