When I was a young girl, I remember often seeing a Ziploc® brand bag in the refrigerator filled with meat, soaking up a tangy marinade. Yes, my father was, and to this day is, a griller. I was brought up on the savory smell of wood smoke and the sizzle of steaks hot off the fire, but when I tried my own hand at cooking over the coals, I tended to have mixed results.
With a visit from my parents on the horizon, I thought it was high time to hone my grilling skills — and maybe impress the old man a bit. Because, in my mind, Ziploc® brand storage bags go hand in hand with grilling, and I knew exactly where I wanted to start when asked to take on the Ziploc® Fresh 180 challenge, “Show that Grill Who’s Really in Charge.”
Pro Grilling Tips
We can all measure ingredients and set a timer, but some people — my dad, for one — add that extra something to everything they take off the grill. What’s their secret? Why did my seared steaks stick to the grate and his didn’t? Why was my chicken dry, while his was bursting with juicy flavor? Well, I may have found a few answers from Ziploc®’s Fresh 180 grilling tips. For one, instead of using soap or chemicals, Ziploc® advises cleaning the hot grate with the cut side of half an onion to remove sticky residue. Another tip is to put a foil-covered brick on top of chicken breasts to make them juicier. I tried both tips, and they worked like charms. Who knew? Probably my dad.
Minimal Marinades, Maximum Taste
I admit to laziness when I say that I’ve always bought bottled marinades. My thinking was that surely anything I whipped together couldn’t surpass what an army of marinade researchers concocted for the billion-dollar sauce market. Or could it? The Ziploc® challenge makes it seem extremely easy to make your own. Just combine an acid, such as vinegar, citrus or wine, with an oil, such as olive or a blend, and then add some simple flavorings such as sugar, herbs and spices for a tasty marinade.
Come to think of it, I don’t recall ever seeing bottled marinades growing up. Could homemade marinades be good ol’ Dad’s secret? I gave one of the challenge’s recipes a try — combining olive oil and apple cider vinegar with a little sugar, salt, cinnamon and cayenne. I soaked some pork chops in the concoction inside a Ziploc® brand storage bag, and then grilled them up. Delicious! Plus they didn’t stick to the grate. Look out! Dad just may have a worthy competitor on his hands.
Grill Your Veggies
Grilling vegetables didn’t scare me one bit, as this is an area where I could definitely teach my dad a thing or two. Confident of my grill skills with zucchini and corn, I started to skip this part of the challenge, but some things caught my eye. Grilled kale? Charred romaine hearts? These I had to try. The recipes for both of these leafy grilled veggies worked out — eventually — and next time will be even better. My advice? Try them, but don’t leave the grill to refill your drink. Leafy greens cook fast over a flame. Very fast.
Put a Pizza on It
I already grill pizza regularly thanks to my fabulous pizza stone, which turns out perfect, oven-fired-style pizzas on the grill. If you haven’t tried this, you should — and I agree with the challenge’s recommendation to use whole-wheat crusts for fire grilling because they seem to withstand heat better than white-flour crusts. As to the challenge’s recommendation for a barbecue chicken, red onion and bleu cheese pizza, I’ve definitely noted it. The ingredients are on my shopping list. Mmm.
I couldn’t wait to see what grilled goodies awaited me in the challenge’s dessert section. I was drawn to the recipes for grilled peaches and bananas. I have grilled peaches once, but this recipe’s addition of cinnamon and mint made my second attempt heavenly, especially when I topped the peaches with a dollop of vanilla-bean ice cream.
Although I had never grilled bananas before, if I had, I never would have thought to leave on the peel, but it worked out. Just as the recipe says, the peel pulled away when they were done. I just coated the cut side with a good amount of butter before grilling, and when they were ready to eat, I topped them with drizzled caramel and whipped cream.
So, I’m confident that I can grill up a surprise or two when my parents arrive and then finish it off with my new fave — grilled bananas Foster. But I’ll have to remember one thing: Cleaning the grate with an onion isn’t the best idea right before grilling bananas!
Disclaimer: I was paid to develop this post and to provide related images for Ziploc®. As always, all opinions are my own.