Summer is just around the corner, and it is officially time to dust off the patio and fire up the grill! If you or your friends are looking to rent apartments in Chicago, Magellan Development’s Lakeshore East not only offers open-style kitchens perfect for entertaining, but it also permits residents to grill on their personal balconies or access the building’s grills located on the Club Floors of each property. Of course, throwing the perfect BBQ does require some finesse; but not to worry – whether you’re grilling a romantic dinner for two or a party for the whole building, these tips will be sure to hone your skills and make you a master of the grill.
Here are some great tips for hosting the perfect summer cookout
Clean your grill
No matter what type of grill you use, a clean grill helps prevent food from sticking to the surface. Before cooking, you should let the grill heat up for about 5 minutes, allowing any food residue from previous use to fall right off with only a little pressure from your stiff grill brush. Afterwards, you can dip a wadded paper towel into some vegetable oil, and using a pair of long spring-loaded tongs, wipe the grill gate with the oiled paper towel. Not only is pre-cleaning the grill a sanitary gesture for your guests, but it also makes post-cookout clean up a breeze!
Experiment with a wide variety of foods
Aside from the fact that not everyone eats meat, it’s extremely fun and exciting for your guests to be surprised and delighted with an array of flavors and foods. Quick tip: If you do have vegetarian guests, make sure you ask them if they can eat food that has been cooked on the same surface as meat and keep an area of the grill free from possible cross-contamination. Try utilizing a grill basket for some fresh grilled veggies or incorporate shish kebobs to your menu for an alternative to burgers and hot dogs. Another great cookout staple that can be done on the grill is corn on the cob; try experimenting with different techniques including marinades and grilling with the husk on. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can even indulge in a little grilled dessert. Peaches and nectarines are perfect for grilling. Simply choose a fruit that feels slightly under-ripe, slice in half, and grill with the cut-side down until soft. Top your warm fruit with a little ice cream or ricotta cheese mixed with sugar and prepare to charm your guest.
Prepare the night before
Do you ever wonder what makes that one potato salad better than all the rest? Overnight preparation – something that profits both you and your guests! Many cookout side dishes, such as pasta and potato salads, benefit from sitting overnight since the flavors have more time to develop and blend. Save some time and enhance the bold flavors of your dishes by preparing them the night before and storing in the fridge. You can also marinate your meat overnight, allowing all the juices and spices to thoroughly soak in. If you know the day of your cookout is going to be busy, you can even prepare further by slicing up your burger toppings, like tomatoes and onions.
Splash into some Sangria
The perfect summer-time beverage, Sangria not only tastes fantastic, but it can add a little color and style to your table. Dice up some apples, oranges, limes and berries and add them to a few bottles of light, fruit-forward red wine (like a Spanish Rioja). If you prefer white wines, you can add melons and grapes to a nice un-oaked Chardonnay for a different spin on this Spanish classic. Let the Sangria sit overnight to soak up the citrus, and right before serving, add a splash of carbonated soda to each glass or right in the pitcher.
Keep food out of the sun
Remember that most cookout staples are perishable, so leaving them in direct sunlight, even at room temperature, can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. If you’re hosting a party outside, try to keep the food buffet-style inside on the counter or kitchen table and allow your guests to take individual plates outside in order to preserve the freshness of your food.
Keep insects at bay
Allow your guests to focus on the food, fun and friends instead of pesky bugs, by purchasing non-toxic candles containing citronella oil. If you want to add a little flare to the evening, look for candleholders in the form of tiki torches instead of simply placing the candles on your patio. Aside from your guests, you also want to protect your food from unwanted bugs. Try to keep dishes covered with foil or plastic as much as possible, and store things in the refrigerator while they aren’t being used.
Take a break
While you’re whole party is focused on your guests, try to take a little time for yourself as well. You’ve spent hours preparing for this event, and too often the night ends before you realize you haven’t had the chance to enjoy the company of your friends or taste your delicious food! Furthermore, standing in front of a hot grill all day can be grueling, so pass the tongs off for a bit, pour yourself a glass of that delicious sangria and enjoy the beautiful Chicago summer evening.
Here are some tips on how to grill your meats and vegetables to perfection
- Fire up the grill in advance: Charcoal needs time to become red hot, with a thing white ash coating. On the other hand, gas grills also need preheating time, up to 15 minutes with the burners on high and the lid down. If you start cooking with a grill that isn’t properly heated, the food will cook unevenly and your timing will be skewed, potentially causing you to burn or undercook your food.
- Use proper tools: Using the proper tools makes grilling easy, but more importantly it also creates a safer environment for the grill master. Make sure you have a checklist of equipment and set all your pieces out in an easily accessible place prior to firing up the grill. Proper tools include, oven mitts, tongs, basting brushes, meat thermometers, grill baskets, cleaning brush, etc.
- Allow food to come to room temperature prior to grilling: Allowing your food to come to room temperature before cooking on the grill is a great tip to enhance the flavors of your meal. Be careful not to let your food sit unrefrigerated for more than 20-30 minutes in order to avoid contamination.
- Timing is everything: The best way to perfect your timing is to practice. Each type of food cooks differently and requires a different amount of attention. If you’re planning a BBQ party, start honing your skills and techniques in advance by grilling some meals for yourself. It’s extremely important to know once your food comes off the grill, it’s ready to eat. Try to prepare all your side dishes ahead of time, and wait until the majority of your guests arrive to begin grilling in order to ensure the food can be consumed at its best time. Encouraging your guests to eat as the food comes off the grill will give them a whole new experience and appreciation for cookouts.
- Marinades and rubs: Marinating meats and vegetables adds flavor and tenderizes food. Use an acid-based marinade that contains vinegar, lemon juice or other citrus juices. If you want to use your marinade as a sauce afterwards, be sure to cook it completely in a saucepan to avoid cross-contamination.
- Cut the fat: Remove as much fat as possible before cooking, and to make things a little easier try using lean grounds of hamburger or other ground meats.
- Sugar-based sauces: This tip is great if you find your dishes are consistently burning. Most traditional BBQ sauces contain sugar, corn syrup or tomato sauces, all of which burn very quickly. If you apply these sugar-based sauces at the beginning of your process, you are more likely to burn the meat. Try waiting until the very end to add the sauce, keeping it on the grill for only a few moments, and you will you find your dishes to be cooked to perfection. If you plan on using sauces, make sure you lightly coat the grill with oil before heating to prevent sticking.
- Grilling vegetables: Grilled vegetables are a perfect way to appeal to a large variety of tastes and add a little extra sass to your meal. A lot of veggies do well on the grill, but some truly stand out, including asparagus, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers and onions. If you don’t marinade the vegetables, be sure to brush them lightly with cooking oil to ensure a non-stick approach. The grill will bring out a whole new flavor and texture to your vegetables, so keep the spicing simple by sprinkling your dish with a few fresh herbs.