This sponsored post is brought to you by Salt Creek Grille – Princeton.
Backyard grilling opens up a world of culinary possibilities that aren’t available in the kitchen, but sometimes it may seem a daunting prospect. What are the main things to consider before your next cookout? Hugh Preece, operating partner, Salt Creek Grille – Princeton, has some suggestions about how you can best prepare.
What Type of Grill?
Two most common types of grill are gas and charcoal. Gas burners are quicker and easier to cook with, cleaner and generally a better option for a novice or occasional user. Those seeking a more traditional, smokier flavor should opt for a charcoal grill, and, as die-hard barbecue lovers will tell you, there’s nothing like cooking over real firewood embers. And for those who don’t have a lot of space, an electric grill is a great alternative.
At Salt Creek Grille, we add mesquite wood to our charcoal. Mesquite is a hardwood tree, native to the American Southwest and Mexico. It’s a highly prized kind of timber that works for a variety of woodworking uses, and the scraps are often used for food preparation: the smoke creates a unique flavor in meat dishes in particular. Pieces of mesquite wood can be combined with coals in order to create a smoke that imparts a flavor on to the food being cooked. Mesquite is considered a “strong” smoke flavor, and is often used to make dishes like brisket. Milder smokes are woods like apple, cherry, and alder: mesquite is not a smoke wood for those with delicate palettes!
In order to get the most out of mesquite wood, it’s best to soak it before laying it out on the coals. The amount of smoke—and thus the intensity of the flavor—can be controlled by how long you pre-soak the wood. In order to get it to smoke, place the wood over the coals, and wait until it no longer has an active flame: that’s when it will impart the strongest smoke flavor on the food.
Marinate Your Meat
First and foremost: plan ahead and marinate your meat overnight, especially if you are using a charcoal barbecue, where food becomes heavily smoky in flavor. Make sure to make extra to set aside and use to brush the meat as it cooks. This will keep your food moist, infused with flavor, and tasting delicious.
The marinade should be stored in the refrigerator beforehand, with the duration varying according to the protein: 4 to 6 hours for red meat; 2 to 4 hours for pork and chicken; between 30 minutes and 2 hours for fish. Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, international expert on natural medicine, advised in her newsletter to make a marinade with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice, to add spices and beneficial herbs, rich in antioxidants: thyme, rosemary, pepper, sage, basil, mint, garlic, tarragon and oregano. These ingredients, in addition to flavoring the meat, create a real protective barrier against HCA and PAH, which can be further reinforced with any additions during and after cooking.
Reminder: Don’t baste with marinade that’s been in contact with raw meat!
Preparing the Grill
Preparation is everything and it doesn’t stop once you’ve marinated the meat—you’ll want to make sure your meat doesn’t burn and also save yourself the slog of cleaning a grill yourself after everyone’s gone.
If you’re using a charcoal grill, one of the best pieces of advice you’ll ever receive is to section out an area of the barbecue where you’ll have a very small amount of coal. This gives you an area to keep food warm without the risk of flames burning it and allows you to serve up larger quantities of food at once.
Ask anyone what they look forward to about grilling and it won’t be the tidying that comes at the end. Without a doubt, the worst offender is the hard residue left when food tends to stick when you’ve been cooking on a grill, but there’s a cheat to make cleaning easy: simply oil the grill rack with dabs of vegetable oil beforehand. The oil lubricates the rack, reducing the likelihood of food sticking to it and hardening.
Above all, remember to confirm that food is fully cooked before you serve it and enjoy the experience! Have some fun trying different combinations of new flavors and techniques until you find your own signature style. Happy grilling!
Salt Creek Grille – Princeton
1 Rockingham Row