Finally, we have warm weather here in Western North Carolina. After a long cool spring, I’m ready to grill. Although I’ve been known to grill just about any time of the year, summer really gets me going.
There are so many fun methods to use for grilling, and delicious ways to prep your food for the grill. In this article, I’ll share my favorite methods, a few uncommon foods for the grill, and an award-winning spice rub.
Grilling: what type of grill should you use?
There are a few basic types of grills. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
For me, it’s all about the true grill taste. I like using charcoal with organic briquettes. Briquettes are typically made with clay, which when combined with burned wood, keep the fire burning hotter and longer.
There is some controversy as to using fire to char meat and possibly causing cancer. If you take care with your meat and don’t leave it to burn to a cinder, you should be fine.
Gas grills come fit for either propane or natural gas. Whichever way you go, gas supplies an even heat that is easy to control. And when it’s off, it’s off – no waiting for it to cool down.
The main disadvantage to gas is that the food just doesn’t taste grilled. There are a few gas grills that have a plate in the bottom over the flame. The plate is usually stainless steel and is meant to catch grease drippings and cause them to flame quickly and smoke after that. This does help in improving the flavor of the meat.
Wood can be used to cook on a grill, but depending on the wood used, the flavor can be good or bad. Some woods aren’t meant for grilling.
For best results, stick to oak, maple, elm, or birch. Birch burns fairly hot and fast, whereas the others are hardwoods and last longer. Pine isn’t recommended because of the pitch or pine tar, which will impart a bad flavor.
For more information on wood, read our article on the best firewood to use. Many of the same rules apply when using wood for grilling. As with charcoal, you need to get the wood burning and wait for it to glow red and hot.
Smokers are similar to grills in that heat is applied, but it’s a low, slow heat with a lot of smoke.
You can create your own smoker from your grill by doing the following:
- Take a few cups of wood chips and wet them down well. Apple, hickory, maple, and alder work really well.
- Then take the wood chips and place them in a bowl made from aluminum foil. Wrap your foil bowl up so it’s sealed. Poke several holes all over it.
- Place this bundle on the back of the grill grate and let it heat. As it gets hot, it will start to smoke.
- Make a ring with coals in the bottom of your grill and place a pan of water in the center. Put the grate with the smoker bundle over the coals and place your meat in the center.
- Lower the grill top and leave for a half hour or so. Check the meat with a thermometer. It should take about 3 hours to smoke a good sized chicken or pork loin.
If you’d like to avoid aluminum foil, you can also buy stainless steel smoker boxes (like this) that can be used year after year.
Uncommon Foods to Grill
You can grill almost anything – I’ve grilled meat, veggies, fruit, and pies. Yes, pies. (Because hey, why not?) After you cook any meat, spread the coals out a bit more and place your pie on the grate. It should take 45 minutes or so depending on your fire and what is in your pie.
Fruit is also amazing on the grill. I love grilled pineapple and watermelon. The sugars on the outside of a watermelon slice will caramelize, leaving the inside crisp and cool.
Grill pans also come in handy for things like chops, potatoes, shrimp, and more. My stainless steel grill pan has holes in it so the smoke comes through and flavors the food.
Deb’s Grill Rub Recipe
I’ve used this spice rub for ribs (and won a few competitions), chops, veggies, and more. It’s great on chicken and does wonders for turkey.
(Find many of these organic herbs and spices here.)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or basil (each has a different flavor profile)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon celery salt
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (I like to use smoked salt – learn how to make your own smoked salt here)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and rub your meat or veggies with it a few minutes before grilling. You can also use it as a marinade and leave it on overnight.
Store leftover spice rub in a sealed container or in the freezer. It will keep well for months.
If you use this on ribs and you want barbecue sauce, leave that until the end. Brush it on and heat it through. Adding sauce at the very end prevents it from burning to a crisp or catching on fire.
How do you grill? Tell us what you love to cook over an open fire!