Although we cook over the fire a lot more than most folks, I do not stoke up a fire every day. I fire up the gas grill which is much more convenient.
The key to cooking with any heat source, be it an open fire, kitchen range, or gas grill - is heat control. It will be easier to control the heat if you select a gas grill with at least three (3) burners. What most of us mean when we talk of grilling is cooking directly over the flame. Foods typically cooked with direct heat are steaks, chops, burgers, chicken, etc.
Indirect grilling allows you to cook larger cuts of meat and foods that require baking. The grill lid is closed to hold the heat, turning your grill into an outdoor oven. Recipes that require slow and low cooking, such as briskets and ribs, are cooked using a low or moderate heat for a longer period of time. Using your grill in this manner makes it easy to flavor your foods with the taste of wood smoke using chips.
When cooking with indirect heat, a three burner grill allows you to use the two outside burners, placing the food over the middle burner which is left completely off. You can accomplish the same results with a two burner grill, you just may need to turn the food often for even cooking.
To smoke meats on your gas grill is easy if it is equipped with a built in smoker box. Simply add the chips and rn the smoker box burner on high until smoke appears, then reduce the heat to the desired temperature. But if you have no such smoker box, you'll need to improvise by making a smoker pocket. Wrap 1 to 2 cups of soaked wood chips in a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil, and poke a few holes in the top to allow the smoke to escape. Put the smoker pocket under the grated, but directly over one of the burners, and put the grill on high until you see smoke. Then back the heat down to achieve the desired temperature for what you are cooking.
The goal when using indirect heat is never to have any part of the meat or dish directly over flames. To cook in this manner you need a grill with a cover. However, you can simulate the effect on an open charcoal grill using an inverted cast iron Dutch oven in a pinch!
Adding a water pan inside the grill is good for some dishes, as it will help to moderate the heat and keep the cooking chamber moist. This pan can be placed directly over the flames. You'll also want to use a drip pan if placing your meats directly on the grill grate. Personally, I always use an oven-safe baking pan, just as I would in my kitchen oven, with a rack for roasts, chickens, hams, turkey, etc.
The absolute best cooking I enjoy on the gas grill is using the rotisserie. It allows me to cook large cuts of meat with very little fuss, and practically no babysitting! In upcoming episodes of Campfire Cafe, we'll be cooking a number of recipes using the rotisserie, as well as a neat basket attachment for smaller foods such as vegetables. The most effective use of the rotisserie is achieved using an infrared burner on the back grill wall, combined with the outside burners on an as-needed basis.
Gas grills are most always used for cooking meats. But what about our side dishes, casseroles, or desserts? Well, you can cook all these recipes on the grill as well. Again, the key is learning to control the heat, proper placement, and using the correct bakeware.
When baking cakes on the grill, I use a silicone bundt pan and I usually set the pan on a piece of aluminum foil. If you pre-heat the grill to 350°, and watch the temperature to maintain 350°, your cakes will bake just as they do in your kitchen oven. Same for casseroles. Plan your menu to include a variety of dishes that require the same cooking temperature. For example, I might cook a roast beef, potato casserole and a butterscotch rum cake - all of which can be cooked together - then follow up with some grilled veggies cooked at the end when everything else is off the grill. The bigger your grill, the more things you can cook at once! I often use the side burners and the back infrared burner when cooking several items at once.
Baking bread on the grill can be a challenge until you get the hang of controling the heat. It is my experience that breads bake faster on the grill than in an oven, so an accurate thermometer is required. If you grill does not have a good one, pick up an oven-safe thermometer from just about any kitchen supply store, and use this inside the grill. The natural air flow inside the grill produces more convection than in your kitchen oven, so you'll need to keep a close eye on breads.
Pizzas are easy to bake on the gas grill. You just want to make sure they don't burn on the bottom, yet turn a nice golden brown. A pizza stone works great, but you need to make certain it is rated to withstand the high heat and flame of a grill - not all will.
The most versatile cookware for your grill is cast iron. As we've proven on the show, good quality cast iron can withstand the intense heat of open flame cooking. The fact that it retains heat will allow you to cook at a lower temperature and maintain the heat needed to bake, simmer or stew. The fact that i can withstand high heat means you can stir-fry or steam with ease.
I use my skillets and griddles to cook on the grill as I would on the stove top. Whether I am stir-frying veggetables or pan grilling fish filets, the iron skillet makes these recipes come out much better than trying to cook directly on the grill grate. Fish is extremely delicate, and usually always tears up when being removed from the grill. A well-seasoned cast iron griddle, particularly a ribbed one, allows cooking fish filets to perfection.
The gas grill makes preheating your cast iron quick and easy, so be careful not to overheat before adding your food, and be sure heavy duty oven mitts are handy when the cast iron becomes hot. Your Dutch ovens can be used in the grill just as we have demonstrated their use over the open fire. If you have camp Dutch ovens (with feet), simply invert a lid from a second oven and set the camp Dutch oven on top of it.
When baking cakes, I will often use a Dutch oven inside the grill, with the cake baking in a silicone pan on a baker's rack inside. This method provides the ultimate heat control and will help novices bake a cake perfectly! Again, the key is to control the temperature inside the grill.
Cooking a pork or beef roast on the grill could not be easier. Whether, like us, you like your beef roast rare and juicy - or a bit more done - it is easy to get the desired results without a lot of fuss.
1. Put a 3-4 lb. roast in an oven-safe pan or cast iron skillet (line with foil for easy clean-up). Use a baker's rack or roast rack to raise the meat, and add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water in the bottom of the pan or skillet.
2. Preheat the grill to 400°. Once heated, turn off the middle burner(s).
3. Place the pan or skillet in the middle of the grill, close the grill lid and cook for 20 mins. at 400°.
4. Lower the heat to 350° and continue to cook for a total of 1 hour if you like it rare.
5. For roasts other than beef, or if you like your roast more done, use the same method - but check for desired doneness with a meat thermometer.
Do not cover the roast. Doing so will create steam and it won't brown.
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Babyback Pork Ribs
2 slabs babyback ribs
1 cup Newman's Own salad dressing
Fresh ground black peppercorns
Salt to taste
Marinate the ribs overnight in the Newman's Own dressing, salt and pepper. Place ribs in oven-safe baking pan lined with foil for easier cleanup. Add 1/2 cup water to bottom of pan. Cover and place on grill grate on top of a piece of foil. Cook on high heat for 15-20 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and continue to cook for a total of 45 minutes. Remove from pan and place on the grill over the flame. Cook for about 5 minutes per side until crispy!
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Ms. Dash seasoning
Fresh mushrooms, squash, zucchini, sweet onion and red pepper.
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Marinade cut vegetables for 3 to 4 hours and then cook in iron skillet over high heat for 15 minutes. Reduce heat by raising to upper grill rack, or turn off the burner under the skillet. Server over white rice.