Fire it Up coverAs summer may just as well be synonymous with grilling, one way to get the best out of the sweeter season and amp up your time at your barbecue is to invest some time reading into why you would pick a rub over a brine and learn how to make your own sauces.

This is where reading up on the best practices for barbecuing can come in handy because, unless you have studied cooking, you may not know how marinating enhances the flavour of your meat or, depending on the meat, why you would choose one prep method over another.

This is where books like Fire It Up: 400 Recipes for Grilling Everything by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim come in handy. Along with hundreds of recipes, the first few chapters of this book focus on the basics of grilling and are written in a way that even someone who has never grilled before can learn how to be a top chef.

For those who are new to grilling, this is an excellent guide to get started or to improve techniques that will impress the neighbours. Handy and practical, this book also includes numerous temperature charts that will take the guessing out of how to make sure that your meat is perfectly grilled and safe for consumption.

Once more, almost like a course on food preparation, this book simply goes through various methods like marinades vs. brining vs. rubs, how to make a wide variety of each and how you would best preserve the integrity of each ingredient that you will be grilling. Plus, for those who are fed up with the sugary taste of cheap barbecue sauces, this book provides a wonderful array of recipes to learn how to make your own sauces and what to pair them with.

Since it’s an incredible shame when a good piece of meat gets overcooked or over-seasoned, particularly if it’s a product of the land, invest the time to learn about the best practices for flavour enhancement, tool techniques and cooking methods.

This book also lays out the basics on cuts of meat so that if you are buying meat to grill, you can learn where it is from on the animal and how best to prepare each of these cuts.

Fire It Up is great as a grilling guide for novices and as a gift for the head griller of the family. It offers something for everybody – youth or Elder – because it is easy to read and so comprehensive.

Bison Cheeseburgers with Horseradish Mustard

Serves 6

Bison_burgerIf you didn’t know they were bison, you’d swear these were all-American cheeseburgers. To ramp up the flavour of the mild meat, we mix a little steak sauce into the meat and spoon some mayonnaise flavoured with horseradish and mustard over the burgers. The addition of toppings like ripe slices of beefsteak tomatoes and torn pieces of crisp lettuce are entirely up to you, but resist the urge to cook these past medium doneness. Grilled bison burgers go from juicy to leathery in minutes.

⅓ cup whole-grain Dijon mustard
2 tbsps prepared mayonnaise
1 tbsp prepared horseradish
2 lbs ground bison chuck
¼ cup bottled steak sauce (like A1)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 scallions (green & white parts), sliced
¾ tsp coarse salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 slices sharp cheddar cheese
6 hamburger buns, split

Mix the mustard, mayonnaise and horseradish in a small bowl. Heat a grill for direct medium heat, about 375ºF. Using your hands, mix together the bison, steak sauce, oil, scallions, salt and pepper in a bowl until well blended; avoid over-mixing. Using a light touch, form into 6 patties no more than 1-inch thick.

Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Grill the burgers directly over the heat for 6 to 7 minutes for medium-done (about 150ºF on an instant-read thermometer, and slightly pink in the centre), flipping once. Put the cheese on the burgers 1 minute before they will be done. To toast the buns, grill them, cut-side down, directly over the heat for 1 to 2 minutes.

If serving the burgers directly from the grill, serve on the buns. If the burgers will sit, even for a few minutes, keep the burgers and buns separate until just before serving.

Roasted Chicken with Garlic

We have gotten so used to roasting poultry in an oven that our first taste of fire-roasted chicken is often a palate-bending experience. The skin cracks between the teeth like a layer of lacquer, the flesh is soaked with juice, and the aromas of spices permeate every bite of meat. It is enough to make you chain up the oven and throw away the key. This recipe is basic and straightforward, and can be used as a standard template for grill-roasting chicken or any poultry (the timing will change, depending on the size of the bird).

Although chickens come in several sizes, if you don’t have a rotisserie, choose a young bird (no more than 4 pounds). This will ensure that the flesh will cook through evenly in the time it takes the skin to brown and crisp. It is best to rub any seasoning under the skin of the bird, right on the meat, where it does the most good. The layer of skin protects it from scorching.

2 tbsps Poultry Rub
3 tbsps salted butter
2 tbsps minced garlic
2 tbsps minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 chicken (about 4 lbs) washed & patted dry
1 tbsp olive oil

Light a grill for indirect medium heat, about 325°F. Mash together 1 tablespoon of the rub, the butter, garlic and parsley until well blended. Rub half the herb butter under the skin of the chicken all over the meat (see the Know-How, below); set aside the rest. Sprinkle the cavity with the remaining tablespoon of the rub. Adjust the skin so that it covers all of the meat and rub the skin liberally with the oil. Tie the chicken so that it holds its shape (see the Know-How). Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Put the chicken on the grill away from the heat, cover the grill, and cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the inside of the thigh registers 165°F, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Brush twice with the remaining garlic herb butter during the last 20 minutes of cooking. If you are using charcoal, you will probably have to replenish the coals after the first hour.

Remove chicken to a large serving platter. Let rest for 8 to 10 minutes, carve and serve.

Poultry Rub
Best with chicken, turkey, pork
Makes ½ cup

2 tbsps dark brown sugar
2 tbsps coarse salt
1 tbsp rubbed dried sage
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsps dried marjoram
2 tsps dried rosemary (crushed)
2 tsps garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsps paprika
½ tsp grated nutmeg

Mix everything together. Store in a tightly closed container for up to one month.

Charred Corn on the Cob with Grilled Tomato Oil

Corn on the cobIngredients:
4 ears corn, husks left on ½ cup Grilled Tomato Oil (recipe below)

A grill is the best vessel you have for cooking corn. You don’t need to husk, soak, boil or foil-wrap the corn. Just start the fire and throw the cobs on, husks and all. Close the lid and sit back. It will take about 15 minutes, and you will have to turn the cobs every 5 minutes or so, but that’s it. During that time the husks will char and send a sweet vegetal smoke through the corn. When they’re done, the husks will be burnt and you will hear steam hissing inside. You can let them sit for a minute or two and then peel and enjoy; or get some extra grill flavour by peeling back the husks and charring the corn briefly over the fire. Here, we serve the grilled corn with glistening, rose-colored oil, flavoured and tinted with grilled tomato.

Light a grill for direct medium-high heat, about 425°F. Grill the corn in their husks directly over the heat, turning every 5 minutes, until the husks are blackened all over, 15 to 18 minutes total. During the last 5 to 8 minutes, put on grill mitts and peel back the outer blackened husks to expose some of the corn kernels. Continue grilling until some of the corn kernels are browned and lightly charred. Remove from the grill and let cool slightly. Remove the husks and brush generously with the tomato oil.

Keep It Simple:
Of course, you can slather your grilled corn with other sauces like pesto or good ol’ butter and salt.

Grilled Tomato Oil:
Best with veal, pork, chicken, shellfish, fish
Makes about 1 cup
4 ripe plum tomatoes, halved
½ cup best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 large sprig fresh oregano or thyme
½ tsp honey
¼ tsp coarse salt

Light a grill for direct medium-high heat, about 425°F.

In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Brush the grill grate and coat with oil. Grill the tomatoes, cut-side down, directly over the heat until nicely grill-marked, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and grill until the other side is nicely marked, about 3 minutes more. Return to the bowl.

Transfer the grilled tomatoes and oil to a small food processor and puree until fairly smooth. Strain the sauce through a food mill or push gently through a fine-mesh sieve into a small saucepan, leaving behind much of the solids. Add the garlic and oregano to the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a small container with a tight-fitting lid, such as a canning jar. Add the honey and salt, stirring until dissolved. Let cool, then whisk in the remaining olive oil.

Refrigerate for up to four days. If the cold oil becomes cloudy, it will clear when returned to room temperature.