UPDATE: This story was originally published on May 23.
Shows like Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill may put a man behind the coals, but a girl can cook a mean steak just as good as any dude. But if you're nervous about getting that fire started, we've brought in an expert to teach you the tricks of the trade.
Chef Lee Ann Whippen, of famed BBQ joint Chicago q, shares her easy, lazy-gal tips for grilling everything from fish and meaty proteins to veggies and, yes, even dessert. She's even included recipes, too. So, move over boys. We've got this.
Illustrated by Gabriela Alford
Before you can even think about what to throw on the grill, you have to prep the sucker first. Don't worry, it actually takes way less time than it does to get ready for a date!
When prepping both a gas and charcoal grill, "grill grates should be cleaned or scraped prior to lighting and greased with oil (i.e. vegetable oil) on cloth to prevent sticking," says Whippen.
Things to avoid:
1. Never use flavored charcoal (like a mesquite) because it can give the food a chemical taste — yuck!
2. If lighting a charcoal fire, avoid lighter fluid and use starter sticks (or a charcoal chimney) so your food doesn't take on any funky flavors.
Tools Of The Trade
1. An instant-read thermometer that gauges the internal product temperature.
2. A pair of bear claws — yes, that is its real name — to help you create pulled pork without burning your own paws.
3. A small, cast iron pot to heat your sauce on your grill.
1. Soak wood chips in water for 30 minutes. Drain and enclose in a piece of foil.
2. Poke holes in the foil with a fork to allow smoke to escape (and that yummy aroma, too!).
3. Place directly on coals to flavor your meats. If saucing your meat, "wait until the last 20 minutes of grilling," says Whippen. "A lot of sauces contain sugar, so your meat will burn on the outside before the inside is done."
4. Always let your meat rest 20 to 30 minutes before cutting.
5. For fish, throw a cast iron skillet on your grill until it becomes an ashy-gray color and try blackening your fish after dipping in clarified butter and sprinkling generously with cajun seasoning.
6. When grilling fish, use oily fish like salmon and select whole fish or steaks over fish filets, as they hold up better on the grates.
Recipe: Grilled Island Chicken With Tropical Salsa
1 14 oz can coconut milk
3 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 large fresh jalapeno, minced
6 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
1. Whisk chicken marinade ingredients together.
2. Place chicken in large shallow dish and pour marinade over chicken. Cover and refrigerate chicken for two hours.
3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade.
4. Grill approximately 6 to 8 minutes on each side, or until no pink remains.
5. Top with tropical salsa and garnish with a lime wedge and cilantro sprig.
Tropical Salsa Ingredients:
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped tomato, seeded
½ cup chopped mango
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped yellow pepper
1 tbsp minced fresh jalapeno
½ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder
2 tbs fresh lime juice
1 tbsp honey
1. Combine all ingredients and chill 2 to 3 hours.
2. Serve over Island Chicken.
Recipe: Grilled Salmon With Thyme And Lemon Caper Sauce
4 8 oz salmon steaks
½ cup clarified butter
4 tsp chopped fresh thyme
Fresh ground black pepper
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken stock, warm
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs small capers
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1. Preheat grill on a high heat.
2. Dip salmon steaks in clarified butter and sprinkle each side of each steak with salt, pepper, and ½ teaspoon of thyme.
3. Grill steaks approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until flakey and opaque on edges.
4. Make the Lemon Caper Sauce. Start by melting butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
5. Add flour, whisking contantly for 1 minute.
6. Turn heat to low and gradually whisk in warm chicken stock.
7. Add garlic, capers, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and cook until thickened. Serve with the fish.
1. Keep marinades simple: olive oil, lemon, garlic, and fresh herbs, such as rosemary or thyme.
2. Don't marinate veggies for more than 30 minutes or they will get soggy. We imagine this would be especially bad for those who don't like vegetables to begin with!
3. Cook on medium-high heat so veggies get nice charred grill marks without overcooking. Portabella mushroom burger, anyone?
Recipe: Wood Chick's BBQ Grilled Marinated Vegetables
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsps fresh thyme, finely chopped (or 1 tbsp dry)
5 tbsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped (or 2 tbsps dry)
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
Red onion cut into ½-inch thick slices
Asparagus, bottom snapped off
Red bell peppers, cut into wedges lengthwise
1. Whisk all marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.
2. Pour marinade over veggies and marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat grill to a medium to high heat.
4. Remove veggies from marinade and place on grill, making sure to lightly oil grill grates first. Grill for 15 to 20 minutes.
1. Use ripe seasonal fruits cut either lengthwise or crosswise to maximize size so the fruit doesn't fall through grates.
2. Grill fruits slowly so the natural sugars caramelize and become sweet.
3. Experiment with spices on fruit to create sweet desserts with a kick.
Recipe: Grilled Pineapple With Caramel Sauce
5 tbsps unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 whole vanilla bean, split
1 large ripe pineapple, peeled
1. Preheat grill to a medium to medium-high heat.
2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds out from inside.
3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add vanilla bean and whisk in brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla seeds.
4. Cook for approximately 10 to 12 minutes, whisking occasionally until thickened. Remove vanilla bean.
5. Cut outside skin from pineapple and slice into 6 to 8 slices. Brush with sauce and grill on each side for approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
6. Serve topped with additional sauce.