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Peak Season for Summer Grilling

Summer Grilling
Summer Grilling
by Pamela Percival
Wth the arrival of July 4th, the summer grilling season is in full swing. Celebrate summer by firing up the grill for food and fun in the backyard or at one of the hundreds of great parks across Texas.

Although outdoor grilling has been a Texas tradition for years, the grilling trend is hotter than ever all across the nation. The Barbecue Industry Association (BIA) reports that a record 3.1 billion cookouts took place last year, a number than continues to grow. To keep up with all those cookouts, grill manufacturers are filling retail stores with ever-increasing varieties of outdoor grilling equipment. For example, the Weber grill line offers everything from its no-frills "Smokey Joe" charcoal grill, retailing for $34, up to its Summit line of "super-premium" gas grills that sell for up to $3,400. Here are a few other interesting facts about modern grilling, gleaned from the 1999 consumer survey conducted by the BIA:

  • Americans say they grill because they like the flavor it gives to foods, it's easy (quick, no pots and pans), they like the outdoors, and because it's casual.
  • About 75 percent of all households in the U.S. own grills, with almost 19 percent of grill owners having both a gas and charcoal grill.
  • Men are twice as likely to do the grilling (67 percent) as are women (33 percent).
  • The most popular grill foods are hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs and chicken.
Grilling with marinades and rubs

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To ensure people really enjoy the fare from your grill this summer, flavor food with marinades or rubs during cooking. Marinades add flavor and tenderize tough cuts of meat, such as the skirt steak used for fajitas. To help tenderize, true marinades include one acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, wine, vinegar or enzyme-rich fruits like papaya. My favorite quick and easy marinade for fajitas combines Newman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar dressing with soy sauce, fresh onion slices, freshly squeezed lime juice, and some sprinkles of fajita seasoning. Toss everything in a large Zip-Lock plastic bag with the meat and lime peelings, then marinate in the refrigerator for several hours before grilling.

Summer Grilling Tips

For good marinating success, consider these tips from the Texas Beef Council:
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator, never at room temperature.
  • Tender cuts of beef need only be marinated 15 minutes to two hours for flavor.
  • Less tender beef cuts should be marinated at least six hours in a mixture containing a food acid or enzyme.
  • Marinating longer than 24 hours in a tenderizing marinade can result in mushy surface textures.
  • If a marinade is to be used later for basting or served as a sauce, reserve a portion of it before adding it to the meat (this also applies to chicken and pork).
To protect against food poisoning, a marinade that has been in contact with any kind of uncooked meat must be cooked to a full rolling boil before it can be used as a sauce.

Think of spice rubs as "dry marinades" applied to meat before cooking. Rubs add flavor and can form a crispy crust on the food. Since rubs lack the oil usually present in marinades, rubs add flavor without adding fat. For a rub with a slightly sweet flavor, try the winning seasoning mix from the Texas Beef Council's annual Signature Steak Rub Contest. This year's contest winners are chefs Kevin Williamson and Darryl Sneary of Ranch 616 and Ella's Restaurant & Bar of Austin. The recipe for their brown sugar-based recipe may be found at the end of this article.

Or try an unusual twist on a rub with Beer-Can Chicken. It might look funny, but this method can bring tasty results. To a can three-quarters full of beer, add your favorite dry spice rub and prop a whole chicken on top of the can on the grill. The chicken bastes from the inside out with beer-spiked rub.

Expand your grilling horizons

Once you have the grill fired up, use it to cook food for several meals. For example, when grilling a steak for dinner, add chicken to the grill to prepare a grilled chicken salad for the next day's meal.

And don't forget the seafood and produce. Outdoor cooks can explore a wide array of grilling possibilities, including fish, vegetables, fresh fruits and even pizza. Try grilling the large, meaty-textured portabella mushrooms to create portabella cheeseburgers. Brush portabella mushroom caps with seasoned cooking oil, then grill or broil no more than 6 inches from the heat source until they soften and turn golden. Cut mushrooms in thick slices to layer on a toasted bun with Swiss cheese, sautéed onions and fresh spinach leaves.

Or slice a variety of veggies onto individual square sections of heavy-duty foil, sprinkle with a little water, wine or vinegar, and season to taste. Fold the sides and top of foil and place on the grill rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Carefully slash the top of the foil packets after removing them from the grill to allow steam to escape.

When the coals are dying, put some fruit on the grill. Good choices include kiwi, papaya, cantaloupe, peaches and nectarines. Thread fruits on skewers for easier handling and brush with a little lemon juice. Or baste the fruits lightly with oil to prevent sticking and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon or ginger. Cook until hot and slightly golden, between four and 10 minutes.

Texas Signature Steak Rub
Chefs Kevin Williamson and Darryl Sneary, Austin, Texas

  • 1/2 cup Brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Dark chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Dry Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Dry thyme
  • 1 tablespoon Dry sweet basil
  • 2 tablespoon Dry mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Granulated garlic
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and generously rub on steak before grilling.

Grilled Garlic-Stuffed Steaks

From the Texas Beef Council
  • 2 Boneless beef top loin steaks, cut 2 inches thick (about 1 lb. each)
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Very finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup Thinly sliced green onions
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
In small nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-low heat until hot. Add garlic. Cook and stir 4-5 minutes or until tender, but not browned. Add onions. Continue cooking and stirring 4-5 minutes or until onions are tender. Season with salt and pepper; cool completely. Meanwhile with a sharp knife, cut a pocket in each beefsteak. Start 1/2 inch from one long side of steak and cut horizontally through center of steak to within 1/2 inch of each side. Spread half of garlic mixture inside each steak pocket. Secure openings with wooden toothpicks. Place steaks on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill, covered, 22-24 minutes for medium rare to medium doneness, turning occasionally. Remove wooden toothpicks. Carve steaks crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Makes 6 servings.

Spatchcocked Deviled Chicken

National Chicken Council
  • One 3-1/2 lb. Chicken (or 1 whole broiler-fryer, cut into parts)
Deviled Marinade:
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
Warm Orange-Thyme Vinaigrette:
  • 1/4 cup Olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons White wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Minced fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Freshly ground black pepper
Using poultry shears or sharp knife, split the chicken along the backbone, leaving the breastbone intact, a preparation technique known as spatchcocking. Flatten the chicken by pressing down on it firmly. In a shallow, glass baking dish, mix together all ingredients for the marinade. Add chicken, rubbing marinade over entire surface. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes or up to 1 hour.

While chicken is marinating, prepare coals for the grill. Grill chicken over medium-hot coals for 30-35 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170 degrees. Discard remaining marinade. While chicken is grilling, whisk together all ingredients for vinaigrette in a small, glass or nonstick saucepan. Transfer the grilled chicken to a cutting board and let cool 5 minutes. Over low heat, warm vinaigrette, whisking well. Carve the chicken and pour vinaigrette into a gravy pitcher. Serve chicken warm and pass the vinaigrette separately.

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