Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sometimes Even the Easy Griller Stays Inside

This is why I didn't grill burgers today. And probably won't tomorrow. December 26, 2009.

We've been having a bit of noticeable weather, here in central Minnesota. And in quite a bit of the rest of the country, too. From the looks of it, I'll be able to get at the grill by next weekend.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chicken. Cheese. Anchovies. Grilled

Okay: This recipe doesn't seem to be intended for outdoor grilling. And, it's more complicated than anything I'm likely to try.

But it's got an - odd - name, and looks like it should taste good. And, since the holidays are a time for more-or-less over-the-top foot preparation, maybe someone who goes in for fancy cookery and grilling might adapt this for a charcoal or gas grill:

"Cheese and Anchovy Grilled Chicken Breasts"
Notecook (December 13, 2009)

"A lovely supper dish, with a deliciously different flavour...."

Like I said, it looks promising.

Me? I'm not likely to try. The Easy Griller is more about keeping it simple, and enjoying the flavor of burgers and steak - and not so much flavours, deliciously different or otherwise.

But, hey: Don't let me stop you from trying that anchovy-cheese-chicken thing out.

A tip of the hat to williamcooks, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this recipe.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Grilled Ribs? Okay: That Could Work

Christmas, New Years, and an assortment of other holidays are coming up: and that means special food. Generally in larger-than-usual quantities.

For the Easy Griller, 'fancy grilling' generally doesn't go much beyond steak and baked potatoes instead of burgers. But don't let that stand in the way of complicating your grilling life.

I ran into this recipe, which looks promising:

"Holiday Recipes & Great Grill Cooking Classics"

"There are many barbeque grill Holiday Recipes for just about every major holiday. Some are classic meats that work well on the bbq grill or smoker.

"Prime rib for Christmas Day or turkey for Thanksgiving are two that come to mind.

"What would be nice is to have a collection of recipes for the holidays that can be turned to time and time again for each major and maybe not-so-major holiday...."

What they've got, so far, is a recipe for BBQ Ribs: "...Buy one rack of ribs for every two adults. Marinade ribs in worcestershire sauce, pepper, season salt and garlic...."

One rack of ribs for every two adults? I'd have the thought it would be the other way around. But then, Texas racks of ribs may be bigger than we have here in Minnesota. And, you should remember that I've lived in and near agricultural communities most of my life. Farmers' appetites tend to be on the hearty side.

One more thing, with a disclaimer. I Haven't tried out any of the (no doubt excellent) advice I found on

"Preparing the Rack - Barbecue Ribs on a Gas Grill"
2 of 7 pages of grilling advice on

It's funny: I've grilled burgers, steak, chicken, potatoes, and corn cobs. But not ribs. I've never seen that as a deficit in my life's experience - and still don't - but now I'm wondering what grilled ribs would taste like.

Like grilled steak, I suppose, except with less meat, and a bone to gnaw on. A sort of fun food?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Alaska Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto, Grilled Duck Breasts with Sweet Potato Frites: and Drunk Chicken?!

My closest approach to haute cuisine a la grille is my burgers flambé, with a grease fire substituting for the traditional blazing liquor.

But, I know that some folks like their food preparation to be a bit more elaborate. With that in mind, here's the first of a (short, I suspect) series of things you can do, to make grilling more complicated.

"For Your Holiday Meal / Grilling Recipes to Delight the Taste Buds of Family & Friends"
Sizzle on the Grill (December 20, 2007)

"...There are so many different ways to think of holidays. Depending upon your culture and your beliefs, you may celebrate the same name holiday – at different times and certainly in different ways according to family traditions. And I think that is a wonderful thing!

"The only suggestion I would make is to enjoy food prepared on the grill! Here are some holiday recipes that you may enjoy making with or for your family:..."

It's an impressive list:
  • Alaska Scallops Wrapped in Prosciutto
  • Bacon-Wrapped Pork and Apple Patties
  • Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Blue Cheese Topping
  • Butterflied Curry Turkey Tenderloins
  • CB's EZ Grilled Veal Chop Forestier
  • CB's Classic Rotisserie Roasted Leg of Lamb
  • CB's EZ Grilled Duck Breasts with Sweet Potato Frites
  • Drunk Chicken
  • Suzanne's Deviled Eggs
I don't know that sozzled chicken stumbled in with all those rather frenchified dishes.

Drunk Chicken: No, Seriously!

It sounds like a joke, but Drunk Chicken is a very real way of grilling chicken. I haven't tried it, but anything that brings fire, chicken and beer together deserves a hearing. Here's a link to the recipe (it's fairly simple, too):

Sizzle on the Grill, via Char-Broil

"This is a seriously funny description of a popular method of cooking chicken. You can purchase different devices that take the place of the beer can, which you fill with liquids that flavor the chicken while keeping it moist...."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Grilling: Near Zero, and Glad of It

The temperature was up to about three degrees above zero, Fahrenheit, when I went out to grill this noon. I actually prefer that sort of temperature, if I'm going to be standing around for a while. When it's closer to the freezing point, ice and snow under my feet are more likely to melt, and standing in near-freezing water is colder, in my experience, than standing on dry frozen snow and ice.

A degree or two above zero, Fahrenheit, but it's still good to grill. (December 13, 2009)

Anyway, I got the burgers grilled - it took a bit longer, with more flame, than when it's in the nineties - and seem to have regained the knack for winter grilling.

They were done - but not burned to a crisp.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Take on Grilling, and Books by Real Professionals

Looking through the news for something about grilling, I found quite a few articles.

Reviews, anyway.

Some of them were more of editorial advertising. My opinion.

Not that I blame anybody involved. If I'd written a how-to book for grillers, I'd want to sell it, too. Maybe I will, someday. Just to give you a sort of head-start on later readers, here's the secret of my success as a year-round griller.

I put the burger, steak, whatever, on the grill. Then I wait until it starts turning brown on the top side. (This isn't generally recommended, but it works for me since this household eats fairly thin slices of burgers and steaks.)

Then, I flip it. Or, more often, them. And, repeat the process until they feel done - and, if I do it right, before they catch fire.

There you have it: my secret of grilling, in 68 words. Add another 9,932 to 199,932 words, and you've got a cookbook. (source: "Guidelines to Average Manuscript Lengths," Gloria T. Delamar)

There's a bit more to how I turn frozen slabs of meat into something distinctly better than what comes off a stove top: but don't bother waiting for that book. I've written about what I do on a not-quite-ready-for-prime-time website, Easy Griller. (

Or, see what the professionals are selling this year, in this nowhere-near-extensive set of links:

Thanksgiving: "The The Rodney Dangerfield of Holidays" - Which has Nothing to do With Grilling

This op-ed piece doesn't have all that much to say about grilling (just one word, actually: "grilling.") On the other hand, it's a pretty good set of observations: and a somewhat thoughtful variation on the traditional 'whatever happened to the holidays' laments we get this time of year.

"Second Thoughts:The Rodney Dangerfield of Holidays"
EDITORAL by Dave Mishur, The Community Times, Pontiac, Illinois (November 26, 2009)

"Thanksgiving gets no respect. It's like the fat little kid on the corner of the playground that everybody ignores at recess. Like the scrawny non-athletic runt surrounded by two all-star older brothers, Thanksgiving languishes, almost forgotten, between the twin towers of Halloween and Christmas. Those are the major Feasts.

"From late October through December there now exists a bacchanalia of syrupy songs, glaring lights and infantile decorations. Whoever invented the miniature pumpkin lights strung on trees, or worse yet, miniature skeletons, should be strangled by them. If we have to put up with these things, where then, are the little turkey and cornucopia lights to wrap around our homes at Thanksgiving? Where are the Thanksgiving carols, the gifts, the tricks and treats?

"Thanksgiving it seems, is like the giant meal the Romans fed to their gladiators before sending them into the arena of slaughter. For some, it's no more than a big preparation for the real thing, the real deal of Christmas shopping, which begins the very next day.

"It's a preamble to Black Friday. Eat your fill now, because once you start shopping there won't even be time for a snack. Most stores and shops are open on Thanksgiving, just like any ordinary day...."

I wrote something like this - in desperation, since I had no original ideas whatsoever - for another blog. It doesn't have anything much to do with grilling, either: There must be something in the news about grilling. I'll take another look.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grilled Chicken Salad: A How-2 With a Photo

"Can’t Cook . . . Try Delicious Grilled Chicken Salad"
Eat. Drink. Better. (November 3, 2009)

"For this post I am going to express one of my favorite simple recipes, and a very healthy one at that–Grilled Chicken Salad...."

Which is just what Jason Karnosky proceeds to do. The blogger also addresses a concern many people seem to have: that a meal can't be good, unless someone wastes spends hours of laborious preparation. And, preferably, uses exotic ingredients like yak butter and hummingbird lips.

"...Now your probably thinking, this is probably too simple to be expressed on a Blog. Well I disagree. If a little extra time is spent with preparation, this can be one of those great easy meals, that you can remake again and again...."

The rest of the post describes how to make this meal - which is a (fairly) simple process - and discusses how it can become a regular part of your eating habits.

I suppose a purist could quibble about the lack of the traditional ordered list of ingredients and outlined procedures. But, in my opinion, if a reader can't figure out how to make this grilled chicken salad from Mr. Karnosky's paragraphs: that reader had better stick to TV diners.

Finally: there's a photo of the end result (pre-meal). Looks good.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Really Fine Grill: For Someone Else

"Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet™ Hybrid Grills Bring Precision, Versatility to the Outdoor Kitchen During the Fall Grilling Season"
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet press release (October 2, 2009)

"With football season underway and the fall holidays fast approaching, Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet™ says it's time to kick off grilling's second season.

"The Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association estimates that 40 percent of Americans close up their grills for the fall and winter seasons.Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet™ thinks that amounts to too many people missing out on the enjoyment that comes from grilling in their outdoor kitchens later into the year...."

I took a quick look at the Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet website - it's fairly impressive. They sell outdoor grills, outdoor refrigerators - outdoor kitchens, even. And T-shirts.

The press release isn't just fluff and 'buy our stuff' rhetoric. There are some pretty good bits of advice - like 'keep the grill lid closed.' They say it's important in fall, when the temperature goes down. True enough, but it's a good idea in summer, too. As the press release points out, with the lid down, you concentrate ("lock in" they say) the smoke - which in my book is the reason for outdoor grilling in the first place. It's the smoke that gives meat a taste you won't get on the stove.

Me? I'm not likely to buy their products. Their outdoor grills start at a mere $1,895 and work their way up to a beauty that goes for $11,995. The grill I'm using now, I bought at Wal-Mart. For about a tenth the price of their low-end unit.

It looks like Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet has a great product line - but it's not for someone at my end of the economic spectrum.

Which is okay.

From the looks of it, that $12,000-minus-$5 grill is (probably) worth the 'extra' $11,845 I'd pay for it, compared to what I've got. There's a plethora of controls, trays, storage space, and the option to use wood for grilling - which should add significantly to the flavor.

That super-grill looks great.

But - and this is important - pretty good results are possible with a $150 grill. I'm all for someone who's got the income and the interest to go high-end: provided they get high quality as well as a hefty price tag. But there's no reason to feel left out at the other end: I enjoy what I've got.

One thing I really appreciated about the press release was the emphasis on out-of-season grilling. I think American culture's pegged grilling as a summer-only activity. I'll grant that it takes someone like me to grill in anything short of a blizzard - but grilling in autumn would be a great way of stretching the 'outdoor activities' part of your life.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Autumn, Three Burgers, and a Loud Motor

It was about 50 out when I grilled burgers this noon: a fairly typical fall temperature here in central Minnesota.

Today I'd been given three burger patties to take care of - apparently my wife isn't storing 'leftover' burgers any more. I'm learning - one side of the burgers got darker than most of the family likes them, but they're far from incinerated.

Aside from the pleasure of eating grilled burgers, I like the fifteen or so minutes I get, standing by the grill and enjoying the neighborhood.

Today the background noise wasn't birds, or wind, or the occasional passing car.

I think someone was using one of those big shop vacuums, maybe a block or two away. That muted whine isn't the sort of thing that most people wax eloquent about - but it's part of the ambiance here, and it's okay.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Autumn's Here: Chilly, Damp Autumn

The forecast says it'll get up to about 50 degrees Saturday. It's been raining - which we need - but there's a good chance the grass will have dried out by then.

And, if all goes well, I'll be out there, grilling burgers around noon.

I'm not one of those summer-only grillers. It takes something like a high fever, a blizzard, or a tornado warning - plus my wife - to keep me from grilling, in all four seasons.

The only frustration I feel, now that it's cooling off, is that I finally re-learned how not to incinerate burgers in summer. During winter's low temperatures, it's a whole different ballgame.

Still: I'm looking forward to having quiet moments with me, maybe a member of the family, and the passing season this weekend.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grilled Asian Chicken - Looks Good, and Almost Simple Enough to Consider

BBQ & Grilling

That link is to the home page. They've got information about sauces, marinades, and rubs; appetizers; beef; burgers; chicken; desserts; lamb; pork; seafood; side Dishes; skewers and kabobs; smoked; even vegetarian. All "-grilling" I presume.

There's also a "Today's Recipe" - today it's "Grilled Asian Chicken."

The recipe calls for soy sauce, which is a deal-killer for this family: I can eat it, but others can't. Also sesame oil, honey, ginger root, crushed cloves of garlic - two of them - so you know it's going to taste good, and - finally - chicken breasts.

They claim it only takes 15 minutes of preparation - which seems about right.

Given my family's dietary limitations, I doubt we'll try it - but this is close to being simple enough for me to grill.

As I've written before: I appreciate and applaud people who toil over fancy dishes. But I can't see me doing that. There's too much good taste in simple, well-grilled foods.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Okra, "they feel like bug eggs" and an Delicious-Sounding Recipe

"Grilled Okra With Tomato Vinaigrette"
The Washington Post (September 14, 2009)

"Green Spring Gardens assistant director Cindy Brown loves fried okra. 'It isn’t summer until I fry a big batch and my son and I burn our mouths as we eat them straight out of the pan,' she says. 'My husband never joins in the annual ritual because he thinks okra is slimy, and he hates the little tapioca-like seeds. I love the way they pop in my mouth. He thinks they feel like bug eggs.

" 'Well, my son is at college, and my husband and I are trying to lose weight, so no fried okra for dinner tonight...'...."

Any time that "feel like bug eggs" is used to describe food, the odds are pretty good that it's not on my 'top ten' list of favorites.

I don't know what I think about okra: I've never, to my knowledge, eaten any. And, since I can't remember eating something that felt like bug eggs, I probably haven't even had okra operating under an assumed identity.

" little bug eggs?!"

Princeton's WordNet defines okra as (among other things) "long green edible beaked pods of the okra plant" - also, in the context of gumbo, "long mucilaginous green pods; may be simmered or sauteed but used especially in soups and stews".

Okay: it says they're edible; and I believe it. Human beings have been described as opportunistic omnivores. There's precious little on this planet that we can't eat. In a way we're the opposite of Koalas, with their dependence on eucalyptus leaves.

On the other hand, just because we can eat something and live to tell: that doesn't mean that I'm particularly fond of everything that's "edible."

Let's see what happened to the the lady, the okra, and her husband:

"...'grilling okra reduces the calories and the sliminess. I haven’t converted my husband to an okra lover, but at least he didn’t make a face when he ate it.'..."

Wouldn't you know it: grilling not only is less calorific than frying (shazam!), but it de-slimes okra. To a certain extent.

This household isn't likely to try okra any time soon - but if we do, I'll recommend grilling those little bug eggs.

Yeah, There's a Recipe in That Okra Article

I took a quick look at the recipe in that Washington Post article. Okra or not, the ingredients had me getting hungry. Not the best situation for someone who's trying to lose weight - so you'll have to read it on your own.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Steaks and Philosophy

As I posted earlier in another blog (Through One Dad's Eye (September 15, 2009)), yesterday my wife asked me if I'd like to grill steak for supper.

That was a welcome question, after a grill-less weekend.

It took me about 25 minutes to finish the steaks - flipping them three times to get that crisscross pattern. I like the pattern: but it also helps me keep track of how many times the meat's been on that side.

The steaks were tender - probably as much due to the selection of meat, as to what happened on the grill.

'And What This Teaches Us Is - - -'

Grilling burgers and steaks is a socially-acceptable way to 'play with your food.'

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Special Occasions, Outdoor Grilling, and This Household

I get the impression, reading about people and grilling, that it's a special-occasions event. It works that way in my household, sometimes. But not as a rule.

Now that I've recovered from 2007, when my body was in for maintenance and repairs, I expect I'll be back to my routine of year-round weekend grilling. Trying to light the grill in a blizzard generally doesn't work, and my wife won't let me grill during a tornado warning: but otherwise when it's Saturday or Sunday noon, I'm out there, grilling.

Except for some special occasions.

Like last weekend, when my second-oldest daughter got married; or this weekend, when I was up in the Red River Valley of the North, with the rest of the family, seeing my father for what may be the last time. More about that in my personal blog.

Next weekend, though, there's nothing scheduled - as far as I know - so I hope to be back at the grill next Saturdayl

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Products that Make Grilling Easier? Maybe

"Grilling gadgets add sizzle in a snap"
Kristi L. Gustafson, Albany Times-Union, via the Houston Chronicle (September 9, 2009)

"Slap a steak, or a portobello mushroom if you prefer, on the grill and take a whiff. Smell the smokiness of the food? Now listen to the sizzle on the hot grate and feel the heat as you stand over the smoldering coals.

"For many, grilling isn't a task, it's an experience, and there are many new products on the market to make the event a little easier — and more fun. Here's what we found:

"The Grill Daddy: The grill-cleaning brush releases water that turns to steam when it hits the hot grate to help remove cooked- on gunk. Available in two sizes, $19.99 and $24.99, both available at, Walgreens and select Ace Hardware stores...."

There's more: grill tools that fold up; a grilling basket with a non-stick surface, something to grill pizza on - not a bad idea; and more, including flexible steel grilling skewers and a gas grill with a 1.6-cubic-foot refrigerator.

The non-stick basket sounds good - although I wonder what sort of unsticky surface could take grilling temperatures.

As for the flexible grilling skewers and the grill with a built-in fridge - okay, maybe they're useful, too. I just hope the skewers aren't too flexible.

The Grill Daddy teeters on the brink of my tolerance for elaborate grilling gadgetry. Between a water reservoir, snap-on detachable brushes, and a mechanism to deliver the water - that's a complicated doodad.

I'm obviously not the target demographic for the product, though. The Grill Daddy's website has a video that demonstrates how it gets the grill looking like new - and sanitizes it.

Looking like new is okay - but I associate that with the new-car taste our old grill had, before I broke it in.

Sanitizes, though? I use the spatula to scrape off the grill before I use it - and during the grilling process. But "sanitizes"?! Okay: "Sanitize" means "make sanitary by cleaning or sterilizing" (Princeton's WordNet). The "cleaning" part's okay. On the other hand - if the grill is hot enough to flash water into steam, there aren't any disease organisms left.

Oh, well: it's still a nifty gadget.

I won't be getting one, though. I'm the Easy Griller - and sanitizing grill surfaces sounds like work.

Related posts:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Let's Hear it for Simple!

My wife had me re-fill the LP tank for our grill today, so that I could grill potatoes.

Getting the tank filled was more work than the grilling.

My wife had wrapped the potatoes in metal foil, and carried the lot out to the grill wrapped in a towel. I followed, set the potatoes in two rows, lit the grill, made sure the flame was stable, closed the lid and noted the time.

I'd carried a lawn chair over, and had a book and some notebooks out with me.

A half hour later, I turned the potatoes over. I'd had the flames at the lowest setting, since this new grill runs hotter than our old one. The potatoes were firm. Definitely not squishy.

Ten minutes later, I checked again, and set the flames to the highest normal setting.

About an hour after I started, I was carrying a towel-full of grilled potatoes back to the house, where #3 daughter took over the job of transporting them to the kitchen.

I turned off the gas, shut the valve on the cylinder, picked up my stuff, and went inside.

Sure, I was grilling, and keeping a close eye on the grill. But, I also spent a most relaxing, tranquil hour in the shade of the garage, under a fine blue sky.

No big deal, no straining every nerve to achieve culinary perfection - and the potatoes came out tasting pretty good.

Sort-of-related post:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Grilled Octopus?!

It took me a few minutes to figure out how a discussion of King Kong (1933) led to my wondering how you'd grill an octopus. There's a fairly short connection - but right now I'm writing about what to do with an octopus and a grill.

My ancestors, by and large, came from northwestern Europe, where people knew about octopi, but didn't eat them: at least, not as a rule. I've never eaten octopus myself, and understand it can be a bit on the rubbery side.

But that doesn't keep me from being curious.

In other parts of the world, it's a different story. In Greece, htapothi is part of the menu now and again; Hawaii it's called he'e; and in Japan, tako. And, although the local species aren't the same, those are all names for that eight-armed creature with an impolite stare.

I found the names of a few ways to fix octopus, not all of which involve grilling: Takoyaki, I've been told, is fried, not grilled - and there is oil involved. Still, if I read the recipe right (by no means a sure bet), the process takes place - or could take place - on a conventional outdoor grill.

Polipo is apparently a Hawaiian preparation for grilled octopus: but I didn't find a reliable-looking recipe.

Htapothi sti Skhara, now, is grilled. After it's boiled.

I haven't tried any of these preparations: and aren't likely to. You'll find quite a few critters swimming in the lakes and rivers of Minnesota: but octopus isn't one of them. Besides, I'm not sure how fresh the things would be, if I had any shipped in.

If you're as clueless about octopus as I am - maybe even if you're not - check out: The page gives names for "octopus" in several languages; what regions generally supply them are (the closest is about 2,000 miles from my front door); and how to choose, store, and prepare octopus; and the 'flavor affinities.' There's also a reasonable-looking recipe for grilled octopus there.

Almost-related post:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Grilling, Above and Beyond the Call of Routine

As a rule, I only grill on weekends: at noon; burgers. Breaks in that schedule are generally gaps, when some family activity or other event intrudes on the routine.

Today was an exception. My wife called me to action around 4:30, with four steaks to grill for supper.

Grilling a steak calls for a different approach than what I use for burgers. Steaks are thicker, with less fat to contribute to the process: so I can't use the fast, hot 'burger' process.

Instead of three to five minutes a side, I gave the steaks about fifteen minutes each side on a medium-high heat, then set the less-done two on one side, and cranked the heat up to 'high' for them.

The results were pretty good: Next time, I'll give the process more time, and not scorch the outside of the steaks quite so much.

There's Intricate Grill Cuisine, and There's the Easy Griller Way

Now, some people don't think a steak is properly grilled unless there's a marinade, herbs, spices, and at least an hour's preparation involved before you step outside. My hat's off to those folks, but I'm the Easy Griller.

The steaks were prepared by taking them out of the freezer a few hours before supper, letting them get to around room temperature, removing the plastic wrappings, and carrying them out to the grill. I know: You're not supposed to do it that way. But we get our meat done all the way through, so it's quite safe.

It was a great afternoon, so I brought a book out with me, snagged a chair from a screen tent my wife set up in the back yard, and got some reading done. I don't suppose that's recommended practice - but I was within four feet of the grill, had a timer to check on, and could hear anything happening to the meat or the fire.

The steaks? Pretty good, if I do say so myself. And, a real treat.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grilling: Starting Hot, Grilling Slow, and the Fork Test

"Fire up the grill"
Griller shares tasty tips
The Gothenberg Times (July 18, 2009)

"Patience is perhaps the best advice Gary Norseen gives to grillers wanting tasty meat.

" 'Most people get in a hurry,' said Norseen, a Dawson County deputy sheriff. 'It's all about low, slow cooking.'

"To get the grill ready, Norseen suggests turning the heat to high or about 400 degrees and then backing it down to between 275 to 325 degrees for most meats.

"What does he like best about grilling?

" 'Eating.'

"Norseen also likes the challenge, especially working with pork.

"One specialty he shared is buying a lean cut of pork loin and splitting it down the middle...."

Norseen has a lot more to say about what to do with the pork loin, and other matters of the grill. And, reveals that he uses something besides a thermometer to tell when a grill is ready. Like waiting "...until the coals have a red glow...." And "...A good rule of thumb in knowing if pork or chicken is done is to push a fork into the meat.

" 'If it's not done, the fork will bounce back,' Norseen said...."

It's not a particularly long article, but touches on what to do with pork, beef, and chicken.

Not that you'll necessarily want to follow his methods. For instance, he rubs "season salt" and pepper into his steaks: which I'd never do. And if you're, ah, enthusiastic about not eating meat with any appreciable fat content - this isn't the article to read. Norseen likes meat that tastes good.

Okay: I've got a bias.

Also, this article is emphatically not written for the vegetarian griller in mind. For everyone else, though, it's a pretty good read - and might help you get more out of your meat.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Big Green Egg, Eggheads: Japan's Kamado With a Western Touch

I learned about Big Green Eggs a few hours ago. I've been grilling for years, but somehow this western take on Japan's traditional kamado escaped me.

Digging around, I found these two YouTube videos: which give a pretty good look at the Big Green Egg products and how they're used.

"Big Green Egg Ribs"
GPMPoolandSpa, Youtube (April 25, 2009)
video, 9:59

"Big Green Egg - Grilling Demo Video"

bbqguys, Youtube (August 3, 2006)
video, 3:42

This video shows that the Big Green Egg has a temperature gauge: a feature that the more gadget-happy grillers should like. I know: the 'safety first' articles say that meat thermometers are somewhere between important and vital to safe food preparation.

I've seen a meat thermometer: and I think there's one in the kitchen. But I've never used one while grilling. I keep track of how the meat's coming by it's appearance, how it feels when I press it with the edge of the spatula, and a test cut.

Back to Big Green Eggs.

Big Green Eggs: Around for Decades, Now New and Improved

Reading what the manufacturer says, the Big Green Egg is the biggest thing since sliced bread. The Big Green Egg company website bills its product as "Big Green Egg, World's Best Smoker and Grill.
"Welcome to the Big Green Egg, the Original American Designed Ceramic Cooker. Derived from an ancient clay cooker called a 'kamado,' the modern Big Green Egg has undergone many improvements since it was introduced in 1974. Especially significant is replacement of the clay used in early models with durable space-age ceramics developed specifically for Big Green Egg to make the EGG® virtually indestructible under ordinary cooking conditions...."
A CNN article about Big Green Egg grills and "eggheads," as BGE fans are called, is what tipped me off to the existence of the Big Green Egg. The article featured Adam Frey, who lives down south (from my point of view), in Bloomington, Minnesota. I got the impression that the reporter was impressed that someone would grill when it's a few degrees above zero, Fahrenheit.

To clear up a possibly-ambiguous statement in the article, a Big Green Egg isn't necessary to enjoy grilling during a Minnesota winter. As Mr. Frey observed, "...'Extreme cold isn't an issue as long as you dress warm,' Frey said. 'I have and will continue to cook out every day if possible.'..."

That's about the way I approach grilling. A Big Green Egg isn't in my immediate future, though. I'll freely admit that what I've seen and read about them is impressive: But with price tags running up to $900, I'll stick with my Char-Broil® grill and its LP gas tank.

Here's part of that article, with a link to the rest -

"For Eggheads, grilling is a way of life"
CNN (July 9, 2009)

"The average temperature in Bloomington, Minnesota, in January was 6.4 degrees Fahrenheit. But that didn't stop Adam Frey from grilling outdoors and burning through 80 pounds of charcoal during the month.

"Frey received a Big Green Egg -- a ceramic cooker that serves as a smoker, grill and oven -- for Christmas last year. Since then, he has devotedly grilled six or seven days a week.

" 'Extreme cold isn't an issue as long as you dress warm,' Frey said. 'I have and will continue to cook out every day if possible.'

"The oval-shaped grill has amassed a cult-like following since it was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1974. Fans of the grill call themselves Eggheads...."


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Grilling on July Fourth: Burgers, Steaks, Church Bells, Birdsongs, and a Really Hot Handle

I got to grill twice today: burgers at noon and steak for supper. I got the steaks overly-done, even by my standards: I'll get back to that.

Both sessions were accompanied by birdsongs and church bells: Our Lady of the Angels church is two blocks north, on the other side of the street, so I heard the noon and five o'clock peals clearly.

Time passes, and with it comes change. For years, I'd hear a dog about a block away, east and a bit north, howl in response to the bells. He - or she - was quite musical, in a canine way. That doesn't happen now. I suppose the owner may have moved, or the dog is gone.

A mourning dove's call is one of the few birdsongs I recognize. There was one vocalizing when I was fixing the steaks.

Crunchy Steaks and Other Learning Experiences

I go through the same process each time the seasons change: as summer heat settles in, I re-learn how to use a grill that's already part-way to the heat needed to grill meat. And, in the process, come pretty close to reducing at least one meal to briquettes.

Today's supper was a case in point. The grill had been up to normal (for me) grilling temperature at noon, and had at most cooled down to the 79 degrees I was enjoying. After five minutes, I flipped the steaks - and found they were already black in a few places. I learned something else, too: I'm getting to that.

Long story cut short, my wife quite properly gave me part of the crunchiest steak of the lot. It was pretty good, actually: the burned-black meat was strictly on the surface, and they were done evenly all the way through. I'll remember to turn down the heat a bit more and earlier, next time.

This winter, I'll probably go through the same learning experience, in reverse.
Singed Hair and the Spatula as a Lid-Shutting Tool
The hair on my left forearm is growing back nicely, after a little incident recently involving the grill and tongues of flame. The lid of our current grill swings rather far back. When open, the distance between the front of the grill and the handle suggests to me that whoever designed the thing must have been closer to seven feet tall, than six.

That experience encouraged me to re-think my approach to opening and closing the grill. The happy thought struck me that, while I needed to reach around the grill to open the lid, I could use the spatula as an extension of my arm when reaching for the handle. Now, I often use the edge of the spatula that's closest to the handle to hook one of the supports for the lid's handle. That keeps my arm further from the fire: and a bit safer.
Oven Mitts aren't Just for Ovens
Today, I learned something else: the handle can get very hot, very fast, under the right conditions. Like grilling steaks for supper, after using the grill at noon.

When I lifted the lid - or, rather, started to lift it - to flip the steaks the first time, I got the lid about three inches up before my fingers lodged a formal complaint. That handle was hot!

#1 daughter was out with me, giving her rabbit, Giol, an outing, and went in for an oven mitt. That solved the hot handle issue quite neatly.

Tomorrow, I hope to do the same thing: grill, I mean, not zap the steaks and nearly burn my fingers.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Holiday Grilling: Independence Day, Canada Day, 14 Juillet, Grundlovsdag - - -

Grilling on Independence Day is a sort of American tradition: but this isn't the only country where people celebrate something special by setting meat over a fire until it's ready to eat.

While I was looking for something else, I ran into a PR Newswire article about grilling on holidays. Turns out, people like to grill on:
  • Canada Day
  • Australia Day14 Juillet
  • Grundlovsdag
  • Midsommarafton
  • Dia del Padre
  • Pfingsten
  • Summer Bank HolidayFerragosto
  • You get the idea
It may not be quite universal, but my guess is that people in many cultures like to get back to a very basic food preparation techniques: grilling. I find a lot of satisfaction in turning raw meat into something with a taste that you won't get in an oven - and the PR Newswire list suggests that quite a few other people do, too.

Meanwhile, in America, Good Advice and Fussy Cookery

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has some good advice: and some that strikes me as verging on the fussy.

The USDA FSIS article is intended to keep people from making themselves sick. It boils down to 'keep your food clean, and heat it thoroughly.' All good advice.

As usual, in this sort of article, they say that it's important to use a meat thermometer. In the case of smoking meat, which the article discusses in some detail, that may be a good idea.

I don't use a meat thermometer, although I don't see any harm in doing so.

My guess is that not everyone likes meat the way I do: fairly well done. When "grilled" means that a piece of meat has started changing color on the outside, but is just barely not raw inside: yes, then I see the need for a thermometer.

I pay attention to food safety, though. On those rare occasions when I've grilled a steak and a test cut through the thickest part shows a touch of red inside, it either goes back on the grill or in the oven until it's done.

Complicated Recipes, Exotic Dishes, and Grilling My Way

About the most exotic foods I've grilled are shishkebabs and corn on the cob (delicious, in both cases).

The corn on the cob is simple, done my way. I grill the meat first, then as that's getting toward the end of the flipping cycles

I put corn cobs on the grill with most of the husk and in place. I've read that it's a good idea to soak the corn cobs before grilling, but ours is pretty fresh, so I don't.

Depending on how hot the grill is, I'll leave the cobs on a couple or five minutes, lift the lid and see what's happening. That's why I leave 'extra' husk on. When it's burned up to near the cob, I flip them and repeat the process.

So far, they've turned out pretty good.

But, not all people are as simple - or crude? - as I am, so I put links to some of the more likely-sounding articles, websites, and recipes in the "Background and resources" section at the end of this post.

Gluten - This I am Fussy About

I'm able to digest gluten, happily, but my oldest daughter can't. Thanks to her need for gluten-free foods, I've become more aware of that particular dietary requirement. The "Background and resources" has one or two leads that might be useful. Or, not. The "Supermarket Guru" search was surprisingly unhelpful that way.

My Plans for Independence Day

My wife may have something else in mind, but I plan to celebrate America's birthday by grilling burgers at noon. I do that most Saturdays, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it on July Fourth, too.

Background and resources:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Grill Propane Tank Infotisement and My Equipment Maintenance Philosophy

The Cody Enterprise1 article starts like dozens of others across America:
"Independence Day is the most popular outdoor cooking holiday of the year with more than two-thirds of Americans firing up the grill, smoker or fryer, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association. A few simple steps can help you prepare your grill to make sure you have a safe backyard celebration.

"Make sure your tank is ready..." (Cody Enterprise)
So far, so good. Whoever wrote it packed a lot of information into those two sentences, without making the reader work at prying facts out of the verbiage.

Here's what's next:
"...Make a trip ahead of time to a Blue Rhino propane exchange outlet to help make sure you have enough propane so your party...." (Cody Enterprise)
My attention swerved, skidded, and came to a rocking stop.

It's not often that a news piece directs readers to a particular business. Possibilities popped to the front of my mind.
  • There's only one propane service within a day's drive of Cody?
  • "Blue Rhino" is a generic term for LP gas retailers in that part of Wyoming?
    • But it's capitalized
  • It's an advertisement?
    • But there's no "advertisement" label
You've seen things like this in magazines, sometimes in newspapers: It looks like an article, but extols the virtues of some product, brand, or service provider. Infotisements2 I've seen in print have the word "advertisement" somewhere along or near their border: in small print, but visible.

Nothing like that in the "Fourth of July" infotisement. Or around it, or anywhere on the page: apart from "Courtesy of ARAcontent" at the bottom of the piece.

I suppose I could be outraged at this 'violation of the public's trust,' but I like to think that most people are sharp enough to recognize the infotisement for what it is.

Plus, it's got some pretty good safety tips.

I'll Keep My Own LP Tank, Thanks

I'm not criticizing Blue Rhino, or any of the other companies that provide tank-swapping services.

I think I understand why people like to bring an empty tank in, turn it in, and walk away with a full tank. You don't have to wait for someone to fill your old tank, and there's the comfort - for some folks - of knowing that a 'qualified professional' has inspected and passed the tank they're using.

As for me, I'll do my own inspections. I've seen tanks on swap racks with the sort of corrosion and wear that I'd never tolerate on pressure vessels. Particularly ones that contained a potentially explosive substance. Since those had passed inspection, I've wondered what the sort of attention had been paid to the valves and overflow protection devices on the newer-looking tanks.

Fussy? Maybe.

As I said in another post, I'm not a particularly jittery advocate of safety. (June 16, 2009) But I do pay attention to the basics, like making sure that liquid propane will stay in the tank until I want it to come out.

I'd rather fill my own tank, but I don't see self-service LP filling stations so much now. Which may be just as well. But my trust extends to whoever fills the tank for me. Besides, if the tank got damaged, I'd see it, and know that it was time to turn it in for a new one.

My old tank would probably be repaired and re-sold - as a repaired tank, which makes good sense. Then it would be the new owner's concern, not mine.

That's the way I do things.

From the success of Blue Rhino and other companies, it's obvious that not everybody has my approach to equipment maintenance. Which is okay.

The main thing, as I see it, is to have fun grilling, enjoy the food, family, and friends, and not burn down your home in the process.

Related posts:

In the - news?
1The Cody Enterprise newspaper is published twice a week in Cody, Wyoming; and was founded by founded by W.F. Buffalo Bill Cody and Colonel John Peake in August 1899. Its online version has reader-submitted news, as well as the more conventional news, sports, obituaries, classified ads and op-ed content.

2"Infotisement?!" That's something that looks like an article, and may give some useful information, but is mainly intended to promote a product or service. An unsourced Wikipedia article says that a copywriter named Matthew McDermott first used it in 2000.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Grillings Just an American Thing, Right? Wrong!

I found out about a new-to-me show today: Licence To Grill, or LTG, hosted by Robert Rainford. It's on the Food Network Canada - and, since 2007, in Malaysia on the Asian Food Channel. LTG is available in Manilla, too: and probably elsewhere in that part of the world. (The URL for Asian Food Channel is - their pages weren't loading this evening, here in central North America, so you may need to be very patient.)

I suppose the basics of grilling - putting food over an open fire or hot coals until it's 'done' - show up in some form in every culture.

What I hadn't realized was that there was enough interest in the sort of grilling I'm familiar with, sticking a disk of ground meat or a flattish slice of meat on a rack over a fire, would be all that interesting to people on the other side of the pacific.

Food Network Canada says that "...Rainford demonstrates the how's and why's of perfect grilling...." Me? I settle for re-learning how not to burn the burgers after each transition from winter to summer and back again. I do appreciate Rainford's willingness to show how to grill relatively simple fare like burgers, steaks, and kebabs.

Speaking of kebabs: My oldest daughter gave me a set of skewers for Father's Day, so it's only a matter of time before I try my hand at kebabing - or whatever it's called - again. I haven't done that since September of 2007.

Vaguely related post: In the news:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Going to Grill on the Fourth of July? You Might Want to Read This

I enjoy grilling year-round, which takes care of some of the seasonal maintenance issues that come with grilling. From what I read, some folks in America start grilling around July 4th. Which I see is coming up: fast.

There's some pretty good advice out there, so instead of repeating it, I'll just link to a few items in the news.

There's Sparkling Clean - and Easy Griller Clean

Although I make sure that the working parts are reasonably clean, I'm not all that fastidious about scraping every bit of material off the inside of my grill. That's partly my disinclination to do what I see as unnecessary work. And, partly my preference for the flavor that grilled food gets, if you let it.

It took several weeks, before food from our first grill lost that new-car taste. The family's current one didn't take as long to break in: but even there it went through several cycles of use before the burgers were obviously not cooked on the stove.

Don't Eat Burned Meat

I know: you've probably read that grilling, along with everything else on Earth, causes cancer. I discussed this in the safety section of the Easy Griller website. When I dug past the 'scare' articles and read what people who had done actual research had to say, it turns out that it's the burned-to-a-crisp meat and fat that have carcinogens.

So, unless you burn your food to a crisp or eat the debris that collects at the bottom of the grill (disgusting thought), you should be okay.

Related posts: In the news:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Jersey Townhomes May Ban Grilling

In a culture which finds it necessary to warn consumers that a clear jar of peanuts contains peanuts, when the peanuts are clearly visible, and the label already says "PEANUTS," I suppose this sort of thing makes sense.

The Hermitage Townhomes Complex is discussing whether or not to allow residents of the townhomes to cook outside, using barbecue grills. The fire marshal said to have the grills a certain distance from the houses, which put the grills in the back yards.

That's not enough for the housing board. They think grills are unsafe, and want them banned.

Grillers of the World Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Fire Permit!

The residents didn't see it that way, and raised a fuss.

It's anyone's guess how this will come out.

The housing board has a point, in a way. a few days ago, someone let a barbecue fire get out of hand. About $10,000-worth of car and house got cooked, instead of the meal. And, fire can spread easily in townhouses.

It's not just a safety issue. The housing board is afraid that all those people grilling in their back yards will bring down the property values.

Maybe the board thinks that most people are afraid of barbecue grills and the fires they cause. Or, maybe it's a class distinction thing.

I rather hope that the folks living in Hermitage Townhomes Complex get to keep their grills.

Related posts: In the news:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Competitive BBQ? Teams??

"Grill Girls"
Episode GXSP01H Food Network

"Move over Master of the Grill. All over America, there's a new chef (wo)manning the fire and she s discovering the thrill of the grill! We follow an all-women s barbecue team hoping to make a name for themselves on the BBQ circuit...."

I did a little checking around, and discovered that there really are BBQ cooking team competitions. Also, that Lee & Bobbie McWright are fairly well-known BBQers, and that the ABS cooking team used to be called the Music City Pig Pals. (The Smoke Ring forum)

There's more about the McWright's at Music City Catering, Pleasant View, Tennessee.

I love grilling - but as a competition? I suppose there could be the BBQ equivalent of a drag race: see who can carbonize a rack of ribs first. Or maybe see who makes the loudest "whoomp!" when the gas ignites. No, that last one would be a bit too risky.

A strange picture came to mind: two teams, facing each other in the field, pushing a grill back and forth, each trying to score a touchdown. I've probably watched too much Monty Python.

I think I'll stick to burgers on the weekend, with the occasional steak, chicken and/or whole potatoes.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't Set Fire to Yourself or Your House: Good Advice from the NFPA

If you've read the "Extreme Safety: Above and Beyond the Call of Reason" page on Easy Griller, you know that I'm not a particularly jittery advocate of safety.

I think that's partly because I remember a world where transparent jars of peanuts didn't have a 'warning - contain peanuts' label. Growing up next door to regions where being stupid sometimes resulted in your body being recovered next spring may have contributed.

Given the legal and cultural system that makes it necessary for manufacturers to warn people that a see-through jar of peanuts, labeled "PEANUTS," contains peanuts, I didn't know what to expect from an outfit with "protection" in its name.

I was pleasantly surprised at "Grilling" (NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)). The page has some common-sense "safety tips" about how to use propane and charcoal BBQ grills without setting fire to yourself or your house.

There's a collection of "Facts & Figures" that shows why being careful with grills - particularly the ones that use liquid propane - is important. ("...Although gas grills are used roughly 1.5 times as often as charcoal grills, they were involved in five times as many fires...."

NFPA's page has links to audio recordings, and (in principle) a video about grilling safety. In practice, if you start at NFPA's page, you'll drop into the second of two videos.

I figured, if there's a video #2, there was probably a video #1. And, sure enough, there is. I put both of them here, from NFPA's YouTube account.

Together, they take less than six minutes to view, and have some pretty good, common-sense advice, like:
"...If you see a white fog, or smell gas, it's a sign of a leak. It's very unlikely, but if it should happen, just call your local fire department for help...."

"...Now, grills are not inherently dangerous, but any time you work with fire, there are risks...."
The second video discusses some safety aspects of charcoal grills. And, gave a good reason for keeping high-velocity kids and grills away from each other. Emergency rooms report that children younger than five account for about a quarter of burns from hot grills.

Finally, the NFPA videos give the viewer credit for some sense. Not once does NFPA's Principal Gas Engineer, Ted Lemoff, say 'don't pour gasoline on a burning grill.'

"Grilling Safety Tips - Part 1"

nfpadotorg, YouTube (June 01, 2009)
video 2:52

"Grilling Safety Tips - Part 2"

nfpadotorg, YouTube (May 22, 2009)
video 2:58

Monday, June 15, 2009

Chicken Grilling Recipes That Really Work: But First - - -

My oldest daughter told me about a way to grill chicken the other day. It involved beer - or soda pop - but she figured it might work with fruit juice, too.

I haven't tried this. If you have, I'd appreciate a comment on how well it worked. Or didn't.

You take a whole chicken (plucked and prepped - like you get at a butcher's) and a can of beer. Or soda pop. Or, maybe, fruit juice.

Open the can, and sit it (open side up, of course!) on the grill. Then, you fit the chicken, tail end down, over the can. How you're supposed to balance the thing is your problem - my daughter didn't mention how that's supposed to work.

Light the grill - or, if you're really macho, set the thing up over a grill that's already hot - and wait for the bird to get grilled all the way through.

You've read all the FDA warnings about salmonella and food poisoning. I assume you're neither a fool nor an idiot, so we'll move along.

If everything went right, you've got a grilled chicken that's absorbed some of the beer - or soda pop - or fruit juice - flavor. Sounds delicious.

My daughter thinks cranberry juice might eliminate the need for cranberry sauce. Which gave her an interesting thought: "I wonder if it would work with turkey?"

You'd need either a huge grill or a really small chicken - or turkey - to close the top, using this method. Which would let most of the smoke escape. I grill with the top down, except when I have to move the food, to make the most of the smoke's flavoring potential.

As I said, I've never tried this: but it sounds good.

One more thing: I'm not at all sure what will happen as fat from the grilling bird drips into the grill.

There's a description of one of my early experiences with grilling chicken in "Fireball Fryers, on Easy Griller's Safety page.

And Now, Chicken Grilling Recipes that Really Work

Or, as Rocky the Flying Squirrel said, "and now, for something you'll really like!" There's 199 of them, starting with Chicken with Feta Cheese and Blackberry Vinaigrette, Grilled Chicken Breasts, Greek Chicken, Pepper Jack Chicken, Lip Smacking Chicken Drumsticks, and (I'm not making this up) Thyme for Chicken.

They look good, sound fancy, and seem to be more trouble than they're worth: but some people like to put effort into food preparation.