05/24/14

National Clean Your Grill Weekend!


Happy “National Clean Your Grill Weekend!”

Okay, I made that up…but let’s face it, for a lot of folks today (and tomorrow) are when we pull the trusty ol’ Webers or gas grills out of the back of the garage to kick the tires and light the fires.

How to clean a grill for Spring.Even though I tend to keep the bbq running year-round, I do look forward to the more favorably weathered outdoor cooking months, as I tend to have more company around the grill.

Shirt-sleeves, chilled adult beverages, lawn chairs, and lots and lots of beautiful smoke!

However, if your grill needs to come out of hibernation, here are my top 5 tips for spring cleaning and tunin’ her up for summer…

(In step-by-step order)

5. Kick the tires

At least once a year (and this is as good a time as any) I recommend disconnecting, cleaning, and reconnecting all tubes and hoses. Things swell, shrink, rot and rust in cold weather––and propane leaks can take all the fun out of that first bbq of Spring!

A good rule of thumb: if I see something that makes me think, “I wonder if I should replace that?” I should. Is there a loose wheel, or a squeaky hinge that’s going to bug you for the rest of the year? Take it apart and clean, tighten, or replace it now…you’ll be too busy cooking later.

Dragon Claws Recipe

Dragon Claws (click on pic for the recipe)

Oh, make sure to sweep out and hose down your favorite grill spot on the deck or patio. Leaves, branches, pet toys, and other miscellany…in other words: tinder…have a habit of gathering in those corners over the winter.

“A little clean up now will make that first BBQ party of the year much more enjoyable. Making sure everything is in good working order will pay off big, later.” – Chef Chris

4. Clean the Interior

If you haven’t already, shut off, then disconnect the gas supply to your grill.

Remove the cooking grates and, using a soft wire brush, clean any loose debris from the insides of the body and lid. If your gas jets aren’t removable, I recommend covering them with a length of tape before you start cleaning. This helps minimize the chances of gunking up the holes with loose debris.

Remove the cooking grates and, using a soft wire brush, clean any loose debris from the insides of the body and lid. Scrape your "flavor panels" with a putty knife or scraper, and use a wire brush to remove ash. Remove the plates and brush any gunk off of burners with a wire brush.

Scrape your “flavor panels” with a putty knife or scraper, and use a wire brush to remove ash. Remove the plates and brush any gunk off of burners with a wire brush. Brush all debris from inside the grill into the drip pan, and dispose of it.

Oh, and just one guy’s opinion: I never line my drip pans with aluminum foil. I know it makes for easier clean-up, but it can also prevent the grease from flowing properly, which can be a fire hazard (not to mention it can negatively affect the flavor of my food). Scrape out the pan with a putty knife or scraper, and all the debris should be scraped into the grease trap.

3. Prep the Grates

This is an easy way to clean grill grates and get them ready for Spring.Now, I know this has never happened to you, but I’ve heard of some folks who open their grill in the spring and find the remnants of the meal they cooked on it last season.  Lucky for them, cleaning these nasty, neglected grill-grates is actually easier than most people realize, and you can usually forego the brushes, a dirty sink and a bunch of elbow grease, if you start the day before.

Lay a plastic bag on the ground, top with damp newspaper, then lay your grate on top. Give the grates a healthy spray of oven cleaner, and cover with another layer of moist newspaper (dampening the newspaper keeps it from sticking to the grates). Follow this with another plastic bag. Batten down the edges so the whole mess doesn’t end blowing into the next yard.

Grilling the perfect hamburger

Grilling the perfect hamburger…click the pic to learn how!

The next day, hose down the grates thoroughly, and then wash off any remaining oven cleaner residue with hot soapy water. Rinse the grates again, dry, and coat lightly with vegetable oil, and you’re good to go! (Just a note: only use this method after checking with your owner’s manual. Some manufacturers warn against using oven cleaner on any part of their grill.)

Lastly, plan to fire up your grill for 30 minutes or so (on High) to burn off any possible remaining residue, before the first use.

Cleaning grill grates is easier than most people realize, and you can skip the brushes, a dirty sink and a bunch of elbow grease, if you start the day before.

2. Pretty up the Exterior

Let’s face it, we eat first with our eyes, and I’ve eaten more than one perfectly good steak that probably would have tasted a lot better if the grill hadn’t looked like it had been yanked out of the bottom of a drainage ditch just before cooking.

First things first, power hose the exterior to get rid of any dirt, crud, or creepy-crawlies. Next, use a bucket of hot, soapy water, an old towel, and maybe bristle brush, or a putty knife, and clean every nook and cranny.

You don’t want to use abrasive cleaners to clean any painted, porcelain or stainless steel parts. I’ve found that a mild dish-soap (the stuff made for hand-washing) works just fine. Porcelain enamel components must be handled with additional care (read your user’s manual, or contact the manufacturer).

Touch-up enamel, and high-heat spray paint is available from your dealer.

Exterior grill surfaces should be cleaned while warm to the touch, with warm soapy water.

How to grill the perfect hot dog

How to grill the perfect hot dog – Click pic for our tips!

1. The Test Run

My number one piece of advice, when gearing up for grill season, is to do a full blown test run…on a night when failure is an option.

The last thing you want, when the boss and his wife are ready for their rib-eyes, or you’ve got a house-full of hungry dinner guests, is to discover that the reverse glamfram widget in the secondary intake fluxuator has burned out and your grill won’t throw enough fire to thaw an ice-cube.

Plan a simple grilled dinner for the family, using all the burners, and any special accessories on your grill (have the local pizza-joint’s number on speed-dial, just in case), and make sure that everything works, from fuel, to ignition, to temperature control.

Grill a dinner for the family, using all the burners, and any special accessories on your grill to make sure that everything works, from fuel, to ignition, to temperature control.

Makes notes of any issue that arise, or improvements you’d like to see, and make those upgrades before the boss is standing there with an empty plate!

Also, when you clean up your grill, be sure to clean up your cooking area as well. Patios and decks can gather a lot of debris (read: tinder) in the off season, so make sure you give them a good sweep before lighting the fires.

Speaking of which, have a great Memorial Day weekend, and sometime during all the fun, laughs, and great good, take a moment to reflect, remember and send up a thank you to the brave men and women of our armed services who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us free.

Happy Grilling!

-Chef Perry Simply
SimplySmartDinnerPlans.com

05/5/14

Choosing a New Grill: How Much Grill Do You Need?

Summer’s coming….and that means grill season! Father’s Day cookouts, graduation parties, 4th of July shindigs…the good weather/good food list goes on and on!

If you’re looking for your first grill, a new grill for a new space, or it’s just time to replace ol’ faithful… make sure you’re investing in a grill that will make your time outdoors a bit more memorable.

In a good way.

Finding the right grill for your particular lifestyle can be a challenge and there are many options to choose from. With so many choices out there it can be tough to narrow down your search and, before you know it, you’re staring blankly at your 200th website, in a full-blown Google-coma.

Never fear…if you keep a few simple things in mind, both the process of shopping for and buying your next grill should be much easier.

If I could only have one grill, year-around, I would go with propane. You can use wood pellets, chips, or chunks to get that smoke flavor, and, for the typical backyard griller, the conveniences all fall on the side of gas.

Most grills fall into one of three price ranges: 

Entry-level Grills:

These grills are your basic work-horse. One or two burners, a grate, and a lid. Cost is reasonable, starting at around a hundred, and moving up into the three-hundred-dollar range. In this class you’re not likely to find a lot of bells and whistles like rotisseries, or off-set burners. If you’re an occasional griller, single or with a small family, this is probably a good place to start.

Inexpensive doesn’t mean you want to buy junk. I’m a big believer in the “wiggle test”. Place you hand at one corner of the grill and give it a gentle shake. If there’s a lot of shimmyin’ and shakin’ going on… it’s probably not very well built, and you might want to keep looking.

Mid-level Grills:

These are a bit more expensive, but offer more features than the entry-level gas grill. Prices from three hundred fifty to around a thousand dollars. In this range you’re starting to look at long-term grills, built to withstand heavier use, and including multi-control burners and some of those “convenience features” we just talked about.

This type of grill will typically handle anything that the griller of a medium to large family is going to throw at it.

Deluxe Grills:

The cream of the crop! Starting at around fifteen-hundred, and going up, and up, and up.

These high-end grills often feature big BTU ratings (BTU stands for British thermal unit, which indicates the amount of gas that a grill is able to burn, which corresponds to how much heat it can put out), enough cooking space to feed the whole team, and enough high-tech hardware to launch the space-shuttle. If you like to throw parties, and do some high-volume grilling…and you’ve got the swag, well…life is short!

One guy’s opinion…I’ve owned a LOT of grills over the years, and when it comes to gas grills it’s always best in the long run to choose an established manufacturer in order to get a quality product. This is one of those cases where you really do get what you pay for.

Enjoy!

Chef Perry
SimplySmartDinnerPlans

02/21/14

The Secret to Winter Grilling – The Rotisserie

Rotisserie Grilling Tips
“Spit-roasting is one of the world’s most ancient and universal forms of grilling, and there’s nothing like it for producing exceptionally moist meat with a crackling crisp crust.” – Steven Raichlen

Okay, it’s cold out there, and grilling might be the last thing on your mind, but never fear…you CAN have your delicious, flame-kissed goodies, and still keep feeling in all of your fingers and toes…

The secret is that unsung hero of the backyard bbq…the rotisserie!

You can literally run out to the grill, fire it up, run back in and prep your food, then run back out, load it up, close the lid and go back inside until your timer goes off! The rotisserie just chugs away out there, evenly cooking and self-basting your dinner while you chug your cocoa (or hot toddy) and warm your toes in front of the fire!

I like chicken just about any way it can be prepared, but for the juiciest, most flavorful bird, I’ll hang my hat on rotisserie grilling, even more so now with the grill accessories that are available. This even-heating, self-basting method ensures a perfectly cooked bird, with crispy skin all around. Using a grill (with a rotisserie burner) is especially convenient when cooking for parties or holiday get-togethers, as it frees up the oven and stove-top, and you don’t even have to remember to flip or baste your entrée!

Start with a good dry rub, end with proper treatment of the finished fowl, and you’ll have a winner chicken dinner that folks are going to remember!

Plus, rotisserie cooking is thought to be the oldest cooking technique known to man… so that’s pretty cool, too.

Here are 5 things to remember when grilling a chicken rotisserie style:

Dry rub 8-24 hours in advance

Rotisserie Grilled ChickenA dry rub is a combination of salt, spices, herbs, and sometimes sugars, that’s used to flavor meat in advance of cooking. Unlike a marinade or brine, a dry rub forms a crust on the outside of the meat when cooked.

The salt draws out the juices in the meat, making it more moist and tender, while the sugars caramelize and form a seal that traps in flavor and juices.

You can add just about anything you want to a rub (and you should experiment with some of your own favorite flavors) but here’s my go-to dry rub for chicken: 2 Tbsp. sea salt + 1 Tbsp. each: dark brown sugar, coarse black pepper, granulated garlic, smoked paprika, onion powder, and Italian seasonings. Combine all in an airtight container and mix until completely blended.

Once you’ve sprinkled, then rubbed the spices into (and under) the skin, and trussed it, wrap the whole bird in plastic wrap and refrigerate until 1-2 hours before you plan to start cooking it. Be sure to sprinkle some of your seasonings into the body cavity of the chicken or turkey, as well.

Truss the bird

3Trussing (tying up) a whole bird before cooking is always a good idea as it helps keep it moist and promotes even cooking (and a prettier presentation), but for rotisserie grilling it’s absolutely essential. A non-trussed bird will loosen up on the bar, legs and wings floppin’ ever which-a-way, and start burning at the extremities long before the rest of the chicken is cooked through to the bone.

Trussing isn’t particularly difficult, but it does take some practice to perfect. Google “How to truss a chicken” for any number of excellent videos and step-by-step guides to trussing.

Watch the heat

4I like to preheat my grill (burners on full, lid down) before putting the pre-loaded spit (the rod that holds the meat) in place. Watch the bird closely, checking every few minutes at first, and adjust your flame as needed to avoid hot spots or burning the skin.
Cook to the right temp

Figure about 25 minutes per pound to cook a chicken on a rotisserie, but what you’re really looking for in an internal temp in the thickest part of the thigh of 175 °F. A lot of variables can affect the number of minutes it takes a bird to cook to the bone, including starting temp of the meat, the heat of your grill, and the weather while cooking, but 175 °F is done regardless of outside influences.

Give it a rest

Once your chicken is removed from the heat, it’s vital that it be allowed to “rest” for 15-20 minutes, tented loosely in foil.

Resting allows the meat to relax and reabsorb its own juices back into the muscle fibers as they cool. The reason for tenting in foil is to keep the surface temperature from dropping much faster than the internal temp, which can lead to drying.

Once the chicken has rested go ahead and snip away the trussing (I use a pair of kitchen shears for this), cut the bird up as you see fit, and serve.

Oh, and be sure to save those lovely roasted bones and extra bits for making stock or flavoring soups or gravies. It’s gold!

Enjoy!

Chef Perry

09/18/13

Happy National Cheeseburger Day

This is my all-time favorite, over-the-top, wear-an-old-shirt cheeseburger!

We make these monsters every year (and you probably shouldn’t have them much more often that that) for our family camp-out, and they’re always a hit!

(Note: These are “thin burgers”, designed to maximize the char of the grill, while keeping the burger, and all the fixin’s, reasonably eatable within the limits of the normal mouth size.)

Fully Awesome Burger

THE Fully Awe-some Burger (serves 6)

The Patty
2lbs ground beef (15/85 fat)
1 lg sweet onion, diced fine
2 Tbs Montreal steak seasoning
2 Tbs fresh minced garlic
1 Tbs coarse sea salt
1 Tbs coarse black pepper

The Rest
6 Whole wheat burger buns (or your favorite)
1 cup simple guacamole (see below)
6 Tbs mayo
12 oz aged smoked white-cheddar cheese, grated or sliced
9 strips sliced bacon (I like maple) cooked and halved. (Kept warm)
Red onion, sliced
6 slices leaf lettuce

Simple Guacamole
3 medium Haas avocados, ripe. Peeled and diced.
1 Tbs lime juice
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

Directions
Mix all “patty” ingredients together, form into six equal balls and fridge 4 hours – or overnight, covered. Press into rounds slightly larger that the buns and chill for another 1-2 hours between maxed paper. You want to keep that fat as cold as possible. Here’s why.

Make simple guacamole (simply mix all ingredients) and keep chilled.

Start coals or gas grill and heat to high, lightly grill buns (cut side only) and remove, then throw a small handful of oak chips on the fire, if you have them.

Cook bacon in pan, drain on paper towels and wrap in foil. These can be set on the back of the grill to re-heat just before using.

When grill is hot, place patties evenly on surface and close the lid. Check occasionally for flare-up (these are high fat burgers) and perhaps have a spray bottle of water handy to keep the flames down. Cook 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep buns (see below.)

Flip burgers and place 2oz of grated or sliced cheese on top of each. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Check to see if cheese has melted, if so, place three half-strips of bacon on each patty and remove from grill.

Assembly
Spread 1 Tbs of mayo on each bottom bun, and 2 Tbs of guacamole on each top bun.

Place bacon cheese-burger patty between them, add onion and lettuce, and serve immediately. (Best if patties are taken directly from grill and placed on waiting buns.)

Notes
A simple coleslaw and some cubed, chilled watermelon go very nicely with this dish.

For big eaters, use the same about of meat to make 4 patties. Change ingredients to:

4 oversized burger buns (your favorite)
2/3 cup simple guacamole (see below)
4 Tbs mayo
8 ounces smoked white cheddar cheese, grated
6 strips thick sliced bacon (I like maple) cooked and halved. (Kept warm)
2 medium Haas avocados, ripe. Peeled and diced.
2 tsp lime juice
Salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste.

Rhino2

FYI…Vic dubbed these, “Fully Awe-some Burgers”, as we were watching Bolt at the time, lol.

-Chef Perry

08/30/13

Grilling a Gourmet Hot Dog

System Dog

I love hot dogs on the grill primarily because they taste great, but also because they are one of those foods that are almost idiot-proof. Heat…place in bun…top with something. Dinner is served.

Still, even if your Labor Day grilling involves dozens of hungry guests, there’s always something you can do to take an uber-basic food to the next level.

With the venerable hot dog…there are many, many things you can do.

Click here to read the rest of this post and see my favorite gourmet hot dog recipes on my Sears Grilling is Happiness page!

07/1/13

4th of July BBQ Tips

We have a great guest post today from our friend’s at JES Restaurant Equipment! Check out the infographic, below, on some very common mistakes that grillers make, and the corresponding tips to help make your 4th of July cooking the best it can be!

grilling

Now that the weather’s warmed up, millions of people are firing up the grill and cooking up delicious meals. But how many of you are making these common grilling mistakes?

  • Pressing your burgers flat with the spatula (smooshes the juices right out)
  • Cooking too fast (or too slow – don’t forget the sear!)
  • Burning your sauce (put sugary sauces on when you’re almost done cooking)
  • Cutting into meats without letting them rest (resting the meat for about 5 minutes seals in the juices – thicker cuts need even longer)

We focused on tips for a gas grill (like the popular Holland Grills), but these tips will work equally well on charcoal grills.

Easy tips for grilling like a pro! (Infographic)! (Infographic)

 Add This Graphic To Your Website for Free

Source by JES Restaurant Equipment

07/24/12

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt and Spiced Couscous

hautemealz.com friend and food blogger, Michelle, over at FoodPassionista  saw the photo of this dish on our Facebook page, and kindly asked us for the recipe.

As it was easily my favorite dish from last week (cooked in a campground, no less), I thought, “Why not?”

So, Michelle…and all you other awesome people…enjoy!

– Perry

PS – A few slices of salted and peppered zuke and yellow squash, flash-grilled alongside the pork chops, would be a tasty addition to this meal!

PPS – Just a reminder, you could be getting delicious, nutritious recipes, just like this one, for every night of the week…at less than the cost of a happy meal each month! Sign up here! – P

Garam-Marsala-Pork-Chop-Recipe

Dinner 6

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt; Spiced Couscous

Garam Masala Pork Chops with Mint Yogurt (6a)

It’s worth seeking out garam masala if you can. This blend of spices is available at many large grocery stores, as well as Asian specialty stores. If you can’t find it, you can use curry powder instead.

Yield: 4 servings                 
Active Time: 10 min.  
Total Time: 8 hr. 10 min. (incl. marinating)


  • 4 6-oz. lean pork loin chops
  • 4 tbsp. garam masala spices*
  • 1/2 cup Greek style yogurt
  • 10 fresh mint leaves

Trim pork chops of excess fat. Rub garam masala into chops (both sides).

Place on a plate, cover and refrigerate for 6-8 hours, to allow flavors to penetrate.

Chop the mint and stir into the yogurt and refrigerate for the same period as the pork chops.

Preheat broiler. Spray broiler rack with nonstick cooking spray. Broil chops for about 5 minutes each side. Alternately, grill chops over direct heat until well marked on both sides, move to indirect heat, cover loosely in foil, and cook until internal temp reaches 145F. Remove from heat and allow to rest 3 minutes.

Serve with mint yogurt.

 Note: *Garam Masala is available in specialty stores and many larger grocery stores. You can use curry powder instead if you wish, or you could even make your own garam masala with this recipe.

 Spiced Couscous (6b)

Yield: 4 servings                  
Active Time: 10 min.  
Total Time: 15 min.


  • 1 1/3 cup chicken broth
  • 4 tsp. raisins
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 pinches cayenne pepper (opt)
  • 2 pinches salt
  • 2/3 cup couscous
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp. sesame seeds

Nutritional facts for this meal

In a medium saucepan bring the broth, raisins, olive oil, cumin, cayenne and salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous, bring back to a boil, cover and remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Juice the lemon and stir into the couscous with the sesame seeds.

Serve.