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Preparing Food: Cooking on the Grill


When grilling vegetables, use large enough pieces to manipulate on the grill top without slipping through (if your heart is set on grilled peas, you'd better use foil), and drizzle the pieces with oil to keep them from drying.

Grilling is perhaps the oldest method of cooking food. Who can imagine how long ago people started to cook with fire? (Pass me another hunk of wooly mammoth steak.) Fast, simple, and messy, we humans love this method of cooking.

Lately, physicians warn of health problems related to excess charring and ash in our food (the by-product of overzealous grilling), but that caution aside, it is a flavorful part of quick cooking. In New England where I live, grilling is often confined to the warmer months, but our family loves the flavor so much that I'll be out on the porch in February grilling a halibut steak. In 20 minutes, of course.

A grill is a tremendously flexible tool, and many food items can be cooked on one. Our limitation for the purpose of 20-minute cuisine, however, is that we should use a gas grill. A gas grill heats quickly, enabling us to fit a meal into the necessary time. (A charcoal grill takes at least 15 to 20 minutes to heat up … and that's at its fastest.)

The table that follows shows the usual suspects for grilling, as well as just a few of the more unusual items.

Great for Grilling
Usual Suspects Added Fun
Beef and hamburgers Corn
Chicken Thanksgiving turkey
Seafood steaks Seafood filets
Sausages and hot dogs Scallops and clams
Pork Vegetables (zucchini squash and onions)

The trick with the more unusual items is to use creative helpers:

  • The whole turkey, for example, was my brother's pride and joy last Thanksgiving. (We'll call this “20-minute” cuisine because of the number of meals we ate afterward with no time at all, because the turkey was already done!) He used the rotisserie on his gas grill to constantly turn the bird. Highly skeptical, the rest of us watched, wondering if the result would be a ruined turkey and a pizza Thanks-giving. Instead, we found it succulent, moist, and delicious, with a flavorful, crispy skin.
  • If you have the choice, fish steaks (halibut steaks, for example) hold together beautifully on the grill. Some hefty seafood filets, however, such as a nice slice of salmon, can be cooked straight on the grill. To avoid losing your flaky prize into the ashes below, wrap the fish in aluminum foil completely to protect it from disintegration. (Note that the result here is more like steaming your fish, be-cause the charcoal flavor will not penetrate foil.) Another alternative is to cook the fish, skin side down, on the grill, and then flip it onto a small piece of foil to finish cooking on the other side. To lift the fish, slide the grill spatula under the foil.
  • Vegetables are easy to grill. Long sticks of zucchini, for example, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with herbs, salt, and pepper are a terrific accompaniment to a summer meal.

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals © 2003 by CWL Publishing Enterprises, Inc., John Woods, President. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's website or call 1-800-253-6476.

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