FOOD: Let’s Take It Outside

Grilled steak & vegetablesCall me old-fashioned, but there are times and places when I love traditional gender roles (and as a woman, I reserve the right to pick and choose which ones). The outdoor grill is one such place. I want no part of leaping flames and a face full of billowing smoke. I leave that honored task to the guys. They seem to love it, so why rob them of that glory? Besides, when someone else offers to take over the dinner duties, you don’t exactly complain. You sit in your patio lounge chair a little longer, savor the aroma of the grill from afar and whip up some side dishes at the last minute. It’s a system that works. But today’s user-friendly grills and clever accessories are making it harder than ever to resist getting in on the action.

If you’ve had the same hand-me-down grill for several years, you’re in for some surprises when shopping for a new one. While you’ve been busy trying not to singe your arms over crude flames or burn half of the steaks, technology has ignited a whole new world in outdoor cooking. These grills are nicer than your kitchen appliances and are loaded with convenient options that give you the ease and versatility to create entire meals outdoors.

As owner Scott Grigsby of Everything Barbeque in OKC notes, “Foods ranging from meatloaf, stuffed pork and beef tenderloin, to all kinds of seafood and desserts are being prepared outdoors now.” As outdoor entertaining areas continue to become more sophisticated, homeowners consider their outdoor appliances a key investment. The biggest trend seen by Scott is incorporating both gas and charcoal grill options into outdoor kitchens. “The most common charcoal grill, due to its versatility, is the Big Green Egg. It is the nation’s leading ceramic charcoal cooker. It bakes pizzas with results like true brick oven fired pizzas and also delivers slow and low smoking for the holiday turkey, brisket, ribs and chicken.”

One trendy grilling food right now is the tri-tip, a flavorful sirloin cut, according to Ben Hoza, General Manager at The Meat House in Edmond. “It’s great with an herbed pesto and this time of year is ideal for using fresh herbs.” Ben says grilling is a year-round activity and people want fresh, easy options. The steak and chicken kebabs at this specialty butcher and gourmet grocer are marinated with the house marinade and are ready to take home and grill.

“Grilling is one of the most popular ways to entertain at home,” says Gina Hollingsworth, owner of Southern Okie Gourmet Spreads. “My husband and I entertain frequently and just recently, we grilled salmon on cedar planks with, of course, one of my products: Southern Okie Gourmet Apple Spread. The apple spread created a perfect glaze for the salmon with the cedar giving it a sweet-smoky flavor. Our guests absolutely loved it.”

Another hot advancement that has revolutionized barbecuing is the pellet grill. Finally, seasoned grillers can forget the ‘charcoal-versus-gas’ debate because the pellet grill delivers extraordinary flavor, convenience and versatile cooking in one genius contraption. Jokingly referred to as “the lazy man’s grill” by Rick, owner of Rick’s House of Fire in OKC, the pellet grill is fueled by all-natural compressed wood pellets that allow you to grill, smoke, bake, braise, roast or barbeque low and slow. “You can put all your items on the grill and head off to the lake to swim and boat for hours,” Rick says. Flavored pellets like hickory, mesquite, maple, oak, cherry and apple offer endless ways to punch up the taste of favorite foods.

Handy accessories like griddles, turkey fryers, rotisserie cookers, pizza ovens, warming racks, burners for side dishes, meat probes with digital thermometers and halogen grill lights are transforming backyard barbeques into gourmet gatherings. These might just be worth getting out of my comfy lounge chair to check out the action!

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