Listen up, all manly outdoor chefs! It’s time to earn your grilling stripes by donning a kitschy machismo apron slugged with such slogans as, “WEINIES RULE,” along with transferring the heat, smoke, mess and heavy-duty implements to the backyard. Here are some cookout trends for your gustatory amazement on July 4th and throughout the summer.
Dog Days of Summer
According to Humphrey Bogart, “a hot dog at the ballpark was better than a steak at the Ritz.” Today’s charcuterie has become a gourmet-art-and-science serving an assortment of sausage sensations that are truly Ritz-worthy:
• Try an uncured Peking duck dog topped with caramelized onions drenched in hoison sauce and swathed in a sesame egg bun.
• Or grill lamb links in crunchy sheep-casing slathered with mint jalapeno jelly in a toasted baguette.
• Chicken bratwursts are blended with everything from black truffles to exotic mushrooms.
• For a gamy change-up, there’s sweet and spicy venison with dried cherries and chilies, rabbit with pork and tangy ginger, and wild boar-and-sage sausages.
Walk the Plank
Natural aromatic wood planks infuse fish and fowl, meat and vegetables with a woodsy, smoky flavor while keeping them moist and tender.
Alder wood pairs well with chicken and seafood, cedar nicely compliments pork, beef, poultry and fish, while maple is ideal for pork, poultry and seafood.
Also toss some fresh rosemary sprigs, bay leaves, orange rinds or a whole lime into the glowing embers before grilling to add a zesty zip to your vittles.
Hand-forged, cast iron branding implements let you put your mark on a prime piece of meat. Initials, symbols and sports team logos are just a few ways to customize your carnivorous dishes.
Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room
For those who don’t do grilling, smoking is a nice alternative to impart a rich mahogany color, fall-off-the-bones tenderness and robust flavor to ribs, beef, chicken and fish. A variety of hardwoods used in the smoking process give different nuances to foods.
For a strong, smoky flavor use mesquite; oak for subtler notes; hickory is ideal for red meat; while apple wood has sweet undertones that compliment pork or poultry.
Smokers — whether wood-fired, gas, electric, charcoal or digital — cook meats at low temperatures over long cycles.
The grilling process uses temperatures of 400-degrees F or higher, whereas smoking cooks at moderate temperatures ranging 200 to 275-degrees F. For robust cuts, patience is required as it takes about 1.5 hours of smoking for each pound of meat.
To the nth degree
Take your fish or meat’s temperature to ensure it has been cooked thoroughly and is safe to eat.
Beef, veal and lamb should reach at least 145-degrees F; same temperature for pork, although the latter has to take a short nap before eating; poultry is safe at 165-degrees F, while scaled fish should be cooked internally to 145-degrees F.