Elizabeth Karmel's Grilling Tips
"The reason I fell in love with outdoor cooking is that it is the best way to prepare food, bar none. And, you aren't limited by what you can cook or the flavors you use—'If you eat it, you can grill it!' is my motto and I cook and eat by that motto."
This week's grilling tips come from a woman who is not afraid of a little smoke, fire, and meat: Elizabeth Karmel. The executive chef at New York barbecue joint Hill Country, Karmel is also the owner of the Grill Friend, a line of grilling products. Additionally, Karmel wrote the popular cookbook Taming the Flame and, most recently, Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned.
"If Taming the Flame was my love letter to grilling and barbecue," Karmel says, "This book is the reaffirmation of my love for outdoor cooking. The reason I fell in love with outdoor cooking is that it is the best way to prepare food, bar none. And, you aren't limited by what you can cook or the flavors you use—'if you eat it, you can grill it!' is my motto and I cook and eat by that motto."
Armed with an undying love for grilling and with the release of her newest cookbook, Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned, Karmel shares some essential tips on various ways of flavoring food to perfection for the grill.
All About Brines
"Ten years ago, brines were a well-kept restaurant secret. Whenever my students ask me why the pork chops they grill at home don't taste as good as the ones from their favorite restaurant, I tell them to brine their pork chops (this works wonders with chicken, too) before grilling them. Even a simple salt and sugar brine adds moisture and seasons the meat inside and out, and thereby increases the flavor. Up the ante by using a flavor brine rich with herbs, spices, fruit juice, beer, wine, and/or whiskey, and you've got better texture, juicy meat, and flavor. Brining simply calls for submerging the food into the salt-and-sugar-water solution and letting it soak. In the brining process the meat absorbs a portion of the seasoned salt-and-sugar water, making the meat juicier and more flavorful. A simple moderate brine formula is 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/2 cup of sugar for every gallon of water."
"Sauces are the foundation of all cuisines and the most traditional way to add flavor to food. After all, a chicken is a chicken, but add a sauce and you have a myriad of possibilities. Sauces can be savory or sweet and are a perfect way to dress up plain grilled food.
A few things to remember:
- Don't overseason the sauce. All the food that you put it on will already be seasoned.
- Most barbecue sauces are made to taste good once they are cooked on the food.
- Brush food with barbecue sauce during the final 5 to 15 minutes of cooking time, depending on the length of the total cooking time. For quick-cooking foods, brush on during the final 5 minutes of cooking; for medium foods like beer-can chicken, during the final 10 minutes; and for the larger foods, during the final 15 minutes.
- You are the boss! Adjust the seasonings to your taste. For example, if you like things hotter, add more heat. If you want more garlic, add more garlic, and so on.
- Most sauces can be made in advance, and some sauces are actually better the next day.
- Plan your menus in advance so that you can do one to two things a day. That way, on the day you plan to serve the food, its not a big job."
When To Glaze
"Glazes work well when you want a hint of flavor, but you don't want the strong presence of a sauce. Glazes generally have a high proportion of sugar, or some kind of oil or fat that will give a shiny appearance to the top of the food. It is important to brush on a sweet glaze only during the final minutes of cooking so that it doesn't burn—the last 5 to 10 minutes, or as soon as the food is removed from the grill. A glaze can be as simple as a brush of olive oil, coconut milk or heavy cream, or melted jam. The purpose of the glaze is to give a sheen to the food, seal in all the flavors, and then with the more robust glazes, contribute to the overall flavor of the food with a first taste that reflects the brightness, sweetness or savoriness of the glaze. I love using sweeter, tarter glazes on fattier cuts of meat like duck, pork shoulder, and pork belly because the tartness cuts through the natural richness and the sweetness adds a complementary flavor dimension."