Summer Grilling Hacks

Grilling isn't just for burgers and steaks. With a few easy modifications, your grill can bake like an oven. It can keep food hot like a warmer and roast like a fire pit. The possibilities are endless!

An Outdoor Oven

You can bake anything you'd normally bake in a conventional oven on a gas or charcoal grill. Smoked pound cake, pizza, scones and chocolate chip cookies are just a few examples of what you can create when you modify your grill setup to bake.

Set up your grill to cook with two heat zones, direct and indirect. Leave the center of the charcoal tray free of briquettes when you're using a charcoal grill. Pile the briquettes along the sides instead. Turn the two outside burners to medium on a gas grill, or set one burner on a two-burner grill to medium-high.

When the temperature reaches 300°-350° F, set a pie tin upside down on the center of the grill or on the side opposite the heat. Place the dish or baking pan of food you want to bake on top of the tin. Use two or more tins as needed for large dishes and pans, and bake the dish for as long as the recipe requires. If you're using a charcoal grill, add 8-9 briquettes to each side of the tray after an hour of cooking.

Coal-Roasting

Fire pits preceded backyard grills, and you can make use of this early technology with any charcoal grill. This method proves helpful when you have a full grill and need to prepare long-cooking items or items that can withstand high heat, such as potatoes, carrots, eggplant, onions and beets.

Prep the food as you normally would, rinsing and peeling as necessary. Wrap the food in heavy-duty aluminum foil and lift the grill grate off the barbecue. Set the wrapped food on the coals and replace the grate. Check for tenderness every 30 minutes – you can use a thin grill fork or a long knife to do this without taking the grate off.

A Warming Rack

Have a medium-rare steak coming off the grill, but the medium steaks still have a few minutes to go? Set up a warming rack.

Set three or four empty cans, labels removed, on the rear of the grill. Place a wire rack on the cans. Set food on the rack as it finishes to stay warm. You can also use the warming rack to heat hamburger and hot dog buns. Limit the food's time on the rack to about 15 minutes to prevent overcooking from residual heat.

Herb Smoking

Toss a bunch or two of fresh herbs on the coals when the food has about five minutes of cooking time left. Like wood chips, the herbs will smoke and envelop the food on the grill, imparting a kiss of aroma and flavor. Hearty herbs like sage and rosemary work best for this technique.

A Brick Press

Try a brick press for odd-shaped, sturdy foods like butterflied whole chicken and sirloins. A brick press is as close to cavemen as it gets – a regular red clay brick wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil is all you need.

Set the wrapped brick on top of the food. Check the meat's internal temperature earlier than you normally would because the brick makes the food thinner, causing it to cook faster.

Nonstick Fish

Nothing ruins grilled fish faster than sticking and tearing. Beautiful stuffed flounder and herb-crusted salmon fillets will lose their visual appeal in an instant if you set them on grill debris or a cold or unseasoned grate.

First, clean the grill with a quality grill brush and oil it with vegetable oil. Next, bring the grill up to cooking temperature, around 400° F. Lay ¼-½" onion or lemon slices on the grill and place the food on top of them. Grill the fish as you normally would.

Fruit Juice Upgrade

Fruit juices are natural glazes. You can add them to meat and fish to add flavor, moisture and color.

Fill a food-safe squirt bottle with your juice of choice. Spray the meat or fish on all sides during the last 15 minutes of cooking. To baste with juice, fill the spray bottle with half juice and half water and moisten the food as necessary throughout cooking.

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