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The latest grilling drill will find you throwing new foods, wood chips on the fire


It used to be barbecuing -- good ol' boys in the backyard burning beef. Now, it's grilling, and it includes everything from pizza to pineapple.

Warm weather brings a spate of new grill-related products, recipes and techniques, keeping the world's oldest cooking method current.

Here's a look at the basics -- some new, some tried and true.

Five new things to grill

* Garlic. Cut top end off whole heads of garlic. Place heads on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh oregano. Close packet and place on a grill away from coals. Grill for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. As the foil browns, so does the garlic, so check it occasionally.

* Oysters. For 2 to 3 dozen oysters, melt 1/2 cup butter. Add 3 minced or pressed cloves of garlic and juice of half a lemon. Open oysters just before cooking and loosen oysters from bottom shell. Add a little garlic butter to each oyster in the half-shell and grill over a hot fire until butter is bubbly and oyster begins to curl away from edge of shell.

* Grits or polenta. Prepare cheese grits or polenta. Spread hot polenta about 1 inch thick on a cookie sheet. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. Cut into 3-inch squares, lift gently from sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Grill over direct-heat fire about 5 minutes on each side.

* Goat cheese. Brush firm rounds of goat cheese with olive oil. Place on mesh grill tray and grill over indirect heat until the cheese softens and begins to run.

* Fruit. Choose pineapple slices, papaya slices, fresh figs, bananas sliced lengthwise, apple slices, peach or plum halves. Brush with melted butter, a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice and a touch of honey. Place on wire mesh grill tray over direct heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft.

Five great tools

* Electric fire starter, metal flue or chimney.

* Hinged wire baskets for fish or burgers; mesh racks for small tidbits.

* Grill set: skewers, basting brush, meat thermometer, tongs, spatula, wire brush for cleaning grill.

* Hardwood chips for smoke flavor.

* Aromatics to throw on the coals: grapevine cuttings, herbs (bay twigs, fennel, rosemary, tarragon and thyme).

Five basic techniques

* How to light a fire.

Using an electric grill starter: Mound the charcoal, plug in the starter and place the coil among the coals until they glow. Take it out.

Metal flue or chimney: Loosely pack the bottom of the chimney with balled-up newspaper. Fill the top with charcoal, then light the newspapers. Coals are roaring in about 20 minutes. Empty into the grill.

* How to construct the right type fire for what's cooking.

Direct heat: for steaks, chicken, vegetables and seafood -- anything that cooks relatively quickly. Spread the coals directly under where the food will be placed.

Indirect heat: for roasts, barbecue, whole chickens or turkey -- anything that takes a relatively long time to cook. Spread the coals around the perimeter of the grill pan or in a pile at each end if your grill is rectangular, placing food directly in the center (not // over coals) with a drip pan below it. Close the lid and regulate the temperature by adjusting the vent holes.

* How to know when coals are ready.

Figure on 35 to 40 minutes for a hot fire, 40 to 45 for a medium fire, 45 to 50 for a low fire. The coals should be covered with gray ash. Hold your hand about 5 inches above the cooking surface. If you can hold it there for five to six seconds, it's a low fire; three to four seconds, it's medium; one to two, it's hot.

* How to add special effects.

Hardwood chips such as mesquite or hickory, grapevine cuttings and woody herbs like rosemary should be soaked in water for 20 to 30 minutes, well drained and tossed on the coals just before the food is placed on the grill.

* How to tell if the food is done.

For fish, the Canadian rule applies: 10 minutes per inch of thickness. For meat, peek. Use a fork or skewer to poke a little hole. For larger cuts, a meat thermometer is useful but because cooking continues for a few minutes after meat comes off the fire, remove roasts and large birds when the thermometer registers 5 to 10 degrees below the desired temperature.

Dressing up barbecue sauce

Heat bottled sauce over medium heat with the following additions:

Mexican: Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 4 tablespoons lime juice and 10 cilantro sprigs.

Asian: Add 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 8 tablespoons soy sauce, 4 tablespoons rice wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tablespoon sesame oil.

Caribbean: Add 2 teaspoons brown sugar, 4 tablespoons pineapple juice, 4 tablespoons dark rum, 4 tablespoons Caribbean hot sauce, juice of 1 orange and a pinch of allspice.

Honey-mustard: Add 1 cup Dijon-style mustard and 8 tablespoons honey.

Mediterranean: Add 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 large tomato, chopped, 4 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 cup combined fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, parsley, oregano and rosemary.

(Source: "Thrill of the Grill" by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby)

Grilled steak & veggies

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1/4 cup olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

1 1/2 to 2 pounds London Broil steak, 1 inch thick

10 to 12 plum tomatoes, about 2 pounds, halved

4 red or green peppers, halved

4 red onions, quartered

3 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise

3 medium yellow squash, halved lengthwise

1 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare grill for medium to high heat. Combine olive oil, garlic and oregano. Brush oil mixture over steak and vegetables. Grill or broil vegetables 4 inches from heat until tender, 15 to 25 minutes. Transfer to platter.

Sprinkle steak on both sides with pepper. Grill or broil 4 inches from heat for 8 minutes, turning once for rare. Remove to platter or cutting board; let stand 5 minutes before cutting. Slice steak on the diagonal and serve with grilled vegetables.

Meat grilling temperatures

Poultry: 175-185 degrees

Lamb: 140 degrees (rare), 160 degrees (medium), 170 degrees (well done)

Pork: 170 degrees

Veal: 160 to 165 degrees

Beef: 130 to 135 degrees (rare), 140 to 150 degrees (medium), up to 170 degrees (well done)

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