F&W's Ultimate Grilling Guide
Rethink Your Guac
Guacamole can be a touchy subject, with even the addition of peas causing an uproar among traditionalists (we're looking at you, Barack Obama). But the most stringent purists should get behind this smoky grilled variation, which involves gently charring avocado, tomato, onion and chiles, then mixing with cilantro and lime juice.
Upcycle Olive Brine
"I baste with it—it gives this magical whisper of flavor and a nice salinity that works with almost anything you would put on the grill."
—Brad Farmerie, Public, Manhattan
Brush on Big Flavor
For the juiciest, most delicious meat, baste food on the grill with a basic salmuera, an Argentinean brine of salt, water, vinegar and olive oil. It's good for seasoning everything from pork and fish to asparagus. Then, when the food's off the fire, brush on a more complex salmuera, like this toasty marcona almond and fresh herb version.
Become a Charcoal Geek
"I look at good-quality charcoal as an ingredient. It affects the flavor of your food just as much as anything else."
—Justin Smillie, Upland, Manhattan
Host a Taco Party
For a killer make-ahead party dish and a meal to brag about all summer, braise a bone-in beef shank in the oven until it's fork-tender, then char on the grill to crisp the edges. Set up a taco bar so guests can shred the meat for themselves and stuff into tortillas.
Maximize Your Coals
Get the most out of your coals and knock out two meals with one fire. Nestling whole vegetables, such as eggplant or cabbage, into the coals is the easiest way to grill. Onions and shallots especially benefit from this treatment, becoming tender and caramelized all the way through.
Flavor Steak While It Rests
When steaks come off the grill, set them on rendered beef fat (sold at butcher shops). "This adds extra flavor and richness to the meat," says Jimmy Bannos, Jr., of Chicago's The Purple Pig. Or shave raw garlic over the steak. "The heat of the meat will wilt it," says Christophe Hille of Fleishers Craft Butchery in Kingston, New York.
Grab a Spray Bottle
"I always keep two spray bottles on hand: one with water to put out any unwanted flare-ups, and one with olive oil to keep my food from sticking to the grill."
—Elias Cairo, Olympia Provisions, Portland, OR
Get Creative with Kebabs
Skewer Korean rice cakes; grilled, they become delectably charred and chewy. Or spear pierogies, kielbasa and pickles, or even day-old bread cubes brushed with anchovy vinaigrette.
Crisp Your Chicken Skin
For perfectly crackly skin, make sure that the marinade doesn't cover the chicken completely; the skin exposed to air dries out a little, which allows it to get ultra crisp as it cooks.
Intensify Your Marinade
Divide the marinade into two batches. Soak meat in the first batch before grilling; afterward, give the meat a quick dunk in the second batch to bump up the flavor.
Season Your Grill
"Take an onion, cut it in half and peel it, then stick a fork in it. Dip the face of the onion in oil, salt and pepper, then rub the grill down with the onion. This greases the grill and gives a last-minute kiss of flavor to whatever you're cooking. I've been doing this since I worked as a grill cook in Nantucket—we're talking early '90s! I know ... I'm old."
—Matt Jennings, Townsman, Boston
DIY a Grill Basket
If you don't have a grill basket to keep small vegetables from falling into the fire, substitute a latticed cooling rack, set upside down. Or grab a rack with parallel bars and set it perpendicular to the grate.
Use a Hair Dryer as a Bellows
"Just before taking meat off the grill, stoke the coals with a hair dryer for a crisp sear. I have a bright-green ‘designated grill dryer' that I keep in my truck. My buddies always do a double take when they climb in the backseat."
—John Lewis, Lewis Barbecue, Charleston, SC
De-seed Your Zucchini
Summer squash can turn spongy on the grill. For a crisp-tender texture, quarter the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds before cooking.
Grill Sausages Perfectly
Too often when sausages come off the heat they're over- or undercooked. No one wants to be that person who cuts into the meat to tell if it's done (losing juices in the process). Instead, char the sausages, then poach in a skillet set on the grill—cooking them all the way through and adding smoky flavor—then char again to crisp. The method works with all kinds of sausage, including fresh chorizo.
Unlock the Magic of Mayo
Mayonnaise has grilling superpowers. Rub it on fish to prevent sticking to the grate or add to ground meat to keep burgers moist. Over heat, the mayonnaise melts away and leaves nothing but rich flavor.
Mix mayo with lime juice and zest and rub all over a whole fish or fillets. Grill, then top with cilantro and sliced chiles.
Make a cheater aioli: Puree garlic with mayo and lemon juice. Toss with vegetables and grill.
Instead of olive oil, spread mayo on crusty bread slices before grilling.
Size Your Burgers Right
"Make sure they're a half inch larger than the bun before grilling. No one likes a tiny burger with a big bun—nobody."
—Abraham Conlon, Fat Rice, Chicago
Grill Doughnuts for Dessert
Something extraordinary happens to a day-old doughnut when you cook it on the grill: It becomes incredibly tender on the inside and nicely crisp on the outside. As a bonus, there's the virtuous feeling of not wasting food. The technique works for other leftover breads and pastries, too, such as challah, pound cake or cinnamon buns.
Make Summer's Best Sangria
Add a subtly smoky kick to sangria by grilling the fruit until it's caramelized.Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic combination; you can also grill peaches to mix with fresh basil, or watermelon to pair with sliced cucumber and mint.