Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Grilling basics, if you're a newbie

Grilling is more popular than ever, and manufacturers are responding by developing new products for every budget, occasion, and style. Consumer surveys show that 2007 was a record-breaking year for the grilling industry with gas grills topping the sales charts, followed by charcoal, then electric. Almost 77 percent of households own an outdoor grill, and 58 percent of owners use their grills year-round (although summertime remains the peak grilling season).

Some tools that might be helpful:

Thermometer: Owning an accurate thermometer is a must when grilling poultry. Chicken breasts should read 165 F degrees, chicken parts should reach 170 F degrees, and whole chicken should reach 180 F degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.

Tongs: A pair of heavy tongs make turning, moving, and rotating chicken pieces a breeze. They should be lightweight, be long enough to extend to the back of the grill without burning your hand, and spring loaded to easily grasp and release poultry pieces. Try them out at the store (without a fire, of course, to make sure they're comfortable in your hands).

Brushes: Having a few good brushes on hand makes oiling the grill and basting chicken a snap. Don’t purchase an expensive brush as they don’t usually last longer than a season or two. Look for a pastry, basting, or paint brush.

Mitts: As with removing a hot roasted chicken from an oven, heavy duty cooking mitts or gloves are a must when cooking on an outdoor grill. You will want a pair of gloves close at hand to pick up and handle hot items. Fireproof gloves are a good choice because, unlike regular kitchen mitts, they won’t catch fire when they come in contact with flame.

Skewers: There are two basic options when purchasing skewers: metal or bamboo. Metal skewers are reusable and should have a flat metal stick to prevent food from rotating while cooking. When purchasing metal skewers, look for those with heat resistant handles. (Metal skewers also cook faster than bamboo, and some ingredients can be overcooked if you leave that hot metal skewer in them too long). Bamboo skewers are inexpensive, readily available, and of course, disposable. They generally come in packs of 50 to 100. When using bamboo skewers, be sure to soak them in water before putting them on the grill to prevent burning.

Wire Brush: Because food tends to stick to the grilling grates, a good stiff bristled wire brush is a must. You should clean the grill after each time you use it before the food has time to dry onto the grilling surface. A few quick brushes on the grill beats scrubbing piles of pots and pans at the kitchen sink any day.