published Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Side Orders: Grilling is healthier, plus a lot more fun

With the gateway to grilling season fully open, the air around Chattanooga is smelling a little more tempting than usual. You know what I mean.

When your neighbor lights his grill and the meat starts smoking, you suddenly want to follow your nose and go say "Hi," hoping for a taste of whatever's cooking. There's really no better smell come summer.

"The aroma of smoke is similar to the smell of grilled onions," says cookbook author and grilling expert Kent Whitaker of Chattanooga. "When people smell them, it's like walking into a movie and smelling popcorn. You just have to have a bite."

According to the 24th annual Weber GrillWatch Survey, 61 percent of grillers report they have changed their grilling style in the past year. The No. 1 change is grilling more vegetables at 30 percent, followed by 25 percent who report they are grilling more to be healthier, and 23 percent opting for leaner meats and poultry when grilling.

In addition, nearly 73 percent of grillers agree that grilling is a way to eat healthier, and 82 percent of respondents say that grilling is a way to have fun -- and grillers know how to have a good time.

If you're new to grilling, or just need a refresher course, Whitaker says the best advice he can give is not to rush things. "Half the fun of grilling is enjoying time with family and friends," he says.

What, you may wonder, is the difference between grilling and barbecuing? Many times the words are used interchangeably.

"Grilling is not barbecue," Whitaker says. "Anyone can grill and anyone can barbecue. It's just nice to know the difference. It's like knowing the difference between baking and broiling. Think of high-heat cooking for grilling and slow-heat cooking for barbecue."

Also, he adds, grilling typically uses the direct heat method with the meat placed right over the coals. Barbecuing, or smoking, is usually done over indirect heat so the meat cooks slowly.

Here's one of his new favorite recipes, one that he and wife, Ally, developed for his upcoming cookbook due out this summer, "South Carolina Hometown Cookbook." The burgers are perfectly simple and delicious and will make a tasty addition to your weekend gatherings around the grill.

Crumbled Blue Cheese Pretzel Burgers

1 pound lean ground chuck

1/2-1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/2 cup fine crushed pretzels

1-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 egg (optional)

Toppings of your choice

4 hamburger buns

Combine all of the ingredients and add an egg if the mixture is too dry. The egg acts as a binding agent. Form into patties and grill. Top with your favorite toppings and serve on your favorite bun.


New on the market ... and just in time for grilling season. If you're one of many who prefer their steaks or chicken to marinate for hours before grilling, but don't think to marinate them till it's a little too late, Jaccard Corp., a company known for its kitchen gadgets and appliances for homes and restaurants, has a new item that may be of interest.

The Speedy Plus Vacuum Marinator instantly marinates the meat, so there's no waiting for hours for the flavor to make its way into the meat. The marinating is done in a handy case that allows you to take it directly from the kitchen to the grill so mess, if there is any, is kept to a minimum, and the chance of cross-contamination is drastically reduced. I've never seen anything like this, and it's just $30.

So, does it work? I had to get one and check it out. According to the packaging, meat can be marinated in just five minutes. So, after marinating it in the Speedy Plus for exactly five minutes, I put it on my indoor grill. I didn't notice too much flavor.

I tried it again the next night. After pounding my boneless chicken breasts and putting them in the Speedy Plus Vacuum Marinator, pouring the marinade over top, closing the suitcase-like device, attaching the pump and vacuuming out the air, I lit my charcoal, which took about 30 minutes to get just right. That allowed the marinator to work 25 minutes longer. When I took my first bite of chicken, it tasted as though I'd let it marinate for hours.

Quite an ingenious invention. And you can't go wrong for the price. Check it out at www.jaccard.com.

Here's the marinade I used. It good on steaks, too. I came across it at allrecipes.com and I've found that using low-sodium soy sauce is the best. But if you use regular soy sauce, leave out the salt.

Chicken Marinade

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

3/4 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons dry mustard

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons finely minced fresh parsley

In a medium bowl, mix together oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, wine vinegar and lemon juice. Stir in mustard powder, salt, pepper and parsley. Use to marinate chicken before grilling.

Contact Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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