The 10 Best Over Fire Grills
Why Does Grilled Food Taste So Much Better?
But it's difficult, if not impossible, to attain the same level of charring that a grill offers with any other cooking method.
Everyone knows that boiled hot dogs and burgers cooked in a frying pan simply can't hold a candle to the delicious, complex flavors of their grilled counterparts. And it seems like just about anything, whether it's meat, vegetables, or even fruit, tastes better when it's cooked over an open flame, be it gas, charcoal, or an over-fire grill. But have you ever wondered why?
While there could be a psychological aspect having to do with our ancestors cooking everything over a fire, the main reason that grilled foods taste so much better comes down to the Maillard reaction, which is the scientific name for what happens to foods as they brown during the cooking process. Grilling isn't the only way to achieve this effect — cooking anything over high heat, whether it's in a skillet, in the oven, or under a broiler, causes food to brown. But it's difficult, if not impossible, to attain the same level of charring that a grill offers with any other cooking method.
The Maillard reaction takes its name from a French chemist named Louis-Camille Maillard, who published a paper in 1912 describing the effects of heat on amino acids and sugars. Essentially, as foods caramelize, the reaction produces flavor compounds that break down as they cook, which in turn creates new flavor compounds. This process continues for as long as the food is exposed to heat, which explains why a longer cooking time produces a more complex depth of flavor. High temperatures accelerate the Maillard reaction, which is why meats and vegetables brown so much more quickly and develop a more intense sear when cooked on a grill.
Grilling Tips And Tricks
Before you start cooking, whether you're using an over-fire grill or a traditional model, it's important to allow the grill to preheat for 10-15 minutes. This ensures that your cooking surface is hot enough to produce a good sear and helps to loosen up any bits of food from your last grilling session, making them easier to brush off. It also helps to prevent food from sticking to the grates.
Speaking of sticking, you may be tempted to oil the grates of your grill to make sure your food releases easily. While this does work, it can cause flareups if excess oil drips into the flames, and at super high temperatures, the oil burns off in no time. It's better to brush or spray a light coating of oil onto your food before putting it on the grill.
It's better to brush or spray a light coating of oil onto your food before putting it on the grill.
When cooking cuts of meat that tend to dry out easily on the grill, brining them beforehand can make a world of difference. If you're unfamiliar with the term, brining is basically a fancy word for soaking food in a saltwater solution. This helps to add more water to the meat, and the salt relaxes the muscle fibers and keeps them from contracting as much during the cooking process, which leads to less moisture loss. Ideally, you want a five or six percent salt concentration, which works out to about 3/4 cup of salt per gallon of water. You can let your food soak for a few hours or overnight if you have time, but even 30 minutes of brining has a noticeable effect.
Kebabs are among the most popular grilled foods, and though it seems like a simple process to cut up meats and vegetables and cook them on pointy sticks, there are a few things you can do to make your kebabs even better. Make sure to cut your ingredients into evenly-sized pieces, so they all finish cooking at the same time. It's also important to choose your vegetables wisely — try to stick with quick-cooking veggies, like peppers, onions, mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes. If you want to use veggies that take longer to cook, boil them until they're almost done before they go on the grill, so they finish cooking along with the other ingredients. If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least half an hour before cooking to prevent them from burning.
Some people feel that grilling without a beer in hand is basically heresy. But a nice, cold brew isn't just for drinking — beer is great for marinating and basting your barbecued delicacies, too. It can also be used as a replacement for water when soaking wood chips for smoking. You can even grill a whole chicken sitting on top of a can of beer to keep it moist and infuse it with flavor.
Foods You Probably Didn't Know You Could Grill
For most people, simple things like steaks, chicken, burgers, and hot dogs come to mind when they think of grilling. But meat is far from the only thing you can cook on the barbecue.
You can also use a big chunk of iceberg lettuce to make a grilled version of the wedge salad that's a staple at steakhouses everywhere.
Almost any vegetable tastes better grilled, from peppers and onions to broccoli and asparagus. Corn on the cob is especially tasty with some nicely charred bits. For a fresh take on salad, try grilling your lettuce. Romaine is the most commonly used because it's sturdier than other types of lettuce and can handle the heat better. Simply cut the whole head into halves or quarters, drizzle it with oil, and grill over medium heat for a few minutes on each side. You can also use a big chunk of iceberg lettuce to make a grilled version of the wedge salad that's a staple at steakhouses everywhere.
If you like to make homemade pizza, step up your game by throwing your next pie on the grill. Restaurants cook their pizzas at super high temperatures that can't be achieved by most home ovens, and the direct heat of a grill is better for reproducing pizzeria-style crusts.
It may sound strange, but even desserts can be grilled, and many fruits are delicious when cooked over an open flame. Try grilling halved peaches and filling them with yogurt, then drizzle them with honey and top with granola for a healthy sweet treat. You can also cut pineapple or mango into wedges and grill them to accompany ice cream. And if you're feeling particularly adventurous, grill slices of pound cake to add a unique twist to strawberry shortcake.