Sunday, May 30, 2004

Memorial Day is time to move meals outside

Fire up the grill for memorable Memorial Day feast

By Karen Fernau
The Arizona Republic

Although grilling is now a year-round activity for many, it is traditionally the Memorial Day weekend when cooks look to the outdoors to keep kitchens cool, enjoy the savory, smoky flavors of food cooked over a fire and to entertain.

Here is what's new in outdoor cooking trends and a guide to beginning the grill-drill in style.

The basics

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, Atlantic salmon and T-bone steaks are regulars on the backyard grill, but they can be a challenge to the novice. What's the right way to grill these foods so they are done, but not dry and charred?

Chicken breasts: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are grill favorites because they are healthful and cook in minutes. Begin by washing the meat, then drying with paper towels. Marinate chicken for 30 minutes or coat in a dry rub. Preheat grill to high. Spray or rub oil on the grill and allow to heat. Sear both sides of the raw meat on an open grill to seal in moisture. Close the grill to create an ovenlike environment that helps cook the meat through. Cook inch-thick chicken breasts about 12 to 16 minutes. Overcooking will cause chicken to taste like cardboard. Allow the poultry to rest 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

T-bone steaks: T-bones are tender cuts of steak and ideal for the grill. Add rubs and seasonings just before grilling. Trim excess fat from the steak to avoid flare-ups. Heat grill to high and sear both sides of the steak, about 2 minutes each side. Reduce heat to medium, which ensures even cooking. If the temperature is too high, steaks can become overcooked on the outside before the interior reaches the desired doneness. Use long-handled tongs for turning, not a fork, which will pierce the beef and cause a loss of flavorful juices. Grill uncovered 14 to 16 minutes or until internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees, or medium rare. Allow to rest 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

Salmon: A whole fillet of salmon can be cooked in less than 20 minutes. Brush the salmon with olive oil to prevent sticking, or marinate in an oil-based sauce. Heat the grill to high. Grill salmon, uncovered, about 5 minutes per side. Baste both sides during grilling with additional olive oil. Allow to rest 3 to 4 minutes before serving.

Grill safety tips

• Grill in a well-ventilated, flat, level area away from overhangs, deck railings and shrubbery.

• Avoid fire flare-ups by using lean meats and trimming visible fat.

• Never add lighter fluid directly to hot coals. Instead, place new briquettes in a metal can and apply lighter fluid. Transfer the briquettes to the grill with tongs and light with a match.

• After grilling, place the cover on the grill, close the vents and allow the coals to burn out completely. Let ashes cool for at least 48 hours, and dispose of in a non-combustible container.

Food safety tips

• Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood and their juices away from ready-to-eat foods.

• Do not use the same platter or utensils to handle raw and cooked products.

• Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.

• Thaw frozen foods in refrigerator or microwave. Grill immediately after thawing in the microwave.

• Use a meat thermometer to check internal temperatures. Ground meat should be at least 160 degrees, poultry at 180 degrees, poultry breasts at 170 degrees, pork at 160 degrees, and steaks at 145 degrees.

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