Intro-If you’ve followed my writings for some time now, you’ve likely learned that I believe outdoor equipment is the same if not better than the traditional indoor options. You literally can make anything on the outdoor equipment that you make inside your home.
Knowing this, I have received many questions regarding the type of cookware that I use when grilling and/or smoking on said equipment. Today, I’m going to discuss the preferred cookware materials and the potential issues that can arise if you use a material that is not considered ideal for high heat temperatures.
Material #1: Cast Iron
This is my first choice and many other cooks, and the only material I use when I coal cook with cookware. Why? It is durable, it is relatively inexpensive, it is unbelievable at heat retention, and you can cook almost anything in it. Literally, it never wears out!
Downside? It is a material that needs to be maintained meaning oiled consistently. It is heavy!
Carbon steel is a beast at retaining heat and it can be used on any cooking surface. Although lighter in weight than cast iron it is still heavier than stainless steel. Similar in many attributes to cast iron, it also requires frequent seasoning and the base of the pan will become discolored from the high heat exposure. Plus, it is not dishwasher safe so you need to love this material and be willing to put some work into maintaining it. If you’re lucky enough to find a piece you love, you will make magic in it whether near or in the fire.
Material #3: Stainless Steel Combo
I’m sure every one of us owns at least one piece of stainless steel. This is a very attractive piece of cookware from the aesthetic view. However, on its own, stainless steel is not the best heat conductor. This is the main reason why it often is combined with another material to improve its heat retention properties and keep it light in weight. Suitable pairs you’ll find for stainless steel include copper and aluminum. All three of these materials on their own, are not ideal. Cooper and aluminum heat very quickly which means they can burn very quickly as well, while stainless steel on its own can take forever to heat up. But combine copper and aluminum or aluminum and steel and you have an ideal heat conductor and safe high heat material. Rule of thumb: never use aluminum and copper cookware on their own for high heat cooking.
Material #5: Enameled Cast Iron
Know as the “pretty” cookware, enameled cast iron is cast iron at the heart-and-soul but with beautiful ceramic enamel outside surfaces. It has fabulous heat conductivity and retention but it is not non-stick which can cause some issues. I find it works really well when I use more of a two-zone cooking set up rather than direct coal or heat cooking.
Teflon is a non-stick, promoted material, that should be avoided. It has no ability to be used for high heat and in fact, excessive heat can melt this material. Also, Teflon is documented to flakes off after extended use, moving these flakes into your foods. At higher temperatures, the material produces toxic fumes that have been proven to be a health risk.
What Are High Heat Levels?
Now we know what materials are optimal for high heat cooking but what are the actual temperatures that can be handled?
Cast iron and stainless-steel combos can tolerate 1500°F, with stainless steel excelling to 2200°F. Although copper has a melting point of 1984°F and aluminum at 1221°F, cast iron, and steel materials in cookware still perform the best.
Now you have the education behind your choice of cookware. My last piece of advice is to always think about how you plan to use the cookware. If you love to nestle in the coals or be as close to the flame as you can, the items that may not look as pretty are likely the best choice. Take our tips in this blog USEFUL COOKWARE OPTIONS FOR YOUR GRILL and expand you cooking/Grilling skills and techniques!
Many of us love to grow vegetable gardens but soon find we have an overabundance of certain items like tomatoes (though these are technically a fruit). I’m here to give you a super easy method of bringing tenderness, juiciness, and great wood flavor to this summer favorite.
Collect your favorite tomato varieties from the garden and meet me at the grill for this great, easy technique.
Preparing for the Grill
With a water content of about 95% and very low caloric value, tomatoes are rich in lycopene and antioxidant linked to heart health and cancer risk reduction. With lots of colors and sizes to choose from, there’s a variety for everyone.
After picking my ripe cherry and grape tomatoes from the vines, I give them a thorough wash and allow to air dry. Since I’m only using small sized tomatoes, I only need to slice the grape ones in half while the cherry size is a perfect fit to just grill-roasting whole. In the meantime, start the grill by lighting the burners on only half the grill. On that side, I place a smoker box that contains 3 small hardwood chunks. This will provide the wood flavoring to the tomatoes. I add about ¼ cup of oil to the tomatoes and mix to coat. With my pan ready, I place it on the unlit side of the grill and close the lid. My lit burners are set to medium-low heat which will maintain a cooking temperature of about 300-325°F.
Tasting Notes: Although I used avocado oil since you are not grilling over direct heat, you can use other oils such as olive, almond, walnut, grapeseed, coconut, sesame, canola, etc.
Nutritional Boost from Cooking
As this is a grill-roasting technique that doesn’t use direct heat but rather the radiant heat built up in the grill, there is no need to do anything during the actual cooking. You’ll know when these tomatoes are ready by the amount of juice that is produced and the wrinkled skin that develops. They will be super tender yet still hold their shape. In fact, research has shown that cooking tomatoes raise the level of beneficial compounds called phytochemicals, making the tomato healthier when cooked.
Now you have an opportunity to do so many things with these super flavorful, healthy, and tender tomatoes.
Tasting Notes: If using a charcoal grill, still use a two-zone cooking set up meaning charcoal on only one side of the grill. Be sure you only cook with hot coals, no flames. This type of grilling can have more challenges to steady temperature so make sure you check the tomato pan more frequently.
What to Make with These Roasted Tomatoes?
Here’s one use for your great wood roasted tomatoes. I take a great baguette and added some wood smoked beef shank. Next, I top the meat with a crunchy salad mix with a bit of siracha dressing, then add a generous helping of our wood roasted tomatoes. Yum!
Don’t forget, these tomatoes freeze well so bundle some up in a freezer safe storage container and you’ll be ready for pop-in guests. They can easily be defrosted in the microwave and reheated on low on the stovetop. Serve with bread or on their own as part of charcuterie board and you will have a hit.
Smokinlicious® teams top tools needed for gas grilling
TOP TOOLSNEEDED FOR GAS GRILLING
There is no question that LP/Gas grills have changed tremendously over the past 10 years and now include some features standard that for many years, were options. Then there is the development of dual or multi-fuel options on a grill so you can have one unit that performs as a gas grill, charcoal grill, wood grill, and even electric or pellet grill, all in one unit.
Today, I’m focusing on the standard LP/Gas grill, independent of any other fuel source. This guide will focus on the basic tools that will provide for a better grilling experience and make you more efficient at the grill.
I’m starting with a grill brush since most of us have the habit of thinking about cleaning off the grill grates when we start the grill for cooking, not when we finish. This tool is to ensure clean up the residual food bits and grease left from your previous grilled foods.
Now I’m aware of the controversy over the use of metal bristles but most of these brushes are made well. Simple inspection of the brush bristles each time you use it will allow you to identify if the bristles have come loose and have the potential to be transported to your foods. I prefer a brush with metal bristles, with a long handle to keep my arm away from the heat, as often you want to clean the grill when it’s hot. Remember, most of these brushes are under $10 so think about purchasing one a couple times per season to ensure the bristles stay put.
There are times when the grill grates and lid will become super coated in grease and pieces of food. You’ll need to break out the cleaning agents to ensure these surfaces are ready to go for the next grilling event. Two of my favorites are CLR BBQ Grill Cleaner and Mr. Clean MagicEraser. As a non-toxic, non-flammable, biodegradable product, CLR BBQ Grill Cleaner is not something you have to leave on for hours at a time. It quickly breaks through the issues and allows you to wipe clean to an almost new state. Keep in mind, the CLR brand also makes a stainless steel cleaner for the outside as well.
Long-handled tongs. Your standard tong length for the traditional kitchen just won’t work at the grill, as you need to keep some arm distance from the hot grill surfaces. I like the 20-inch length with silicone grips as well as silicone tips, as silicone can tolerate extremely high heat. If you grill multiple food items at the same time, think about purchasing tongs with different colored tips and/or handles as that will ensure use of one color for a specific food so there’s no transfer of flavors.
Like the tongs, a must have is long-handled spatula for those food items that need to be flipped. I prefer one that is made of solid steel and has a bit of a beveling to the edge. Again, the longer the handle the better for keeping away from high heat.
An easy to read, digital thermometer. It is a must when you grill or smoke. Look for one that has a longer probe for when your grilling larger roasts and thicker cuts of meats and poultry. Be sure the readout is easy to see and if you grill a lot at night, get one that has a back-lite to see more clearly. If you cook a lot of different animal proteins at the same time, try to have a thermometer dedicated to each food so you don’t cross-contaminate while bacteria may still be an issue. There are assorted colors available making it easy to dedicate one to red meat, pork, poultry, and fish. Most of the digital thermometers on the market today are under $18 with even more under $10.
If you’ve always been a person that cooks directly on the grill grates and only does the standard fare – hamburgers, sausage, chicken, perhaps ribs – you need to get out of that rut and learn to do more with your grill. Start by investing in one piece of quality cast iron. Able to withstand intense heat, cast iron can take you from the average griller to someone with skill. Now, you can enjoy recipes normally done on the indoor stove outside in the fresh air, with your cast iron skillet. Remember, there’s a whole line of cast iron cookware so as you expand your skills, you can add to your outdoor cookware.
Although I am a fan of the standard steam table disposable foil pan, any size, shape foil pan will do. These are perfect for use as a drip pan to prevent render juices from spiking flames and as water pans for a two-zone cooking set up. I won’t deny, that I also use these to cook in especially fragile items like fruit and specific vegetables. You certainly can invest in a grill pan but clean up becomes a snap with the disposable pan.
Although the smoker box was originally intended for use with wood chips on the grill, I always use small wood chunks in mine. I prefer a box made from high-grade stainless steel and one that has a hinged lid. My smoker box holds three Double Filet Wood Chunks from SmokinLicious® perfectly and provides for extended smoke vapor as compared with wood chips. Used directly on the grill grate or set under the grill grate on the heat shield, it produces smoke for hours. Although you can place wood chunks directly on the heat shields, as I’m known to do myself sometimes, they will become permanently marked from the wood ash and eventually need replacing. The smoker box allows you to avoid this.
There you have it! My TOP TOOLSNEEDED FOR GAS GRILLING for better results and help in extending the life of your investment!
The handheld SMOKE METHOD FOR FRESH CORN is a quick and easy technique for smoky flavor!
SMOKE METHOD FOR FRESH CORN
Corn is one of those vegetables that has an extended season to allow you to do all kinds of recipes and techniques. Given that there are times when you frankly don’t have a lot of time to stand over a grill to do whole ears of corn, I’m giving you an easy technique to add smoke flavor using a handheld food smoker. Then, I’ll give you a recipe for a spicy butter to coat the corn in to bring out the best in this seasonal vegetable. I’ll also provide some flavoring pairing that works great for other butter topping recipes. Go visit your favorite corn seller and pick up some fresh corn.
I’ve purchased 6 ears of corn and have boiled them in water until tender, which is the most traditional way of cooking corn. I allow them to cool enough to handle, then using a sharp knife, I stand the ear of corn on its wide end and cut the kernels from the cob into a disposable foil pan. If you cook the corn and then refrigerate it prior to removing the kernels, know that the kernels will not come off individually but as one long strand. Don’t worry about reducing these strands as when we add the butter topping, it will break down the kernels. Next, I’ll be taking the fresh kernels to the smoke using the Breville-PolyScience The Smoking Gun Pro Smoke Infuser which is a cold smoke application anyone can do!
Cold Smoke Infusion
If you’re familiar with The Smoking Gun™ note that the version I’m using was a collaboration between Breville and PolyScience, the originator of the concept, and designed specifically for commercial use. It is manufactured from heavier materials and can stand independently while you work the smoke vapor production.
I’ve gathered together my pan of previously cooked corn kernels, the handheld food smoke infuser, SmokinLicious® Minuto® wood chips in size #8, a lighter, a plastic food bag, and a cable tie. After sliding my corn pan into the plastic bag, I place a pinch or two of the wood chips in the unit’s bowl, extend the smoking tube into the plastic bag, then pinch off the end of the bag around the tube, and lite the chips.
Tasting Notes: You may select any hardwood microchip for the smoking but do note that this infuser produces a lot of smoke vapor. I tend to recommend using light to medium boldness levels of hardwood: Ash, Maple, Cherry.
After placing the corn pan in the plastic bag and lighting the chips with the handheld food infuser, I synch the bag’s end tightly around the tubing. This allows me to trap all the smoke vapor in the bag and surround the corn. Once filled – the bag will expand – I turn off the smoker, remove the tubing, and attach a cable tie to the bag’s end. I prefer to wait until the smoke vapor has dissipated from the bag. That’s when I cut the tie and remove the corn tray from the bag. Time to take this to the kitchen and make a spicy butter for the fresh, smoked corn.
Spicy Butter and More Recipes
Time to share my recipe for a spicy butter that works perfectly with the sweetness of the corn.
First, melt 1-1/2 sticks of butter over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce, 2 tablespoons Chipotle Chili pepper, 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce. Whisk together, then remove from heat. This will be poured directly over the smoked corn and reheated until warmed through. Serve immediately.
There are so many options for corn that it depends if you want a spicy flavor, sweet, savory, or citrus. In addition to the spicy butter recipe I provided, here are some other flavor combinations that work just as well:
Truffle Butter: garlic, butter, truffle oil, salt & pepper
Sundried Tomato Butter: butter, chopped sundried tomato, basil, parsley and a sprinkle of Parmesan
No matter what combination you prefer, adding another flavor level through smoke vapor will make this corn season one to remember and enjoy! Remember with this kitchen Handheld smoke method for fresh corn can be finished quickly without lighting a grill!
Our Grilled Peaches for the perfect salad addition with sweet onion, Tomatoes, and fresh herbs!
FOR THE PERFECT SALAD ADDITION
If you’ve been a follower of our recipes and techniques for a while, then you’re aware of our preference to grill, smoke, coal cook, and ember fire in-season produce. Peaches are no exception!
I’ve got my two quarts of fresh peaches and a plan to grill these on the charcoal grill using charwood coals. Then I’ll use my luscious smoked peaches in a salad that features two additional seasonal ingredients – tomato and shallots.
Get your chimney starter of charwood or charcoal and meet me at the grill for this quick technique and recipe featuring peaches.
Whenever you use the charcoal grill, it’s always best to get it lit about 30 minutes ahead of cooking. I’m using a kettle-style grill made by Stôk that has a removable center grate for an assortment of inserts. I won’t be using any inserts for this cook as my peaches will stay in a disposable foil pan for easy cooking and removal.
Start by placing charcoal or charwood in a chimney starter. Place a Firestarter in the charcoal area of the grill and place the filled chimney starter over the starter. Lite the Firestarter and allow to remain in place until all the charwood has ignited and started to reduce to hot coals. While that’s burning, let’s prepare the peaches. Be sure you have a couple of wood chunks available to add to the coals when we are ready to grill. I like to use the single filet wood chunk size from SmokinLicious®.
Tasting Notes: there are differences in charcoal so be sure to use a natural charcoal or charwood product rather than briquets as briquets will produce more heat than you need.
Perfect Peach Bites
With our charcoal grill going, it’s time to start on the peaches. There are a few ways to remove the skin from peaches including placing them in hot water for a few minutes then removing and placing in a bowl of ice water. The skins will just peel off. I’m an old school so I use a sharp paring knife and just remove the skin.
Once the skin is removed, it’s time to cut the peach into bite-size pieces. You can easily cut around the pit and cut those slices into pieces. Place all the pieces in a foil pan in an even layer.
Tasting Notes: Try to purchase peaches that have some firmness to them if you don’t plan to grill them right away. The peaches should have no bruising and have a slight give when touched. Too soft and those peaches won’t hold their shape when exposed to the grill’s heat.
With the peaches prepared, time to take them to the grill. Pour the chimney of hot coals into the grill’s charcoal area and add the wood chunks. Add the pan of prepared peaches and placed the lid on the grill. Be sure the outtake vent on the lid is ½ way open. The intake vent at the charcoal area should be ¼ way open. Now allow smoking for 15 minutes prior to checking. Remember, we want to add smoke without reducing the peaches to a puree.
Tasting Notes: Since peaches contain 89% water, they take in the smoke vapor extremely well. Keep that in mind when you select both the charcoal and wood. Remember, oak based charcoal tends to burn hot and has a stronger undertone to fruit.
Final Salad Prep- Grilled Peaches for the perfect salad addition!
While the peaches are absorbing all that great smoke flavor, return to the kitchen and prepare the remaining ingredients for our salad. You’ll need:
1 lb. tomatoes cut into 1/2’” pieces; or if using cherry or grape tomato, halved
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for final drizzle
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 shallot, sliced thin
fresh mint leaves torn
salt and pepper
I start by slicing my tomatoes in half, then add a teaspoon of salt to them while sitting in a colander so I can render some of the water. While the tomatoes sit, I start slicing the shallot into thin strips. At this point, you’ll want to check the peaches. They should be close to or ready to remove from the grill. I like to place them in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to cool them down for the salad. While that’s happening, let’s prepare the vinaigrette.
I prefer to mix all the vinaigrette ingredients in a measuring cup so I can easily pour it to the salad right before serving, to keep the tomato and peach from getting too soggy. Start with the extra virgin olive oil and add the rice vinegar. Next, the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and fresh pepper. Whisk it all together and set aside while you combine the salad ingredients.
Tasting Notes: you can substitute cider vinegar for the rice vinegar and any color of tomato will do though I lean toward the reds and purples to give a color contrast from the orange peach.
Smoked peaches go into the serving bowl first, following by the tomatoes, and shallots. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad within an hour of serving and top with the torn mint leaves. A perfect balance of sweet, tart, smoky, and refreshing. An easy method and recipe you can have in 60 minutes. I love peaches so try our grilled peaches for the perfect salad addition for your next dish to pass! You will tantalize the guest taste buds!