I need your best grill-your-dinner ideas
April 3, 2015 8:50 PM   Subscribe

Our old grill gave up the ghost, and I'm springing for a good one. How do I best optimize my newest tool?

I am getting a new grill and I want to give outdoor cooking a real go this summer. I have a dutch oven, and plan on buying some sort of grill-friendly skillet (secondary question, what's my best bet for a skillet, cast iron?), and my plan is to cook as much as I can outside. Indoors, I imagine I will still use my rice cooker, and we always eat a ton of salad but other than that, I'm really open to outdoor cooking ideas.
So, I am looking for things that can top a salad, or maybe some veg-protein combo that goes well over rice, maybe a good grilled potato dish? What's that one thing you never realized you can make on a grill? Is there a tool that you find essential beyond tongs and a turner? What is your favorite thing to cook on the grill? How about desserts? What's your stance on pizza?
We are carb-loving omnivores, and I am a proficient kitchen cook, but my grilling skills are not yet up to par. I don't mind prep work in the slightest, and I am looking for inspiration and guidance.
Hit me with your inspired grilling ideas, mefites.
posted by msali to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Margarita grilled Cornish hens are much better than they should be. I've had several guests requests the recipe. The marinade also works for skinless boneless breasts, which can be grilled at 4-5 minutes per side without any of the other prep in the recipe. But the Cornish hens are better.
posted by jaguar at 9:00 PM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

I made a 13 lb bone in ham on the grill. it was great. Glaze was orange juice, mustard, and honey I think.

You will need a rack or something to place on top of the grill if there are items you want to keep off direct heat. This comes in handy for roasting and smoking.

Do try smoking. Smoked salmon is surprisingly easy. I salt cured 30 minutes and then smoked for maybe 1 hour.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:03 PM on April 3, 2015

Grilled pineapple. Make sure there's a brown sugar coating on it first.
posted by msamye at 9:44 PM on April 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

AmazingRibs is an excellent resource on all things grilled or smoked.

Lately, I've been pretty into grilled cabbage. Just quarter a head of napa cabbage, oil, salt and pepper. Chimichurri marinades and variations are great for the grill- besides meats, I really like it with with squash and peppers. Temperature sensors are an essential grill tool.
posted by signalnine at 10:23 PM on April 3, 2015

Grilled pizza!
posted by jaksemas at 11:03 PM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

Skillets: The best I've ever used (that goes for calphalon, kuhn rikon, analon, tfal, and of course heavy iron skillets) is Frieling's 'Black Cube' pan. Its a nonstick...so durable they insist you can use metal tools on it...its ok to put it in the oven. The heat is even across the pan. Its remarkable. Just wish mine had come with a glass lid.

As far as grilling, be sure to brine your chicken ahead of time.
posted by artdrectr at 11:03 PM on April 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I spent two summers refusing to cook inside at all.

A grill basket will be your friend--it makes cooking veggies much easier. My experience is that most veggies are great grilled--asparagus, beets, artichokes, brussels sprouts, and romaine lettuce all stand out as particular successes, in my mind. Get familiar with a couple good vinaigrettes, because lightly dressing your grilled veg will definitely kick your meals up a notch. (My default is lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and olive oil, but ymmv.)

Grilled potatoes are surprisingly wonderful. You can do them like baked potatoes, almost, or you can jazz it up--I went through an extensive period of what were basically hasselback potatoes on the grill--slice, put each potato on a piece of foil, top with whatever (partially cooked bacon was Very Successful in my house) and toss on the grill for an hour. Tiny potatoes rubbed with oil and salt and just tossed on the grate for ten minutes or so are great, too--you can skewer them if you find it easier to manage.

My understanding is that you can make polenta in a rice cooker. I made mine on the stovetop late at night, when it was cool, but polenta that's been cooled and sliced into 1/2" thick slices does *great* on the grill, and polenta, grilled veg, and some sort of protein is a delicious and filling meal.

Re: Desserts: wrap a s'more in tinfoil, place on grill for a few minutes, consume. Seconding the pineapple, above, and adding that grilled peaches with brown sugar are fantastic, too. My daughter was always excited to do a banana, split and stuffed with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, then rolled in foil and grilled. I'm fond of apples, core removed, and stuffed with oats, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. (Bonus: add bourbon.)

Finally, those bacon-wrapped jalapeno things. Fill a jalapeno (or jalapeno half) with cream cheese, wrap pepper in bacon, place on grill, grill until crispy. So, so good. I'm not exaggerating when I say that there've been nights when I've made a bunch of those and, with some (grilled) garlic bread and beer, called it a meal.
posted by MeghanC at 11:18 PM on April 3, 2015 [7 favorites]

Potatoes wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill are great. I also really love grilled green asparagus. If you're in the US, I can highly recommend this marinade for burgers or pork, and this dry rub for steaks.
posted by neushoorn at 3:34 AM on April 4, 2015

Is it propane or charcoal? I think your capabilities will be different based on that.

I have a charcoal grill, and I use it to smoke meats. It's not quite as good as a dedicated smoker, but it's close. I also like to make roasted garlic and onions - take a head of garlic or an onion bulb, chop off the top so the layers are exposed, and then put that on a sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap up the foil and twist the top so it's mostly sealed - leave a small air hole - and then pour in some olive oil. Throw the foil ball directly in the coals for an hour or so, or until it feels very tender.

For tools, the only other thing I use all the time is a chimney starter. Makes lighting the grill much faster and easier.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:26 AM on April 4, 2015

Oh, grilled ramps or green onions are divine. Cut off the root, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper. Grill--get some nice char on them. Serve with aioli or a thin mayonnaise-type thing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:38 AM on April 4, 2015

This is one of my favorite grilled recipes, mainly because it utilizes the grill for most of the components of the dish: Grilled Shrimp Satay with Peaches and Bok-choy

I also like to do Tikka Masala utilizing the grill to cook the meat, but it's not a "grill" recipe.
posted by teabag at 7:10 AM on April 4, 2015

my stance on grilled pizza is that it's the best way to make pizza at home if you don't have a wood burning pizza oven. I would also encourage you to grill your grilled cheese sandwiches (straight on the grill. No skillet.)
posted by juliapangolin at 7:31 AM on April 4, 2015

Things I never thought of grilling but are surprisingly tasty:
Romaine lettuce

nthing grilled pizza
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:10 AM on April 4, 2015

Margarita grilled Cornish hens are much better than they should be. I've had several guests requests the recipe. The marinade also works for skinless boneless breasts, which can be grilled at 4-5 minutes per side without any of the other prep in the recipe. But the Cornish hens are better.

I apparently left the word "chicken" out of the "skinless boneless breasts" substitution. The marinade works well on skinless boneless chicken breasts. I don't recommend trying to find skinless boneless Cornish hen breasts, let alone cooking them for 10 minutes.
posted by jaguar at 9:19 AM on April 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Grilled peaches or nectarines are delish for dessert. Cut in half, remove the pit, grill face down first to get light char marks. Flip and melt a small sliver of butter on top. Serve with or without ice cream. Also good with a drizzle of honey and some chopped pistachios on top.
posted by cecic at 10:34 AM on April 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

To expand slightly on the pizza angle:

Sure, get a stone, they're good on the grill, but also consider a cast iron pizza skillet. It's good for pizza (I like to use a lining of parchment paper for easier cleanup) but you can also use it for high-heat sautee cooking (e.g. fajitas.)

Also, true pizza grilling enthusiasts construct their own specialized equipment.
posted by contraption at 11:05 AM on April 4, 2015

For a change of pace, I agree with cecic about grilled fruit as your side instead of just vegetables (which granted, are delicious--it's ridiculous how good plain old grilled herby zucchini is). Grilled peaches are indeed awesome (I like them with really wonderful ripe tomatoes, or with blue cheese crumbled on top to serve, or sometimes bacon crumbles and fresh herbs), plus stuff like Mustard-Grilled Pears or plums drizzled with olive oil and skewered on sharpened woody sprigs of fresh rosemary (you can also do the rosemary trick with the meat itself, like here). Fresh fruit, with its flavor intensified by the grill or left raw in salsa as a brightener that contrasts and complements, tends to go really well with the charred intense flavors of grilled meat. Pineapple is a more obvious/well trod example, and really delicious with pork in particular--Apricot Glazed Pineapple Pork Kebabs (and not pork but also Bacon Wrapped Chicken Skewers with Pineapple Teriyaki Sauce), Jerk Tenderloin with Pineapple Salsa (the fruit isn't grilled but it's delicious and in step with this flavor combo...IIRC Mark Bittman has a recipe somewhere with grilled fish and raw pineapple chutney which is similar), and "Chili al Pastor" (the grilled pineapple is only one small but essential component to an otherwise non-grilled, over-the-course-of-days thing, but oh gosh is it amazing...let it sit overnight before you reheat and eat the finished dish though, it's WAY better after sitting). But I love fruit with meat, so YMMV and all.

(And not that you asked, but just as a general tip, most things like that that are good grilled can be broiled in the winter months too.)

There's a Donna Hay weeknight recipe (and if I'm remembering clearly I think Melissa Clark of NYT has similar recipes in her cookbooks) of roasted pork "tenders" (you cut boneless pork into strips) rubbed with Chinese Five Spice Powder, and I think those warmly spiced flavors would work well in a grilled setting. And I got this recipe for Sumac Chicken a zillion years ago right here on Ask Mefi, and it's still a quick weeknight staple in our house; I LOVE it, it's what turned me onto sumac. I think in general Mediterranean and Middle Eastern spice combos work wonderfully for grilled meat (there's a Joyce Goldstein cookbook called The Mediterranean Kitchen and I swear a solid 75% of the meat recipes are of the "marinate or rub overnight, then grill" mold, and they're all very delicious).

(And again not that you asked, but Penzey's Mitchell Street, which has a touch of bright citrus to set it apart from others, is one of my favorite go-to grilled/charred meat rubs for steak and pork, along with Rendezvous Seasoning.)
posted by ifjuly at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, and seasoned and oiled up grilled romaine lettuce can be pretty tasty too. And Paula Wolfert has a recipe for Moroccan Grilled Fish with Charmoula that's fast and easy that I love, but I can't find it online right now...

Another fruit+meat recipe: Grilled Sausage Salad with Quick Apple Compote. Feels a bit fall-ish with the apple compote, and you can use other sausage instead if you don't like or can't find blood. I made it recently with Edmond Fallot Walnut Dijon and g'ah, so good.
posted by ifjuly at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I alway go back to Mark Bittman's 101 Grill Recipes.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 5:47 PM on April 5, 2015

Let me introduce you to a concept I like to call the Shish-KaTaco. Basically you skewer your meet/veggie/fruit combo and serve on tortillas with whatever non-grilled elements (avocado/greens/radishes/dairy/beans/plantains etc) on the side. I'm partial to a rum and sour orange juice marinated pork skewer with mangos and sweet peppers for my shish-KaTaco of choice. But the bourbon chicken and peach combo was also very popular at my last cookout event. But really, the sky is the limit.
posted by thivaia at 11:01 AM on April 8, 2015

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