There’s nothing like firing up the grill and cooking dinner outside in the Northwest’s perfect summer evenings. Make those grilled meals even better by following a few simple tips and tricks.
Editor's note: This article was sponsored by New Seasons Market.
You are what you eat
Cooking meats and vegetables on the grill gives them a smoky and sweet flavor. Natural sugars in vegetables and marinades caramelize in the high heat, leaving behind beautiful grill marks and that unmistakable taste. Take the flavor one step further and reach for quality products in your local meat department.
Sustainably produced meats sourced from small, local farms, where animals have a more natural diet, are better for the animal and better for the environment. You can also find non-GMO, organic and free-range selections. These meats might cost a little more than other options, but you’ll notice a big difference.
Preparation is everything
If you want meat cooked to the right internal temperatures, it’s important to preheat your grill. A hot grill will keep foods from sticking to the grates and give you a more accurate cook time. It also helps provide those perfect grill marks, which pack a ton of flavor.
Whether you’re using gas or charcoal, preheat for at least 20 minutes before cooking (this also helps to kill off any bacteria present on your grill). Give the grates a good scrape with a wire brush and rub them down with a high-heat oil soaked paper towel (hold it with tongs — not your hands!).
Fire and fuel
If you’re grilling over charcoal, choose additive-free lump charcoal. Conventional briquettes contain questionable ingredients, like borax, paraffin and coal dust. Though it’s easy, avoid using lighter fluid to light your coals — it can release volatile organic compounds and leave an unpleasant residue (and taste) on your food.
Soak up the flavors
If you’re starting with sustainably raised meats, there is already a ton of flavor present. Amp it up by marinating your ribs, steaks, chicken or fish in tasty sauces. Marinades will help to tenderize tough cuts of beef, trap moisture in fish and chicken, and provide a sweet, caramelized flavor in the finished product.
For bonus points, reserve half the marinade and brush it over the protein while it cooks.
Take the prep time out of the equation, so you can enjoy the great outdoors with your family and friends. Most stores offer prepared items that are perfect to pop on the grill (and perfectly delicious). Look for pre-made seasoned burgers and ready-made meat, seafood or vegetable skewers.
Now that you’ve picked up your main course, whether it’s burgers, ribs or hearty mushrooms, find the perfect side dish.
- Everyone loves coleslaw, so kick it up with spicy Asian slaw.
- You can eat cherry salsa with chips or top grilled fish and chicken.
- Somewhere between appetizer and dessert, grilled peaches with blue cheese and honey is both sweet and savory.
- There’s nothing better than cold soup on a hot day. Chilled tomato peach soup, anyone?
- Yes, you can grill salad, and grilled romaine salad is the perfect example!
- Serve spiced grilled pineapple with vanilla ice cream for the ultimate hot-and-cold grilled dessert.
- Corn is perfect for the grill. Grilled corn with chipotle lime compound butter takes it up a notch.
- For a novelty dessert, you can slice and grill angel food or pound cake from the bakery.