Does it get any better than summer? Popsicles, sprinklers, the beach. Lightening bugs, warm weather, drive-in movies. And, best of all, the greatest thing about summer: y’all, it’s time to start grilling!
From the very start of Spring, the smell of someone getting the grill going is enough to make an entire neighborhood salivate. And for good reason! There’s little as delicious as something thrown on the grill and served up with a healthy dose of sunshine. That said, I’ll confess that I grew up in a home where we considered it grilling season year-round, regardless of climate. I blame my dad: I think nothing of a grown man standing outside in a Cleveland, Ohio snowstorm armed with a plate of dinner-to-be and his trusty black Weber.
But maybe that’s just because what happens between a grill and its food is pure magic. Have you noticed? Is there anything better than a burger fresh from the grill? (Especially made with the help of Lindsey’s Secrets to a Perfect Burger!*) Or grilled corn on the cob? Maybe you like to get all fancy and do dessert on the grill too… nothing says summer dessert like grilled peaches served with cinnamon, honey, and greek yogurt or ice cream.
No matter what you’re grilling or where you are on the grill mastery scale (I tend to bring up the rear as a novice griller — I’ve got all the basics down, but the mastery is my husband’s forte. Novice griller, expert eater. Hey, we all have to start somewhere!), summer is the best time to get the hang of the grill and all that goes with it.
Gas or electric? Smoker or baby weber bought for twenty dollars on impulse? So many choices! Surprising everyone, I have no opinion here. I have never met a grill I didn’t like. Buy within your budget. Find a grill that works for you. Make friends with it. Cook with it. Love it. That’s all that’s required.
We have a Big Green Egg, and my husband adores it to such an extreme I sometimes wonder if he prefers it to me. I am okay with this, because he makes so many amazing dinners with it that questioning his devotion would be looking a gift horse in the mouth. The Big Green Egg is a grill and a smoker, and for southerners who like to make barbecue regularly, that’s like Christmas in grill-form. It also doubles as a kiln, should I ever decide to get really into ceramics, and rumor has you can even bake a cake in it. Additional Perk: It’s so heavy, I never worry about it being stolen when we’re on vacation. In fact, when we round the bend back to our house when we’re coming back from vacation, one of the first things I see in our yard is the Egg. It’s like a big, green welcome home every time.
There are a billion and one lists that tell you all the things you need for your grill, but aside from a way to get it hot and something to cook on it, you really don’t need much at all. Still, there are some accessories that make grilling everything on your dinner table easier — and tastier. If you are a vegetables on the grill person, you should consider either a grilling basket or, my personal favorite, a mesh basket with a locking lid (perfect for shaking those veggies around and making sure they’re equally cooked). We also have a wire mesh roasting pan that’s great for chicken, kabobs, or anything else that’s easy to turn over. I love our stuffed jalapeno stand, and we also have two pizza stones we use in our regular oven that sometimes make their way to the grill. No matter which accessories get you grilling, it’s worth finding a good grill mit you like and a pair of sturdy tongs.
Your grill tongs shouldn’t be for the faint of heart, so when you’re looking for ones you like, be the person who puts on the grill mit and then tries to manhandle the tongs and walk around the store trying to pick things up while pretending you’re standing back from a rampaging fire on a hot summer day trying to reach into the grill and turnover something tricky — like asparagus — while dogs and small children nip at your ankles, begging for some of that smelly deliciousness. Can you tell we’ve had some tong fails? We have. It happens to everyone. Unless you find the right tongs, in which case, it never happens to you. So be the person with the awesome, perfect grill tongs. And report back and let us know which brand worked best for you!
The number one grilling lesson of every summer is this: Everything is better on the grill. But every cook should have a few recipes in her back pocket to make the most out of her summer grilling season. To get you started: Alabama-style chicken kabobs (Alabama barbecue is a white barbecue that’s tart, tangy, and very tasty. This chicken is moist and amazingly good, plus if you don’t tell anyone it’s barbecue, no one would ever guess), irresistible campfire potatoes that are the perfect side for any meal, pancetta-wrapped asparagus that are fantastic not only as a dinner side but as an appetizer or cocktail party favorite, curry and ginger-rubbed lamb chops with an apricot-lime sauce will be a first for anyone dining at your table and the spicy chops offset by the clean sauce will get rave reviews in the summer heat, and two of my favorites: grilled eggplant with caramelized onions and fennel and squash ribbons with prosciutto and mint dressing.
No matter what your food preference, it’s time to get it onto the grill and let the smell of deliciousness fill you with the happiness of summer. Tell me: Do you like to grill? Do you have any favorite things to make on the grill?
*Another tried-and-true burger hint: if your patties aren’t sticking together very well and you find them butterflying out as you attempt to form them, try adding a little egg yoke to the mixture. One yoke goes a long way for six to eight burgers, and greek yogurt isn’t a bad binding substitute, either! No matter what, make sure you manhandle the meat as little as possible. Every touch bruises the meat, and you really will taste the difference. But no matter how you make them, burgers on the grill are always delicious, aren’t they?