South Africans love a good braai. Why? Well, it’s part of our heritage. But in the world of small gardens and apartment balconies the gas grill – yes, like the one Americans use – is becoming quite popular.
So in celebration of the non-braai from the north, here’s how you can grill almost any food.
Choosing a gas grill
Unlike the budget braai from your local supermarket, a gas grill is a luxury appliance. Prices vary, but a small two or three burner grill cost around R3 000. Locally Webers are the more cost-effective solution, especially if you’re looking at purchasing your first gas grill on a budget.
Prepare your space
It helps to have a side table to prep and plate your food as you place it on the grill. Many gas grills include a small side table and possibly even an extra burner to cook food in a pan or pot, alongside your grilled food.
Make sure you have a clear area to set down a plate of food, and hold any accessories you’ll need like a brush, tongs, and thermometer. A grill (or braai) light is also helpful when cooking after dark.
Select a meal
There are three basic settings to consider when grilling food. The first is whether you will be using direct or indirect heat, second is how hot the grill should be, and third is how long you should cook your food. You can also choose to grill with the lid on or off which regulates the temperature.
Just as you would preheat your oven, always preheat your grill before cooking. No matter what temperature you will be cooking at, it’s best to preheat your grill on high and then turn it down to whatever setting you need to grill at.
Spray a thin layer of cooking oil on your grill as it’s heating up to prevent food from sticking.
Steak, chops, hamburger patties, and sausages are the most popular foods to grill. In general all beef products should be cooked over direct heat and with the grill on the high setting. The heat can be turned down slightly for processed meats and thin cut steaks.
Steaks and hamburger patties cooked to medium are typically finished in less than 10 minutes. So don’t wander off or get distracted or you can easily overcook your food. Steak in particular needs time to “rest” after you’ve removed it from the grill. So allow it to sit covered in foil for about five minutes before cutting into it.
As with a braai, grilling chicken takes a bit more time and should be done at a medium-heat setting. Chicken can easily dry out on a grill, so it’s best to cook it slowly and apply a marinade or sauce to keep it moist. Indirect heat works best for bone-in chicken and give it at least 30-40 minutes to cook.
Alternatively, you could precook the chicken which could cut grilling time in half.
Grilling pork is similar to beef, use direct heat but turn down the temperature to medium-heat. Pork chops can cook quickly and depending on the thickness only require 2 – 4 minutes per side before they’re done.
Fish cooks great on the grill and won’t leave your kitchen with a funky smell. Use direct medium to medium-high heat and plenty of cooking oil to prevent fish from sticking. Fish and seafood also does well cooked in foil with butter and seasonings, which prevents the fish from sticking to the grill.
Shellfish can be grilled in under 8 minutes, and large shrimp make for a quick and tasty meal on any sized grill.
With a gas grill you can grill asparagus, eggplant, and zucchini, right next to your steak or chicken, just make sure you have the heat set to medium and be prepared to quickly remove your veggies as they can overcook quickly. Olive oil and salt and pepper are the only seasonings you need to prep your veggies.
Corn is great on the grill but be patient as it can take about 30 minutes for corn in the husk to cook on the grill. Removing the husk lessens the cooking time, but some think that drys it out.
Gas grill cleanup
Proper cleanup is the key to your next successful grilling session. Use a wire brush immediately after cooking to remove excess oil and food particles. Keeping the grill grates clean prevents the buildup of bacteria, discourages bugs and pests from trying to check out your grill, and prevents carbon buildup which can eventually alter the performance of your grill.
Use a grill cover when not in use, which will protect it from the elements and prolong it’s life.
This article is adapted from the original published by Popular Mechanics USA.