Let’s get grilling with Meal Planning Week 14. Just because summer is technically over doesn’t mean a switch goes from searing hot to fall cool. Indian summers make grilling necessary to keep the kitchen cool.
Yes, I know that summer is “technically” over. But that doesn’t mean the temperature is going to plummet and we will be in sweatshirt and football weather immediately. I don’t know about you, but while the evenings have been cool, the days are still pretty hot. Just not as humid. But definitely hot enough that I don’t want to heat up the kitchen, still.
So this for this Meal Planning Week 14 I am going to talk about grilling. I will share some delicious grilling and smoking recipes along with recipes that would be great served up at your backyard barbecue. Not to worry, I will educate you on the basics of grilling, barbecuing, a barbecue, and smoking.
Who invented outdoor grilling?
Cavepeople. The assumption is they stumbled on some animal that died in a forest fire. After scavenging and tasting the meat they enjoyed the flavor as opposed to the tartare on their current menu. From then on, I’m sure they found or made some sticks to put their current catch on to cook it over the open fire. Voila. Outdoor cooking was born. But not exactly grilling, right? Like, over a grate?
For grilling similar to what we are used to seeing, we go back to the Arawak tribe of Hispaniola. They cooked meat over a frame of sticks and called it barbacoa. When explorers stumbled on this method of cooking, you can bet they took it back to their homeland.
Spanish explorers who came after Christopher Columbus “discovered” America found their style of cooking revolutionary and perfect for travelers on the go. Their travels also influenced other Native American tribes like the Chickasaw. They used this method to cook pork.
Of course, if something is that good, it will spread like wildfire. Pun intended. The popularity of this method of cooking spread throughout the new colonies. Outdoor grilling landed in Virginia for quite a while before spreading south to the Carolinas and Georgia, then across the Appalachians to Kentucky and Tennessee. Then, you guess it! As these east coasters travelled west in search of new lands to live on, they brought outdoor cooking with them.
What is a barbecue?
I can’t talk about grilling for Meal Planning Week 14 without explaining what barbecue, barbecuing, grilling, and smoking are. Well, in the early times, a barbecue was a gathering much like today. Initially it was rather boisterous with lots of drinking. Oh, what, that is more like today. Anyway, eventually they became more refined. The middle and upper class of the time hosted them, and people would bring dishes. Check it! Potluck Civil War style!
Grilling sort of fades from history until after World War II. It resurfaces during the suburban lifestyle boom after the war. Before, materials to build houses were not easy to come by due to the war. But after the war, people were able to move from working to middle class. This meant they were purchasing or building homes on the outskirts of town, aka the suburbs.
So, who invented the modern-day grill?
A Weber welder created the first grill in 1952. Before the invention of the grill, outdoor grilling was more of a thing you did when you want camping. Out of necessity, I’m sure. During the suburb boom, brazier style open grills surfaced. However, the meat was often burned and the ash went everywhere on windy days. But once the Weber grill came onto the scene, outdoor grilling took off!
Fast forward a few years and the propane grill entered the market. In order to get more customers to buy natural gas, an employee of the Arkansas Louisiana Gas Company retrofitted a traditional charcoal grill. He redesigned it to use a bottle of propane. While these new grills cost more, they eventually take off and become popular with suburbanites.
What is the difference between grilling, a barbecue, and barbecuing?
Grilling is the act of cooking food over an open flame. Simple as that. A barbecue is typically a party where people grill, bring other foods, and have a social gathering. Barbecuing is the act of slow cooking using indirect heat for long periods of time. Yes, you can barbecue at a barbecue, but usually people just grill. At least I just grill. The barbecuing is more for just me. Then again, I don’t entertain many people anyway.
Grilling is hot and fast. Most of the recipes for Meal Planning Week 14 are grilled. There are a couple that are smoked, I think. It gives the meat a quick sear to lock in juices. And the cuts of meat are usually smaller like hamburgers, pork chops, or chicken breasts. People also grill veggies and fruits, too. Finally, grilling is either done with a charcoal or a gas grill.
Barbecuing is low and slow. Larger cuts of meat are typically covered in a rub or sauce. Then they are slow cooked using indirect heat or a smoker. These cuts of meat are usually tougher. They require low and slow cooking to break down the tough muscle fibers making them deliciously tender.
Then what is smoking?
There is one smoked recipe for Meal Planning Week 14. Smoking is like barbecuing kicked up a bit. Meaning, it usually lower and slower. The meat cooks with heated smoke using any number of wood chunks or chips. Or sometimes pellets. But I prefer the wood chip type of smoker. I currently have an electric smoker that takes smaller wood chips.
The temperature of the smoke is between 125 and 225 F. And depending on the cut of meat, you could go from 6 to well over 24 hours cooking time with a smoker. This usually deters many from trying this method of cooking. It is a commitment for sure. But the results are ALWAYS worth the effort you put into it.
The type of chips depends on what type of smoke flavor you want for your meat. Hickory is most common. It is great for longer cooking times and almost any meat and is great for cold smoking cheese. But it can be a bit overbearing, so it’s good to mix hickory with a lighter wood like apple or cherry. Yes they sort of impart some of the fruit flavor in the smoke, but not as prominent as you’d think. I use these alone for poultry or pork. And even shrimp or eggs.
Mesquite is a traditional favorite for Texas style smoking. It is a strong flavor that is best with beef and pork roasts. Not that you can’t use it with lighter meats. You just need to keep an eye on the color, so it doesn’t overpower the meat.
I have only seen pecan once. It is mellow and has a nutty flavor so it’s great for lamb and chicken. I have never seen oak. But I heard it is fairly light in flavor but not as light as a fruit wood. It has a long and slow burn making it great for a general purpose wood for smoking. Finally, there’s peach wood. I have never seen this kind either. They boast a light sweet smoke perfect for smoking some fish.
What is direct versus indirect grilling?
Direct grilling means the meat is directly over the heat source. This method is best for smaller cuts of meat like petit steaks, hot dogs, kabobs, and smaller items that cook quickly. Basically, anything that will be cooked in 20 minutes or less. Of course, you could start on direct heat to get a nice sear and then move to indirect heat to finish cooking your meat.
Indirect grilling means the heat is not over the heat source. The meat is on the opposite side of the heat hence the indirect. This method is great for larger cuts of meat and things like bone in chicken breasts and thigh quarters. This method is for meat that takes longer than 20 minutes to cook.
Tips for grilling:
Keep your grill clean. It’s like cooking with a pan you never clean. That’s just gross. So you want to make sure you clean your grates before you cook on them again. The best way to do that is to heat the grill up then use a stainless-steel brush to scrub them clean.
Preheat your grill. I think preheating is a universal must when cooking unless you’re cooking duck or something that is best started in a cold pan. Or cooking bacon in the oven. Everything else you want to have preheated before you try to cook anything.
Make sure the lid stays closed. Not only does it keep the grates hot, but it can also prevent flare ups. Keeping the lid closed also traps the heat making the food cook faster. It also helps retain moisture when cooking. As a bonus, it traps that smokiness that happens when fat and juices vaporize on the grates adding a delicious layer of flavor.
I hope you find some inspiration to keep grilling well into the cooler temperatures. Host your own tailgate party in your backyard for football season. Grill up some Thanksgiving deliciousness this year! Did you know you can even grill pizza? Try it out! It’s totally delicious.