Most cooks, probably like you, own their summertime grilling repertoire. It's foolproof, so it never varies. You know what works and see no reason to stray from the tried-and-true.
But change can be good, because change doesn't have to be radical. Maybe, by just tweaking your treatments a bit, you can boost your already amazing skill at the grill.
We asked an expert on the hot-weather barbecue front what he does to ramp up his outdoor cooking, and Gerard Thompson, executive chef at Rough Creek Lodge in Glen Rose, happily shared some of his secrets. Here are some of his favorites that you can make at home this summer when cooking meat, game and fish on your grill.
If you're up for a good supper, head down to eat Thompson's cooking at Rough Creek Lodge, www.roughcreek.com.
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Chef Gerard's molasses bourbon soak
Brining or soaking is a great way to improve the flavor, texture and moisture content of lean cuts of meat. This is achieved by soaking the meat in a moderately salty solution for a few hours to a few days. "Flavor brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking -- if you happen to overcook the meat a little, it will still be moist," Thompson says. To determine the brining time needed, use the ratio one hour of brining per 1 pound of meat.
6 cups water
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 cup kosher salt
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 chipotle chile
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
4 garlic cloves
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 bay leaf
1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pot and cook over low heat, stirring to combine and dissolve the salt. After about 5 minutes, when salt has completely dissolved, remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. Use mixture to brine chicken, pork, pork belly, steaks, bison and venison before grilling. Arrange meat in a nonmetal deep dish and cover with brine. Cover and chill during brining time. When ready to grill, rinse brine off the meat and pat dry. Discard the brining liquid.
Nutritional analysis per tablespoon: 8 calories, trace fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, trace protein, no cholesterol, 177 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 1 percent of calories from fat.
Gerard's Rough Creek rub
Using a rub on your chicken, pork or beef before grilling ensures a greater depth of flavor. This one is perfect for chicken quarters, thick pork chops and strips or T-bones. Thompson says that if you're into smoking brisket or pork shoulder, try adding 1/2 cup ground espresso into the rub mixture before patting onto the meat.
1 cup ground ancho chile (ancho chile powder)
1/8 cup freshly toasted cumin, ground
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/8 cup ground ginger
1/8 cup freshly ground coriander
1/8 cup freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Mix all ingredients and store in an air-tight container. When ready to use, use paper towels to pat your beef, poultry or pork dry. With your hands, pat the rub into the meat you'll be grilling. Grill over a hardwood fire and enjoy.
Nutritional analysis per tablespoon: 18 calories, trace fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 850 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 34 percent of calories from fat.
Chef Gerard's red chile honey barbecue sauce
Thompson likes to brush this on any meat -- beef, bison or pork - while grilling, and he says it works well when grilling salmon and shrimp, too.
6 large dried ancho chile peppers, seeds and stems removed
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
Salt to taste
1. Soak chiles in a nonmetal bowl filled with enough hot water to cover. When soft (about 30 minutes) remove from water and place in blender, reserving water.
2. Add remaining ingredients to blender with 1 cup of the reserved water. Blend until smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add more water, a little at a time, and blend until smooth.
Nutritional analysis per tablespoon: 32 calories, trace fat, 7 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, trace cholesterol, 34 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 9 percent of calories from fat.