Quick Patio Pick-Me-Ups For Grilling Season

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Grilling season is quickly approaching, but is your patio party-ready? These tips for dressing up your deck will have you ready for entertaining this spring, summer, and beyond.

Clean it Up

Cleaning is the simplest way to freshen up outdoor areas. Power wash your patio or deck to remove dirt, debris, and mildew that have built up over the winter. For furniture, combine a teaspoon each of liquid dish detergent and Borax in a spray bottle with 1 quart of warm water. Spray down furniture and cushions, let set for 15 minutes, then rinse. This not only helps furniture look its best during grilling season, but also lengthens its life.

This is also the time to inventory your supplies: are you in need of a new grill or grilling accessories? Stock up now for a successful start to summer.

 

Lighting Matters

A unique hanging plant adds color and visual interest to any outdoor living space.

The right lighting warms up any gathering while extending the functionality of your patio into the evening hours. Candles, lanterns, and twinkle lights all imbue your patio with a gentle glow. Solar products and low-voltage bulbs are a safe and energy-efficient choice.

 

Flower Power

Give new life to your outdoor entertaining area by incorporating flower boxes and hanging and potted plants for vibrant visual interest. A flowering border around the edges of your patio creates a smooth transition while taller plants offer privacy. Patio accessories, including cushions, umbrellas, and candle holders, are another easy way to add flair to any fete.

 

Summer Sounds

For a perfectly peaceful patio environment, consider incorporating a water feature or wind chimes, both of which deliver soothing sounds. For more festive gatherings, look for a wireless portable speaker system designed to pair seamlessly with your mobile device for easy access to all of your favorite tunes.

 

These quick fixes are designed to take your patio from drab to dazzling while showing off your personal style. And remember: grilling isn’t just a cooking method, it’s a way of life. So show off your personal style with these simple tips.

 
Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Marvelous Meat Marinades for Tasty Grilled Steaks

Marinated Steak

Plain steaks straight off the grill can be delicious, but if you really want to impress guests at your next backyard barbecue, add a marinade to the mix. The basic components of a good marinade are: oil, something acidic, and seasonings; the possibilities are practically endless. Here are some marvelous meat marinades you can try on your steaks to give them a bit of added flavor.

Basic Balsamic Marinade - Soak your steaks in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, and thyme to tenderize the meat and infuse it with classic flavor.

Beer Marinade – Your friends won’t be able to figure out the secret ingredient in this marinade, but they’ll be begging you for the recipe. Mix one bottle of a good Pilsner, a quarter cup of lime juice, a dash of olive oil, a bit of chopped onion, minced garlic, fresh cilantro, salt, pepper, and chopped jalapenos to taste. The result is a delicious Southwestern-inspired steak with a twist.

Asian Marinade – Look East at your next barbecue and try a teriyaki marinade made from a half-cup Japanese cooking wine, a half-cup soy sauce, and a third-cup granulated sugar mixed together. Add smashed garlic, shredded ginger root, honey, and wasabi paste to give the marinade even more flavor depth.

French Marinade - Whether you’re grilling a romantic steak dinner for two or showing off your burgeoning grill skills for an intimate dinner party, a French-style marinade is designed to impress. For this marinade, start with 2 cups of dry red wine and 1 cup of olive oil, then mix in about a cup of soy sauce and a third-cup each of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, honey, and Dijon mustard. Add some crushed garlic, cumin, coriander, and black pepper to taste.

No matter which marinade you choose, make sure to keep your meat in the marinade for 2 to 24 hours before cooking it to get the best flavor. Keep the meat in the refrigerator while it marinates to avoid contamination.

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From Pizza to Peaches: Five Unexpected Foods You can Grill

The polar vortex has moved on, and grilling season will be upon us quickly. Grilling the perfect steak is a skill we all strive to master. If you are looking to expand your menu options for cooking outside, try these unexpected foods that grilling makes great:

Meatballs

Intensify the flavor of meatballs by grilling them. Add grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, diced onion and shallot, and herbs de Provence to your usual recipe. Flattening the meatballs just slightly will prevent them from rolling on the grill. Serve in a pasta dish, meatball sub, or as the main course.

Pound Cake

Slice super-rich pound cake into thick slices and grill lightly over moderate heat for about two minutes. Top with sliced fruit and mascarpone or whipped cream for a tasty dessert after grilling main meal.

Pizza

Start with homemade dough or a store bought pizza crust, top with pesto, sliced Roma tomatoes, and grated mozzarella cheese. Slide onto the grill and place the cover on. Cook for about four to five minutes until the crust is browned on the bottom and the cheese has melted. Serve immediately. Try different toppings such as feta cheese or sun dried tomatoes.

Peaches

Grilling stone fruits such as peaches or nectarines will caramelize them and intensify the sweetness.

Slice the peaches in half and remove the pit. Brush the cut sides with lightly flavored oil. Grill the peaches with the cut-side down for about two minutes. Top with a reduced balsamic vinegar glaze, a pomegranate and merlot syrup, or almonds and whipped cream.

Eggplant

Eggplant prepared on a grill can go into many favorite dishes. You can substitute the eggplant on a hamburger for your vegetarian friends, layer it with other grilled vegetables and top with lemon vinaigrette, or make this super simple eggplant Parmesan dish:

Slice two eggplants crosswise into ¼-inch slices. Brush with olive oil and grill until just softened. Layer the slices in a cast iron skillet with sliced tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and pesto. Top with Parmesan cheese and bake in the covered grill for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is completely melted and browned.

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Cooking Up a Storm: How to Add Pizazz to your Next Cookout on your Gas Grill

What do you cook on your gas grill? Before you plan your next cookout, consider these ideas for some variety to jazz up your cookouts and cook up a storm!

  • Fresh Grilled Vegetables- Make some veggies on a stick basted in butter and wait for the compliments. This is an added treat for BBQ lovers and a deviation from the normal hamburgers and buns; veggie lovers will love it and it’s easy to do.
  • Corn-on-the-Cob-This is great on the grill and adds extra flavor to your cookouts. It easily complements your burgers and hot dogs and other grilled foods. Smooth some liquid or melted butter over the roasting ears as they grill and you’ll be in for a special treat everyone will love.
  • BBQ chicken- Instead of always fixing burgers, try throwing some BBQ chicken on the grill. This is great basted in BBQ sauce as it cooks. Your friends will love it!
  • Pork chops-These are great grilled with some Country Bob’s sauce or A-1. Finger-licking good. Get the best cuts for the best result. Pork chops can be tough so make sure you tenderize them before grilling.
  • Steaks- Bring out the big meat and please the meat lovers in your family – and on your block! – by fixing up a top-notch steak cut. The key here is to make sure you get good Grade A quality cuts at your local grocer and make sure the meat is fresh. Tenderize before grilling.
  • Fish- Please fish-lovers with an old-fashioned fish fry. Throw some catfish or trout on the grill and baste in lemon sauce and butter for a gourmet outdoor grilling experience.

You can find lots of recipes online to jazz up your next cookout and make it special. Family and friends will talk about all the different things you cook on your grill and they’ll wonder how you do it. So get creative before your next cookout and look up some killer grilling recipes online. Here’s a place to start for grilling recipes.

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How to Clean Your Gas Grill

Cleaning your grill

When it comes to cooking outside, gas grilling is where most Americans turn.

Gas grills are quick, efficient, and more convenient than the alternatives. They’re also cleaner, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have to take good care of them. Knowing how to keep your grill shining bright also keeps it cooking right!

To clean your gas grill there are two maintenance must-haves:
1) Post-cooking cleaning
2) Routine deep cleaning

Clean Your Gas Grill After Cooking

Every cooking session grimes up your grill and leaves the potential to mess with the taste of your next meal. A simple but thorough cleaning, using warm water mixed with dishwashing liquid, will prevent this.

First things first: shut off the valve to your grill, where it connects at the propane tank.

Next, scrub all areas of your grill, using a wire scourer or brush to pay close attention to the grates. Be sure to go over each grate at least twice to scrape away any burnt-on food. When that’s done, rub cooking oil over the grates to ward off rust. Finish up by giving any food preparation areas of the grill a quick scrub.

How to Deep Clean Your Gas Grill

An annual deeper clean of your grill will help to keep the many layers of equipment underneath the regular cooking surface in good working order. To keep your gas grill running well, this deep clean routine is essential.

Cleaning your grill After shutting off the valve, remove the grates on your grill and take off component parts like the burner units, covers and briquette elements. Wash everything with dishwashing liquid in warm water, checking closely for any especially hard or grimy build-ups. Make sure these are scrubbed off and use de-greaser on any stubborn sections.

Replace all the parts and turn the gas back on. Let it burn for 15 minutes at 500 degrees to burn off any excess cleaner.

These routines will get you set for a great outdoor cooking season. Happy grilling!

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5 Best Ways to Take Care of Your Grill

Grilling out

There’s nothing wrong with hitting the outdoors to do a little grilling. Regardless of the time of the year, you can fire up the grill and your steaks can be grilled to perfection every time. No matter how much you use your grill, there are certain tips that you need to follow to ensure it lasts for many years to come. Let’s take a look at five simple tips you can follow to extend the life of your grill, and make sure your food comes off mouth-watering every time.

Tip #1: Clean out the ashes

If you see any old ashes, you need to scoop them out. After doing this, you need to get out a bucket of water and put a bit of soap in it. Wet a scrubby sponge and a wire brush and start wiping down the grill where the ashes were. Make sure you wash inside the entire firebox. Remember, most grills only need to be deep cleaned like this once a year.

Tip #2: Make sure your food doesn’t stick

No one wants their food to stick to the grill gate. To help overcome this issue, make sure you clean and oil the grill gate every time before cooking on it. Also, make sure you flip your food often.

Tip #3: Replace the grate

Once your grill grate gets to the point that it can’t be cleaned, it’s probably best to replace it. The good news, however, is that grates don’t tend to be very expensive.

Tip #4: Turn off the gas

If you have a gas grill, it’s always very important that you turn off the gas after using it each and every time. Not only will this extend the life of the grill, but it’s also a safety precaution that you need to take.

Tip #5: Clean while it’s still hot

When you clean your grill after using it, don’t take a break and eat first. Instead, clean it while it’s still hot. In doing this, you can clean it better than you can if you wait for it to cool down.

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Grilling on the Road

Besides grilling outdoors, perhaps the other great pleasure that life has to offer would be travel. If you can travel in an RV, camper, or trailer, bringing your home with you as you hop from lake to campground to urban RV park, then all the better. Here are a few grilling ideas for those of you who like to do a lot of traveling:

  • Baked Potatoes

Potatoes make a great road staple for your daily starch because they hold so well in all sorts of temperatures. It’s very hard to make potatoes spoil. Poke a potato all the way through with a fork on both sides, wrap in foil, and bake on the grill until you can poke a fork into the potato without having to force it. Throw some butter, bacon, chives, or whatever you like on there and you have a great side dish.

  • Bacon and Eggs

Is there anything better in the morning, when you’re camping out, than the smell of bacon and eggs frying in the great outdoors? Don’t even bother spicing this one up. Just keep a skillet on hand, fry them up, add a little salt and pepper, and serve.

  • Campground Coffee

Get a kettle, boil some water in it on the grill with the coffee grinds right in it, and add a couple of rinsed egg shells to absorb the excess bitterness. Take it off the grill and let it sit for about five minutes. This will give it time to brew and the grinds time to settle. Pour slowly and you have authentic cowboy coffee.

Cooking outdoors is a lot of fun, especially when you mix travel and camping with fresh grilled breakfast, lunch, dinner … and every snack in between!

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Even a Vegetarian Needs a Grill

If you haven’t bothered investing in a grill because you’re not a big meat eater, because you’re vegan or vegetarian, or just trying to cut back on excess protein, you’re missing out.

The real beauty of grilled food is the crispy skin that forms on the outside of the food and the way the grill marks form. The beauty of grilled food is the flavor, the texture, the heat. You can accomplish this with chicken, sure, but you can also accomplish it with any of these ideas:

  • Grilled Mushrooms

There are a few ways to do grilled mushrooms. A portobello cap can be oiled, grilled, and sliced up onto a salad for a hot-and-cold flavor, or stuffed with a favorite filling. You could also try sticking a kabob skewer through a half dozen button mushrooms and have a delicious seasoned vegetarian kabob.

  • Black Bean Burgers

You can make delicious burger patties out of black beans, bread crumbs, and seasonings of your choice. These burgers get that crispy, charred flavor you want without the meat.

  • Grilled Pineapple

Fruit needn’t be left out of the mix. Grilled pineapples are a great start, but you can also experiment with apples, pears, peaches, or anything else with nice, solid meat that will hold up to the flame.

Grilling is grilling. Whether you like meat or veggies, everyone who loves to eat would do well to invest in a grill, some seasonings, and a favorite BBQ sauce.

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Making Vegetables Tasty

Some of us learned to love our veggies as kids, some of us never did. If you fall into the latter category, here are some ideas to put your new grill to use redeeming vegetables as a major food group:

  • Grilled Onions

Cut your onions a little on the thick side, brush each side with butter or oil, season as you like, and roast on the grill. You can create delicious, caramelized onions this way that are amazing on a burger or a steak.

  • Grilled Asparagus

Butter, garlic, and salt are all you need to transform asparagus from a plain, green veggie to something really special, sweet, and savory.

  • Buttery Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are best steamed, and you can accomplish this on the grill by wrapping them in tin foil and cooking them at a low heat to keep the moisture in. Butter, salt, and pepper will do the rest.

  • Stuffed Peppers

Grab some red, green or yellow peppers, cut off the tops, and take out all the seeds. Then stuff them with cream cheese, spices to your taste, and cooked meats like crab, chicken, or pork. Experiment with different ingredients and roast them right on the grill.

  • Jalapeno Poppers

Slice open a jalapeno, stuff it with cheese (swiss, jack, or sharp cheddar work nicely), grill it on the barbecue, and throw a little salt on it. This is a simple, delicious appetizer that will get your mouth watering.

Veggies don’t have to be boring. Try these recipes, experiment with some of your own, and you should be able to stumble onto some really fun ideas.

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End Your Hibernation With a Spring Cookout

The ice is melting and the sun is starting to shine. Now that the polar vortex is behind us and Spring is on the way, it’s time to celebrate the end of hibernating season with a serious outdoor feast. Here are some must-tries for your end-of-Winter cookout:

  • Cheese-Stuffed Burgers

Make two thin patties, put the cheese in the middle, press, and cook. Putting the cheese in the middle of the burger keeps it very moist and flavors the meat.

  • Salt and Pepper Chicken

Forget all those fancy recipes for chicken. If you really want to bring the natural flavor out, brush some chicken legs and breasts lightly in oil, grill to perfection, and throw a little salt and pepper on them. This is a simple, easy recipe that will have people asking for your secret.

  • Grilled Asparagus

Coated in oil or butter, grilled on the barbecue, and sprinkled with salt and garlic powder, you can’t really do any better than these simple sides.

  • Texas Toast

Thick-sliced bread, buttered and toasted and seasoned to perfection. It’s bread that eats like a steak.

  • Summer Beers

You can’t enjoy the warmth of the sun without a few summer beers. Try some pale ales and American lagers like Miller High Life to ring in the warm seasons without weighing your meal down.

  • Foil Wrapped Turkey Legs

There’s nothing like a big, meaty turkey leg to really get you into the spirit of a barbecue. Wrap a leg in foil, grill on low heat to cook all the way through, then unwrap and brown the skin. Throw a little salt on the leg and you have a simple, amazing meal.

Winter is all about soups, pasta, whole oven roasted birds, and so on. Summer is when we get to do as much grilling out as possible!

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