Where There's Smoke

By Anusasananan, Linda Lau | Sunset, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Where There's Smoke


Anusasananan, Linda Lau, Sunset


Tools and rules to guarantee grilling success

* Charcoal grilling is cooking at its most elemental: Put a piece of meat on a hot fire, and you've got a great dinner, not to mention a cool kitchen. But, as anyone who's faced down a paper plate of charred or half-raw meat knows, a little know-how is crucial for a good barbecue. We've uncovered the techniques for building the best fire, the marinades that make for the most flavorful meat, and the cuts of meat that grill best over direct heat.

As you get the fire going, you can marinate the meats fast: Our marinades rely on salt (or salty soy sauce and Worcestershire), sugar or other sweeteners, and acid (vinegar, wine, or citrus juice) to tenderize and carry flavor into protein fibers quickly-no need to plan days ahead for a simple summer barbecue. Just study our master recipe, make the marinades, and stoke the fire, and within an hour you'll look-and, more important, cook-like a natural. For more great grilling recipes, see www.sunset.com/food/grill.html.

Grilled Marinated Meat

PREP AND COOK TIME: Varies; at least 1 hour, including 30 minutes to marinate.

NOTES: Marinating the meat in a heavy zip-lock bag is efficient, but you can also use a large bowl or baking dish; turn pieces in marinade to coat, then cover and chill, turning pieces occasionally. If the marinade includes a little oil, sticking during grilling is not usually a problem. However, if the meat is very lean or has no marinade, or if your marinade contains a lot of sugar, brush the food or grill lightly with oil to prevent sticking. if you use cuts of meat that are slightly thinner than 1 inch, check for doneness sooner; if meat is thicker-1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches-use medium-hot coals (see our heat guide on page 142) and allow a few more minutes for cooking.

MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

1. Trim and discard excess fat from meat (dripping fat can cause flare-ups). Rinse pieces and pat dry; if necessary, cut into serving-size pieces.

2. Place meat in a heavy zip-lock bag (1-gal. size; see notes). Seal bag and turn to coat pieces in marinade. Chill, turning occasionally, at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day for meats and poultry, 20 to 30 minutes for fish.

3. With tongs, lift pieces from bag and lay on a barbecue grill 4 to 6 inches above a single, solid layer of hot coals or high heat on a heated gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 2 to 3 seconds; see notes); close lid on gas barbecue. Discard marinade.

4. With a wide spatula or tongs, turn pieces over halfway through cooking. (For fish fillets with skin, grill skin side down first; to turn, slip spatula under flesh and flip onto another place on grill. Remove and discard skin.) Cook beef or lamb until done to your liking (cut to test), 8 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare; pork and chicken until no longer pink in center of thickest part (cut to test), 9 to 12 minutes total; or fish until barely opaque but still moist-- looking in center of thickest part (cut to test), 9 to 12 minutes total. Transfer meat to a board or platter and let rest 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Spiced Cider and Maple Marinade

PREP TIME: About 5 minutes

NOTES: This slightly sweet, aromatic marinade is delicious on all kinds of fish and meats, especially pork and chicken. Multiply the recipe for larger batches; cover and chill up to 2 weeks.

Lemon-Pepper Marinade

PREP TIME: About 10 minutes

NOTES: This zesty, versatile marinade works well on all kinds of meats but is especially good on fish and poultry. The recipe can be multiplied for larger batches; cover and chill up to 1 week.

MAKES: About 1/2 cup, enough for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds meat, poultry, or fish

In a small container, mix 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla) or soy sauce, 2 tablespoons minced green onion, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse-ground pepper. …

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