RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are in the last few weeks of summer. So what better time to amp up your grill game? And if you're like me, maybe this is the part of the summer grilling season where you could actually use a little bit of inspiration and maybe some just practical tips for getting the most out of your grill experience. To that end, we have brought you Adam Rappoport. He is the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine. Here to give us that inspiration and guidance - no pressure, Adam.
ADAM RAPOPORT: I think I can handle it.
MARTIN: So I've got plenty of questions on my own. But we thought it would be way more interesting to survey our listeners. And our first question is not about what we're putting on the grill, but it's a really important, fundamental question that is often overlooked. This is from Kathleen Singleton (ph) from Renton, Wash.
KATHLEEN SINGLETON: How do you tell when your grill is hot enough to start? Are there any tests that you can use to know?
RAPOPORT: All right, excellent question. I would say 90 percent of the time you want your grill as hot as possible.
MARTIN: Like as high as it will go - just let it get super hot.
RAPOPORT: Because if you're doing steak - even if you're doing boneless chicken, you want to get it crispy and seared. You want it quick. You still want it juicy on the inside. And if you're doing a charcoal grill, you want the flame to die down. So you just get those beautiful, glowing, orange embers. And then the key to grilling over charcoal is you want to bank your coals - so kind of push to one side. That's your hot zone where you can get that nice sear on a steak. And if you start to get flare-ups because of dripping fat or marinade or something, you slide it over to the other side of the grill, where hopefully you have no coals. And that's like your safe zone. And you can just kind of chill out over there for a while. Let the flames die down. And then slide it back. And that's the most important thing about grilling. It is a full-contact sport. You've got to be paying attention. You can't just put it on and walk away.
MARTIN: Right. You can't multitask.
RAPOPORT: No, this is the opposite of set it and forget it.
MARTIN: All right, we've got another question from Molly Baker (ph) of Houston.
MOLLY BAKER: I cannot grill a chicken breast to save my life. It always turns out either rubbery or dry - never as good as what I can get in a restaurant. I've pounded it thin. I've coated it in oil I'm just not good at it at all. So help. How do I make chicken breast that tastes like at a restaurant?
RAPOPORT: Molly, you can grill a chicken breast.
MARTIN: You can do it.
RAPOPORT: All right, a couple things - I like a pounded-thin boneless breast. If you're going to do that, salt it beforehand. Let it sit there for ten minutes, nicely salted on each side. Or you can do a simple marinade - maybe some olive oil, lemon, garlic. You can throw a little soy sauce in there. Put it in a Ziploc bag. Hang out in the fridge for a little bit. The key thing, once again, with grilling chicken breasts is most people grill it over too low of heat. And it just gets rubbery and overcooked. Again, if it's that thin, you want that grill as hot as possible, nicely cleaned. Maybe brush with a little oil. Hit it. And just let it get nice with that good caramel char on the outside. Flip it over until it's just cooked through. You can kind of press it with your finger. And when it feels firm, it's done. Season it well, high heat - and you cannot go wrong.
MARTIN: OK. Garrett Rodgers (ph) of Cincinnati asks the following.
GARRETT RODGERS: I'm just abysmal at cooking veggies on the grill. I seem to alternate between burning them, leaving them raw or turning them unappealingly mushy. Do you have any tips for how to grow grill them?
MARTIN: This is a really important question because I do the same thing.
RAPOPORT: I actually love grilling veg on the grill. With vegetables, maybe it's more medium heat than that super hot. There's so many things you can throw on the grill that most people don't think of. Like, I love grilling broccolini, for instance, which is that sort of nice sort of little florets. It looks like broccoli rabe.
MARTIN: Expensive broccoli, yeah.
RAPOPORT: Yeah, but it's not bitter like broccoli rabe. And I'll kind of flip it over and get it nice and charred a little bit. And something like that doesn't need to cook for that long. When it looks done, it's done. Take it off the grill. Hit it with some olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt. And it's a delicious side. Have you ever grilled romaine lettuce?
MARTIN: OK, this is like this big trend now. I mean, I have not personally. But it sounds delicious.
RAPOPORT: You just split it lengthwise. We have these two like bullet, sort of torpedoes halves. Keep the core intact because the core is what will keep the leaves together. You don't want to trim the cord the end. Brush it a little with olive oil, salt. And you just grill it. Grill it side down until it gets that nice, like, steak-like char. Flip it over a little bit. And then put it on a platter. And you drizzle with like some ranch dressing or some green goddess.
MARTIN: Yes, I was so hoping you were going to say ranch dressing.
RAPOPORT: Because ranch dressing is the best thing ever.
MARTIN: Thank you, editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit.
RAPOPORT: It's scientific fact. Yes, so that's a really cool thing to do.
MARTIN: Let's talk about the ultimate grilled dish. Greg Collinsworth (ph) of San Diego, here we go.
GREG COLLINSWORTH: I really want to know the best way to make ribs. Should I do them in the oven? Should I grill them from beginning to end? And when do I add the chips for smoking?
RAPOPORT: OK, I love making ribs. And we have a recipe on BonAppetit.com called BA's best ribs - maybe best ever ribs even.
RAPOPORT: This is what I do. You don't need smoking chips. If you want to smoke it for eight hours, God bless you. That's your thing. If you have a big green egg, you already know what to do.
MARTIN: The green egg, yeah.
RAPOPORT: For us regular hacks at home, take a rack of ribs. Season it with the dry rub, which is usually some combination of salt, sugar, pepper. And then it could be cayenne. It could be chili powder, etc., to hop it up. Rub it really good. Put a couple racks in. Wrap them in foil, OK? You're putting that in an oven at like 280, 300 for about three hours. So at that point, it should be nice and kind of tender. You can feel it. Take it out. There's all sorts of beautiful drippings in there. You pour that in a pot. You have some store-bought barbecue sauce. You mix it up. You simmer a little bit. And you can do this pretty far ahead of time.
If you want the ribs to cool completely, you can do them in the morning for your party in the afternoon. That's great. It also actually helps because the ribs firm up a little bit as they cool down. So they're easier to handle. And then you just go out to the grill. And you want like medium heat. You put those on the grill, bone side down. You're shellacking the top, with your brush, all your drippings and your sauce. You flip them over. You shellack the back. You flip them over again. Maybe you do some more lacquering.
The meat has already been cooked because it's been in the oven. It's already super tender. So when it's on the grill, it's just getting crispy and lacquered and sweet and spicy. You take them off. You go to a cutting board. You whack them up. You got a big pile of ribs. And I guarantee you. You will be the most popular guy or gal in town all summer.
MARTIN: Oh, my God. That sounds delicious. So my final question to you is more of an admission than anything else. So when I lived in Manhattan, clearly you can't just like pop your little, smoky, charcoal grill on your balcony.
RAPOPORT: You can, but you'd have some angry neighbors.
MARTIN: Right, exactly. So I would sometimes maybe buy liquid smoke, or some derivative thereof, and try to concoct some kind of grilled experience sans grill. Where do you come down on liquid smoke?
RAPOPORT: Just no. Better idea - buy a 12 pack of beer. Fill it up with ice - I mean, in a cooler. Pretend you're outside. And then get a cast-iron skillet really, really hot on your stove. And, like, grill a beautiful rib-eye or burgers. Fake smoke does not help you at all - sorry.
MARTIN: All right. It's all right. I think beer in the cooler and a cast-iron skillet sounds pretty good too. Adam Rappaport, he is editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit magazine. Adam, thanks so much.
RAPOPORT: Thank you, Rachel.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK SONG "SUMMERTIME")
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