What is it about barbecuing that brings out the primal instinct in most men? Is it the element of pleasure in getting in touch with nature? Or does it fire up their latent intuition of a food-gatherer? After all, grilling food over an open fire was the original way of cooking since their caveman days!
Irrespective of the gender of the person commanding the barbeque, grilling imparts food with an entirely different flavor – a smokiness that cannot be replicated anyway else. Add to that, the high heat created from the grill gives the food a beautiful crust and a unique texture.
Grilling has its benefits too. When this technique is applied to meat, it melts the excess fat that either pools around it or is absorbed into the food. “Grilling is an easy way to add flavor without adding unnecessary calories to your diet from oils, butter and sauces. Because it requires a shorter cooking time, grilling locks in the nutrients of the food resulting in minimal loss of moisture, vitamins and minerals,” points out nutritionist Khusbhoo Thadani, who runs K Weigh, a weight management company. “Cooking foods in water or oil causes these nutrients to seep out. Since grilling involves applying dry heat directly on the surface of the food, this too ensures minimal nutrient loss.”
NOT FOR MEATS ALONE
Most people presume only meat can be grilled, which is not true. In fact, anything is fair game when it comes to grilling, be it fish, meat or vegetables. “Even oysters and clams can be grilled to get a nice smokiness when cooked in their shells, which prevents them from being overcooked. You can also grill chillies, tomatoes or onions; pureeing it up with fresh lime, olive oil and fresh coriander to make a great salsa!,” Andrew Zarzosa, Executive Chef at The Address in Dubai Mall, exclaims.
He personally prefers grilling flank steaks or skirt steaks. These are usually inexpensive compared to the more expensive loin cuts, but are equally delicious and have a great texture. Khusbhoo adds that even fruits and vegetables can be grilled to enhance their flavors. “In vegetables, I think you can easily grill corn on the cob, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, broccoli, squash or sweet potato with a marinade of salt, pepper and olive oil. I also like grilled fruits like peaches, pineapple, bananas and apples, because they taste much better with a slightly smoky texture,” she adds.
DOING IT RIGHT
When it comes to grilling meat, people often overlook a very crucial step – tempering the meat. This means the refrigerated meat should reach room temperature by letting it rest for around an hour, which ensures it is cooked evenly. Resting the meat after cooking is equally important. “You want to let it rest for about 15 to 30 minutes as well, depending on the size, so that the meat absorbs the juices. You will get a juicier steak every time!” adds Chef Andrew.
It is equally important to tenderize the meat by rubbing it with a marinade of spices,lemon juice or vinegar. Ideally, one should let the meat soak the marinade overnight. However, if that is not possible, then it should rest in the marinade or at least for an hour before cooking. Similarly, to avoid vegetables from drying out while grilling, spray them lightly with some cooking oil.
The key to barbeque is simplicity. Stick to a recipe that does not require too much preparation or seasoning. The best grilled food are those that are simplest to cook and can be eaten without too much fan fare. Because that is how a barbeque is supposed to be – a fun meal with lot of joie de vivre all around.
– Read this complete article, and other interesting stories, in the June issue of CaLDRON Magazine.
Main image courtesy: Two One Two Bar & Grill, Mumbai