Time to stock up on charcoal or propane, because it’s grilling season again. Funny how we start to sweat at the thought of standing over a hot stove or opening a toasty oven, but cooking on a flaming grill outside in the sun is somehow appealing. Either way, we’re happy any time our readers are excited about cooking.
While you can plop your food directly on the grate of your grill, we’ll discuss why you ought to consider using outdoor cookware instead. Not only will it help you get better grilling results, the cookware we recommend can be used inside and out -- on the stove, in the oven, and on the grill.
Outdoor Cookware: Grates Aren’t Always Great
There’s nothing wrong with cooking directly on the grill grate, but it’s not necessarily optimal. First, grill grates get really dirty, and not all grill owners are careful about cleaning and seasoning them. Not only do dirty grill grates make it difficult to turn and remove food, they leave unappetizing remnants of old, charred food on your freshly grilled meal.
While the grate doesn’t need to be pristine, it’s a good idea to scrub and oil it each time you cook. Serious Eats recommends pre-heating your grill for several minutes, then using a grill brush to remove leftover bits. Before you put anything on the grill, whether it’s food or a pan, dip a paper towel in oil and use tongs to rub the oil onto the grate.
If you’ve ever tried to grill skewers or other small, narrow items directly on the grill grate, you know how tricky it can be. No matter how clean your grate may be, this is another example of why outdoor cookware can be a smart addition to your kitchen. You can be sure your veggies will make it to your plate, instead of getting lost in the fire.
Outdoor Cookware: Options to Consider
Many cookware materials and items may or may not look like they belong on the grill. Always double check before assuming cookware is grill-safe.
Cast iron is a great option for grilling. While you may not want to use your beautiful enameled cast iron over a campfire, it should be fine on a backyard grill. Use care when setting it on the grill and moving it around. Le Creuset offers a wide range of grill-safe cookware, but one piece in particular that’s meant especially for the grill is the Skinny Griddle. It has a wide surface, low edges, and oversized cut-out handles to make it easy to transfer from the kitchen to the grill and back. Pre-heat it on the grill grate, and then place meat, seafood, and vegetables on the sizzling hot surface to cook.
You might be surprised by how well ceramic cookware performs on the grill. Emile Henry offers a line of BBQ Ceramic items that are designed especially for outdoor use. Choose from specialty items like pizza stones, kabob stones, and chicken roasters, along with standard items like Dutch ovens and grilling stones. They’re all made from Burgundy clay that withstands temperatures over 900ºF while gently diffusing heat to sear without scorching.
Outdoor Cookware: What to Cook
As you likely gathered from some of the cookware items mentioned above, a few top favorite dishes for the grill include pizza, kabobs, and chicken. But we were surprised to find multiple articles advocating for cooking burgers and searing steaks on the grill, with the help of a cast iron skillet.
One of the primary reasons offered for using a skillet was to prevent fat from dripping onto the coals and causing flare-ups. Those bursts of flame may look cool, but they can also scorch your food. Charred bits of meat don’t taste good, and the excess heat combined with the loss of fat can dry out your burgers. Keeping the fat contained in the skillet means a juicier burger that’s cooked the way you like it.
Likewise, cooking a steak in a skillet on the grill helps achieve that savory exterior crust. You get the best of both worlds -- the smoky flavor of the grill combined with that sought-after sear. Plus, you can add a chunk of butter to your skillet to amp up the saucy richness of your perfectly cooked steak.
Cast iron skillets have also been hailed for their ability to keep veggies out of the fire, while ensuring they turn out crisp yet tender. While we love threading larger vegetables onto skewers, try adding asparagus, snap peas, string beans, and grape tomatoes to a well-seasoned skillet over the coals.
Whether you stick to cooking some foods on your grill grate or transition to using outdoor cookware for all of your grilling needs, we hope you’ll get outside and turn up the heat.