Outdoor kitchen secrets and shortcuts for a great grilling season

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Crack open an outdoor living magazine and you’ll see spreads of beautiful backyards, designed in harmony with nature and dotted with rambling garden paths leading to decorative pergolas.  Flowering annuals and grape vines perfectly shade breathtaking outdoor living patios.

Lovely, for sure. But as the phrase goes “home is where the hearth is.” It isn’t “home is where curb appeal leads the eye to the wonderful retaining wall and private outdoor living room beyond.”

And the hearth in any outdoor kitchen is the grill. This is the Grand Central Station of your whole backyard space. Like any kitchen, your outdoor catering structure and system has its own unique elements that make it yours. Perhaps you have special grilling tools like pizza stones or fish presses that are essential to your cooking process. Perhaps you have certain tricks of the trade that ensure your steaks to be the neighborhood’s – or the state’s – best. Whatever your secrets are, they are meant to get the most delicious food made with the most efficient effort.

EP Henry has cobbled together 4 of our own outdoor grilling secrets to share. We hope they help make your meals seem like they took twice the effort.

1) The Clean Grill Controversy. There seem to be two camps about how often an outdoor chef should clean the grill rack. One camp deeply cleans the grill rack only about once a season. The idea is that the flavor on the grate will build up over time and transfer to the food. The other camp keeps a meticulously clean grill rack and instead adds flavored smoked wood chips to the fire. Different tastes can be applied to different meals. This seems to be the preferred method of celebrity grillers.

2) Marinating is the key. There’s no getting around this rule: Good food takes time. 24 hours of time in some cases. Marinating meats and poultry at least a day in advance is the secret to great grilled meals. Find a marinating sauce you like and plan ahead. It’s worth it.

3) Too Many Tools? Having too many grilling accessories may be a problem for some. The secret is to find the few that you use repeatedly and store away the rest. Always keep an eye out for the latest inventions, though, because you never know what may save you time and energy. For example, grill gloves are a new fantastic addition that allows you to directly handle food like potatoes and corn. Evaluate your grilling habits. Use only what helps your outdoor cooking process.

4) Some food can be “helped along” in the microwave. Speaking of potatoes and corn, the microwave comes in handy when getting these foods ready for outdoor cooking. Putting corn in the microwave is part of a quick “de-silking” method. Baked potatoes can start baking in the microwave and finished up on the grill.

Shortcuts like these allow you to get away from the hot grill faster and under that dazzling old world pergola, dining al fresco and sipping aperitifs with your guests. Cheers!