Grill Gadgets for the Aspiring Grill Master

Let’s face it, every dad is either a Grill Master or aspires to become one. Whenever two or more dads are gathered together, you can be assured that at some point, the conversation will take a turn towards the realm of the grill. There will be debates over rub recipes, gas versus charcoal, green eggs versus barrel smokers, and which type of wood creates the best flavor profile. But what is a Grill Master without his favorite grill gadget? Odds are he keeps one in his car, just in case there’s a grill emergency away from home. With Father’s Day around the corner, now is the time to equip the dads in your life with the tools he needs to work his way up the grill proficiency scale, until at last he can bask in the glory that can only be felt by a true master of the grill. With that in mind, here are some fun gadgets to consider.

Fire-Starter Tools

chimney-of-insanity2Anyone who cooks with charcoal knows that it takes a while until the coals are ready to start the cooking process. Once they’ve reached that “perfect” level of heat, however, the aspiring Grill Master will want to start defrosting everything in the freezer, even after everyone has been fed. After all, the coals are perfect, and it took so long to get to this point. Well, not anymore. With the BBQ Dragon fire-starter fan and the accompanying Chimney of Insanity, the coals will be ready in merely minutes, without lighter fluid.

Bluetooth Temperature Gauge

Now that the coals are perfect, it’s time to start grilling. A true Grill Master knows that entertaining the guests is just as important as manning the grill. In order to tend to both without neglected one over the other, a Bluetooth-enabled temperature gauge is a must! Simply pair the Brookstone Grill Alert gauge with his phone and insert the needle into the meat. If he steps away from the grill, he’ll receive an alert when the internal temperature hits the right level. He’ll never serve hockey puck steaks again.

3-in-1 Tongs

Presenting the Quirky Grill Wrangler. Yes, that’s actually the official name of the product. Is it a pair of tongs, a spatula or a fork? The answer: yes. This 3-in-1 tool can grip chicken wings, flip a burger and spear a hot dog. It’s made of sturdy stainless steel with an easy-grip plastic handle. Hold it closed to use as a spatula, open as tongs, or use the sliding release button to slide out the fork attachment. Voila!

Grill Light

grill-lightIt’s a little tough to get that perfect sear if you can’t see what you’re doing. This nifty battery-operated LED Handle-Mount Grill Light has a pivoting head and an adjustable clamp that allows it to fit onto just about any grill lid. So, you now have a reason to get him to toss that ridiculous head lamp he insists on wearing every time he grills at night. If he’s not ready to toss it, that piece of equipment can go back in the closet with the rest of the camping gear that never gets used.

Robotic Grill Cleaner

grillbot2One of the worst parts about grilling is cleaning the nasty gunk off of the grates afterwards. Some aspiring Grill Masters will try to tell you that the build-up adds flavor, which probably just means he lacked the desire or the elbow grease to clean it correctly. Well, fear no more, there’s a robot for that. The Grillbot is basically the barbecue pit version of a Roomba. Simply place it on a dirty grill, turn it on, and three electric motors will propel it and its mighty brushes around the grill. A chip inside controls movement and speed, and an alarm will sound when the job is done.

Winging It for Backyard Tailgating

Add zest to your next backyard tailgate party with mouth-watering chicken wings and three delicious sauces that are sure to please every palate.

Grilled Wings

Ingredients

3 pounds chicken wings
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. Light one side of grill, heating to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat; leave other side unlit. Dry each wing well with paper towels. Toss together wings and oil in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  2. Place chicken over unlit side of grill, and grill with lid closed 15 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to lit side of grill, and grill with lid open 10 to 12 minutes or until skin is crispy and lightly charred, turning every 2 to 3 minutes. Toss wings immediately with desired sauce. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 5 minutes before serving.

Alabama White Sauce

Ingredients

1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Creole mustard
1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, finely grated

Preparation

Whisk ingredients together. Use as a drizzle or toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 2/3 cup.

Buttery Nashville Hot Sauce

Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted
3 to 4 tsp. ground red pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Preparation

Cook butter, ground red pepper, brown sugar, salt, paprika, and garlic powder in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until fragrant. Remove from heat, and stir in vinegar. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Yields about 1/3 cup.

Vietnamese Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 to 3 tsp. Asian chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped toasted peanuts
1/4 cup torn cilantro and mint leaves

Preparation

Sauté garlic in oil in a small saucepan over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Stir in fish sauce, brown sugar, and chili-garlic sauce. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and stir occasionally for 4 to 5 minutes or until thickened and reduced to about 1/2 cup. Stir in peanuts. Toss wings in sauce to coat. Sprinkle coated wings with cilantro and mint leaves.

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Photo Credits:

Photo courtesy Time, Inc. Photographer: Alison Miksch; Food Stylist: Erin Merhar; Prop Stylist: Caroline Cunningham

The Secret to Restaurant-Quality Steaks at Home

Imagine this scenario: a special occasion is nearing. It’s your significant other’s birthday, or perhaps a distant relative is coming in. The point is that you want, and in some cases need, to treat them to something special. What is the first thing that comes to mind when the ole “special” word is tossed out? Why, it’s steak of course! Doesn’t just reading the word “steak” bring you to a happy place? Anyone who is a fan of steak probably already knows his or her favorite place in town to get a quality steak. Unfortunately, having a fancy chef at some restaurant cook this steak will not work for this special occasion. This one must be made from the heart by Chef You. Although grilling a steak properly can be tricky, it is well worth the effort for that special occasion. Here are a few tips to consider. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just focus on two of the most popular steaks to cook: the Tenderloin and the Ribeye.

Tenderloin

Ribeye

Also called a filet, this will be your most expensive piece of meat. However, this steak is most definitely worth the price because it is considered by many, this writer included, as the most delicious steak that can grace your palate. Sometimes with these steaks, less is more. Heat your grill to high heat, add some black pepper and coarse salt to the top of your steak, then throw it on the grill. You want to cook these steaks over high heat until they are brown, which will take about five minutes per side, depending on how “done” you prefer your steak. For a particularly thick piece of meat, you may also want to brown the sides a bit. While some people prefer their steak rare or well done, there is nothing quite like a medium-rare steak. In fact, most chefs agree that medium-rare steaks give you the maximum amount of tenderness and juiciness while ensuring that the center of the steak is actually warm. To test if your steak is medium-rare, press your finger in the middle of the steak. If your steak gives ever so slightly then bounces back, you have yourself a medium-rare steak. A mushy steak will tell you that it is still rare. Keep going until you get that bounce-back. To get that restaurant-quality flavor, before the steak is finished, liberally baste it with garlic-infused butter. Garnish the top of the steak with a sprig of one of your favorite herbs, and proceed to blow the mind of your special guest.

Ribeye

This next steak can be one of the most flavorful and juicy steaks you can find. Where most the flavor comes from is up to you. If you prefer a simple flavor, liberally applying coarse salt and black pepper to your steak, and even some garlic powder if you choose. However, to get the most out of your ribeye, make sure to marinate it in a plastic bag for a couple of hours. Once it is in the bag, pour in plenty of balsamic vinegar or red wine. Another tasty addition to a ribeye marinade is Parmesan cheese. Feel free to marinate your steak with whatever your heart desires, or whatever the person you are cooking for desires. These are only suggestions. Just remember to allow plenty of time to let the flavors sink in. Once done marinating, throw that baby on the grill over low flame for about five minutes. Flip to the other side where you will most likely cook a little longer than the first side. Again, test the doneness by pressing the meat with your finger. Ribeyes are a little harder to judge than filets because they’re not as thick, but with a little practice, you’ll quickly get the knack. Once you think it is ready, pull it off and let it rest for about five minutes. This is very important to do for all steaks! Cut in too quickly, and the juices all run out, leaving the meat a little dry.

Charcoal vs. Gas

Ah, the classic grilling debate. In this writer’s opinion, always go for charcoal over a gas grill. With charcoal, it is a slower process, but it tends to give your steaks a more distinct flavor. Also, do not be afraid to experiment with wood chips. Cherry or pecan are both particularly good choices. But don’t throw the chips directly onto the charcoal, which will cause them to burn off too quickly. Wrap the wood chips in some tin foil and place them next to the fire. This will deepen the flavor profile of your charcoal-grilled steaks.

Happy Grilling!

Garden to Grill Ideas

Edible gardens are one of the hottest trends in gardening today. What makes a hot trend hotter? Why fire, of course. So as summer heats up, forget the boring salads and heat up the grill for some flavor-boosted ways to make the most of your edible garden. Following are a variety of fruit and vegetable ideas to add to your grilling repertoire for delicious additions to your summer meals.

GRILLED VEGETABLES

Grilled lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lemon and topped with manchego cheese and bacon crumbles. (photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo)

Grilled lettuce drizzled with olive oil and lemon and topped with manchego cheese and bacon crumbles. (photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo)

Lettuce: I know what you’re thinking…grilled lettuce?! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Grilling lettuce creates smokey, charred, caramelized goodness. Recipes abound for this latest craze. For best results, be sure to choose a sturdy lettuce and brush the grill with olive oil.

Corn: Grilling corn can be done multiple ways. You can wrap it in foil. You can leave it in its husks. However, how about laying it on the grill bare? Doing this will ensure that your corn will have tiny and delicious charred bits. Once you finish grilling the corn, bust out the butter and lather it on as you please.

Asparagus: Fun fact: grilled asparagus cures sadness. Okay, that may not be completely true, but grilled asparagus makes a truly delicious addition to any meal. To protect your sanity, however, use a mesh tray or grill basket for this task. If you want to up your asparagus game even more, make your own garlic and rosemary aioli sauce for basting or dressing your freshly grilled asparagus. You’re welcome.

Grilled bell peppers, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with goat cheese and basil. (photo by Beth Dreiling)

Grilled bell peppers, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and topped with goat cheese and basil. (photo by Beth Dreiling)

Bell Pepper: No matter what color, they all taste better on the grill. The cool thing about bell peppers is that they are extremely versatile. Whether part of a shish kabob,  stuffed with just about anything, or simply tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette, roasting a bell pepper over a fire brings out a sweetness that enhances any dish.

Jalapeno Peppers: The bell pepper’s zesty cousin, these little fellows kick everything up a notch. If properly de-seeded and de-veined, roasting jalapenos will mellow their intensity. Stuff them with a variety of cheeses or other ingredients and either wrap them in foil or use a special roasting rack. For extra fun, wrap them in bacon, ’cause bacon makes everything better!

Grilled eggplant and tomato salad drizzled with lemony vinaigrette and topped with fresh mint. (photo by Iain Bagwell)

Grilled eggplant and tomato salad drizzled with lemony vinaigrette and topped with fresh mint. (photo by Iain Bagwell)

Eggplant: If you like eggplant parmesan, you’ll fall in love with grilled eggplant. The awesome thing about eggplant is that it will really soak up the flavor of bastes or marinades. So go to your local gourmet oil and vinegar store, do a little online shopping, or use herbs from your garden to make your own infused oils and vinegars and experiment with different flavor combinations. The same is true for a variety of squashes.

Tomatoes: You may argue about whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, but you won’t argue about how good it tastes grilled. For best results, choose firmer tomatoes, cut thick slices, and brush the grill with olive oil. For added flavor, top with your favorite fresh herb.

grilled fruit

Grilled watermelon with blue cheese, basil and prosciutto. (photo: Jennifer Davick)

Grilled watermelon with blue cheese, basil and prosciutto. (photo by Jennifer Davick)

Watermelon: Grilling watermelon? This must be a typo. Before you judge, try it yourself and see why this summer will be the summer of grilled watermelon. You can grill with or without the rind on it. When grilled, the fruit sugars caramelize to create a unique flavor. Feel free to add balsamic vinegar or arugula for an extra flare. Just make sure to keep a close eye on it, for the water can spew and potentially burn you when exposed to so much heat.

Apples: Now for an actual fact: apple pie is an American classic. What happens to the apples during the making of apple pie? That’s right, they are cooked. Now use that logic, and apply it to the grill. The grill will both sweeten and soften your apples for a most excellent treat. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg for that apple pie flavor.

Peaches: Surely you will be enjoying ice cream this summer. Now that you’ve discovered the beauty of grilled fruit, throw some peaches on the grill, then add them to your summer ice cream. Sweet and delicious ice cream plus sweet and delicious peaches, what can go wrong?

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple salsa. (photo: Hector Sanchez)

Jerk chicken with grilled pineapple salsa. (photo by Hector Sanchez)

Pineapple: Unless you live in Hawaii, it’s unlikely you’ll have any pineapples in your edible garden, but they’re so amazing on the grill, it’s worth a trip to the grocery. Whether served as a side dish or as a hamburger topping, once you try it grilled, you’ll never want pineapple any other way.

Bananas: Again, not your typical grow-at-home fruit, but makes an incredible dessert. Place it directly on the grill with the skin on. Once the skin is brown and the banana is soft, slice it open, sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with condensed milk. Voila!

Images Courtesy Time Inc.

Five Facts for Fantastic Grilling

Meat grilled steakThe sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it’s time to fire up the pit for some springtime backyard entertaining! Call your friends and get ready for a good old-fashioned barbecue with these tips for grilling success.

1. Cleanliness Is Tastiness

Keeping everything clean and sanitary will lead to a more enjoyable and safer meal. Before placing any food on the grill, make sure to thoroughly scrub your heated grate with a wired brush before and after use. This will prevent charred debris from previous meals making its way into your next meal. Also, avoid using the same cutting boards, utensils, and platters for raw and cooked foods. This could result in cross-contamination and hospital bills.

2. Just Tap It In

When applying rubs, be sure to keep it gentle. Simply pat the whole meat down with your desired rub evenly, and call it a day. Using too much force can damage the meat’s fibers and texture. You can also run the risk of over-seasoning your meat and having your family wishing they had gotten take-out instead.

3. Sit, Don’t Flip

Burgers: one of the most commonly grilled items, but also one of the easiest to get wrong. Many rookie grillers will feel like they have to constantly flip their food. However, it is better to let your food sit and get fully cooked, rather than constantly moving it. A good tip is to check for grill marks on the bottom, then flip.

4. Heat On, Heat Off

Foods that do not take long to cook — such as burgers, steaks, and vegetables — are best grilled directly over the heat source. Foods like whole turkey, chicken pieces, briskets, and ribs are better suited for indirect heat, away from the flames.

5. Shish KaBOOM

Who doesn’t like a good kabob? A hit at most barbeques, the shish kabob gives you a great variety of grilled foods on just one stick! To ensure your kabobs are a hit, grill each food item of the kabob properly. Remember, vegetables and some meats need different types of heat. For safety reasons, don’t forget to wet your sticks before skewering.