Hear the word grill and your thoughts often turn to outdoors, summer and backyard cooking. But change your thought patterns. Ignore the mosquitos, inclement weather and standing over the barbecue with a water bottle to dampen the flames.
Actually, a grill is a piece of cooking equipment where the cooking surface consists of an open rack or grate with a heat source underneath. Depending on the type of grill, the heat source can be an open flame (either gas or charcoal) or electric.
Food is cooked directly on the rack or grate of the grill, so the best types of foods for cooking on a grill tend to be meats and poultry, although firm fish, seafood, and also vegetables can be cooked on the grill.
Sometimes the word grill can be used interchangeably with the word barbecue—but not in the South. In Dixie, if you say "barbeque," you better mean pork slathered in a vinegar-based sauce and cooked long and slow. But technically, in much of the rest of the country, barbecuing is a form of grilling over wood or charcoal.
One of the characteristics of food cooked on a grill is the grill marks from the grate or rack. This effect can be obtained by using a specially made pan called a grill pan. A grill pan has raised ridges that can produce grill marks, but cooking on a grill pan isn't really grilling, purists say.
How to Grill Outdoors
If you're using a charcoal grill, the No. 1 rule is to start with clean equipment. That means, make sure there are no ashes in the bottom of the grill and that your grate is clean—there are no food particles adhering to the metal.
Add the charcoal in a small pile. Apply charcoal lighter and light it up.
Avoid creating a bonfire. Let the charcoal burn down so the coals are gray, and spread them out evenly. Put your grates back on the grill and get ready to cook.
With a gas grill turn on the gas supply, light the burners and let them heat up for about 10 minutes. Then add whatever you're planning to grill to the grates and get to work.
No matter what method you use, make sure you have the proper equipment. A good pair of fireproof gloves is a necessity, as are tongs to turn your food. You don't want to pierce meat, fish, or veggies.
If you don't already have one, splurge on a great grill pan. The best ones are made of cast iron or anodized aluminum. Choose the pan best for your cooking surface—gas, electric, or cooktop. By the way, you want to make sure your stove hood fan is operational before you start.
What Can You Cook?
A better question would be what can't you cook. Think fish--nothing beats salmon, halibut, tuna...you get the idea.
Steaks and roasts, poultry, vegetables, kebabs take on distinctive flavors when grilled. The only things to avoid are thin items; if you've sliced onions or mushrooms, for example, put them in a pan before cooking, but even those can be grilled.