Two weeks ago it was freezing. My grandaddy would have called it Blackberry Winter. And now (lo!) the winter has passed and Spring/Summer is upon us. Which naturally means it is time for grilling.
There are good things and bad things about grilling. First the bad: If you nuke your grilled items until they have lots of char on them and then eat the blackened part, you increase your risk of disease. So, grill until your food is golden brown, and don’t burn anything. Sometimes this means cooking at a lower temperature, and sometimes it means pre-cooking a bit. Run your prepared chicken breasts in the oven for a few minutes while the grill is warming up so you won’t have to nuke the outside to get the inside done. It also means not over-cooking in general, which never improves the flavor and texture of cooked meats.
Now for the good stuff: I adore grilling because it is so easy. As a matter of fact, at my house it is magically easy: I suggest grilling and my dear spouse, who is a master at grilling, goes out and lights up the grill. About 30 minutes later, a plate of grilled goodness appears in my kitchen. Just like magic. 🙂 Since grilling is done outside, you don’t heat your kitchen up. And, for me, grilling gives THE taste of summer.
I love to have lots of rubs and spices at the ready so that grilling most anything becomes more simple still. Look for recipes without added sugar to add flavor without empty calories, and try to use organic spices and herbs whenever possible. For any rub recipe, you can make larger quantities and store for future grilling forays. An easy way is to substitute “tablespoon” for “teaspoon.” For instance, a rub recipe might call for a teaspoon each of several spices. Substitute a tablespoon of each of the spice, use one third for your next meal, and save the other two thirds for future grilling.
There are two methods of using dry rubs and spices on meats, wet and dry.
Dry rubs: Coat meat that contains fat, such as chicken with the skin on or marbled steaks,, with the dry mixes. Let it set a few minutes before grilling.
Wet rubs: If you want a more juicy grill for dryer meats or vegetables, rub them with a healthy oil first, such as coconut oil, avocado oil, or lard or bacon fat from pastured and grass-fed animals.
These fats have high smoke points and are perfect for the grill. Not so healthy are fats that have lower smoke points, such as olive oil and butter, or any “vegetable” or seed oil. You can also mix the oil or fat with the rub and slather on your foods.
One of my favorite go-to spices all year long is Herbes de Provence. In the summer I slather it on chicken to grill or bake. My favorite birds are found at the farmer’s market and are heirloom and pasture raised. I also love Grilled Eggplant, an easy recipe where you simply grill fresh-cut eggplant dry, then brush with olive oil and sprinkle Herbes de Provence and sea salt liberally.
For seafood, nothing beats a spicy rub. For my Caribbean Salad, you can sauté the shrimp in a skillet, or you can skewer and grill it after coating it with the rub. You can also make a batch of shrimp kabobs using the same rub recipe, and serve with other fresh, grilled vegetables.
If you google spice rubs you’ll find plenty scattered all over the web. Problem is, most of them contain sugar. Which might taste marvelous, but it presents a few problems. First, it causes your meat to cook to a crisp on the outside waaay before the inside is cooked. (See afore-mentioned nuked grill-char comments.) The second is that with all the sugar in all the products in the world, why would you want to add to the fray by putting sugar in your meat rub, when you can have amazing flavor without it? And the third is that IMHO, sugar is a rather boring way to add flavor to your grill. Give me spices any day. Krista, over at joyfulhealthyeats.com has an excellent grilled chicken recipe with a spice rub. And, finally, familycircle.com has a trio of rubs that can be used on steak, pork, chicken or fish.
Camille Watson is a health educator, speaker and published author of the book Eight Steps to a Real-Foods Kitchen. Her passion is to give individuals and groups the knowledge and tools they need to take back their health. If you are interested in learning more about achieving health through delicious, whole foods and lifestyle transformations, email firstname.lastname@example.org to attend one of her cooking classes or to schedule your free Health Strategy session.