Cooking is one thing. Cooking outside is another.
Not that it's difficult to cook outside; it's just that the outdoors provides a unique environment with unique challenges and options for cooks at all levels. If you do not take these challenges and opportunities into account, then you're missing out on the chance to make your food that much better.
Here are our best cooking tips for creating an above-average outdoor dining experience for your hungry friends and family.
One of the main things to consider when you're cooking outside is cleanliness. Take time to thoroughly wipe down your countertops with warm, soapy water before putting food on them. You never know what squirrel, bird, or bug decided to scamper across them since you cleaned them last.
Start with the oven and finish on the grill
Some meats turn out best if they're cooked in the oven and then tossed on the grill at the end for flavor. Ribs are a great example of this. By cooking them in the oven, you can more carefully maintain their moisture and tenderness, Then, right before you're ready to serve them, move them to the grill to give them a little char.
Clean your grill
Grills are not like ovens; they need to be cleaned much more often. After all, you're putting food directly on your grill, whereas with an oven, there's a pan protecting your oven rack from food cooking on it.
If you don't clean your grill adequately (or at all), you'll start to notice in the taste of your food. Not only that, but the food buildup on your grill acts as a heat barrier, keeping the grates from getting as hot as they should. The result? Your food will not cook properly.
One trick for cleaning a grill grate that's hardly dirty is to stick a meat fork in half of an onion, and use the inner side of the onion to scrub your grill. Not only will this clean your grill grates, but it will also give them a little flavor that pairs well with just about anything you're planning to throw on there. When more thorough cleaning is necessary, use a brush designed for grill cleaning.
Oil your grill
After you clean your grill and before you put any food on it, put oil on a clean towel and use the towel to spread oil on the grill. This is a surefire way to keep food from sticking.
Citronella candles are one of the most common ways to keep mosquitoes and bugs out of your backyard living space, but they're not exactly the most appetizing fragrance for your outdoor kitchen. There are better, less odorous ways to keep the bugs off of your food.
Fans, for example, keep mosquitoes away because mosquitoes are unable to fly in the air current that fans produce. If your outdoor kitchen has bugs and no overhead fan, then you know what you need to do. In the meantime, though, even a small table fan will keep the mosquitoes from bothering you while you're eating.
If you're manning the grill, you don't have to worry about bugs messing with your grilled food. It's too hot and smoky near a grill for them to even think about causing trouble.
The power of prep
If there are parts of your meal that you're not planning to make outside, prepare these in advance and keep them cold in the refrigerator or warm in the oven until you need them. That way, once you start cooking outside, you can stay outside. Having to go back inside and leave your grill unattended is not only inconvenient, but it's also unsafe.
Speaking of grilling, do you need a new grill or smoker? Consider us your resource when you're ready to start shopping. We'd love to answer your questions and help you find the right grill for your outdoor kitchen!