If there's a grill in your household, chances are there's a grillmaster, too. You know the type: the fire-starting, apron-wearing, tong-taming and (often self-proclaimed) pro of the perfect char has the barbecue game down, and isn't shy about showing it. But what separates the average grillmaster from the true master of all grillmasters comes down to creativity. There's so much more that can be done with a grill beyond hot dogs, burgers, and corn on the cob. Read on to find out what separates the best from the rest in the tasty world of barbecuing.
Step 1: Raid the Produce Bin
Take a cue from professional chefs who take advantage of the grill all the time, but often use it for untraditional means. Vegetables—and fruits!—of almost all varieties can benefit from a short stint on the rack, which tenderizes their texture and induces a seductive caramelization. A truly great barbeque can and should include a few unexpected additions as a topping or side for inventive cooked dishes. Some grill-friendly favorites to try out include avocados, lemons, leeks, lettuce, and summer fruit like peaches.
Step 2: Go for the Secret Sauce
The act of grilling has a tendency to dry out food, regardless of what's going onto the barbecue. And though it's common knowledge that a little bit of TLB (Tender Loving Basting) while grilling makes all the difference in moisture retention and flavor enhancement, why stop at oil (or worse—a jar of store-bought barbecue sauce)? A quick homemade sauce, glaze or marinade is as easy to make as a smoothie, and can be created in endless healthy varieties: from an herbaceous spicy green sauce like chimichurri, to a sweet and spicy barbecue sauce made extra special with some acai powder or pureed goji berries. How’s that for a great “secret?”
Step 3: Embrace the Color
One of the most common mistakes home cooks make is taking food off the grill too early in fear of burning it. Letting food sit for a minute longer than one would think gives it a chance to fully brown—and will only maximize the flavor.
Step 4: Garnish, Garnish, Garnish
Garnish doesn't mean a sprig of parsley that's instantly pushed to the side of a plate. A great garnish both enhances the visual appeal of a dish and adds an additional texture or flavor element. Anything coming off of a grill is prime territory for a garnish, as the glaze on the cooked food will naturally help garnishes adhere easily. Try a generous sprinkle of minced fresh herbs like cilantro or dill, toss superfood seeds like hemp and chia on top, or dust with colorful spices like paprika or turmeric. A little fresh cracked pepper and flaked sea salt are almost always guaranteed to please, too.
Step 5: Don't forget about that Secret Sauce (Yes, again)
The truth is, the greatest of the great grillmasters rarely stop at one sauce. Pairing a second sauce as either a drizzled final dressing or dip for cooked and plated foods can take the meal from great to epic. Creamier sauces like aioli are simple to whisk together and can be enhanced with spices like chipotle or superfoods like wheatgrass. Chutney and salsa can also help freshen up the plate and add a welcome note of acid. Try using finely chopped seasonal fruit, along with citrus juice or vinegar, and add a tart dried fruit like goldenberries for an extra bit of zing.
So, how will you change the barbecue game?