If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to fire up the braai and make some delicious meals. Grilling is easy, quick, there’s not much to clean up and it’s a fun way to spend time with family and friends. If your grilling experience hasn’t taken you beyond chicken or burgers, maybe this is the time to try something new.
There’s no question that meat and poultry taste great after the braai treatment. The trick is to keep the grill temperature moderate. When the heat’s too high, you run the risk of charring the outside of the meat, but undercooking the inside. To solve the problem, you might be tempted to leave meats over high heat for a long time to make sure they’re cooked all the way through, but that can make them tough and dry.
There are a couple of things you can do to cook foods more evenly. When you arrange the charcoal in your grill, keep it off to one side. That way, you’ll have a hot side of the grill that you can use to start the cooking by searing the meat and sealing in the flavor. Then, move the meat to the cooler side of the grill, cover and continue cooking until done.
Another technique that works well with chicken pieces is to partially precook them in the microwave. Remove the skin, then rub the pieces with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasoning. While your coals are heating up, microwave 4 to 6 pieces at a time on the highest setting for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t want to cook the chicken completely, but just get it heated through so it cooks along the edges. Then, transfer the chicken to your heated grill to finish cooking, and turn the pieces frequently. You’ll reduce your cooking time by about half and your chicken will end up tender and juicy.
Fish is tricky to grill since it tends to flake apart. What works best is to make kabobs with pieces of firm fish like swordfish or tuna, or whole peeled shrimp. You can also grill whole fish or fish filets on a piece of foil or in special fish grilling baskets. Fish cooks quickly, so there’s no need to pre-cook in the microwave.
While the grill is hot, why not take advantage of the heat to cook your side dishes, too? You can grill almost any veggie, but thick slices of eggplant, summer squash and onions are especially good. So are pepper wedges and asparagus spears. Thickly sliced potatoes are great grilled as a side dish on their own, or in a grilled potato salad. Brush veggies and potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or use a bit of vinaigrette salad dressing, place them on the cooler side of the grill where there’s less heat and flip them over frequently until they’re tender.
You can even grill up some dessert. Pineapple, apples, peaches, nectarines and bananas all take well to a little time over the flame and they’re easy to prepare. To prepare, core the pineapple and cut into rings, or cut apples, peaches or nectarines in half, remove cores or pits and leave the skins on. Grill the rings or fruit (cut side down) until the sugars start to caramelize and the fruit is tender. Grilled fruit is delicious on its own, but you can dress it up with a drizzle of citrus juice or a dash of cinnamon.