If you haven't already hauled the grill out of the garage (and judging by the smoke in my neighbourhood last weekend, most of you already have), the long weekend is the time to do it.
There are a few things to get ready, so let's get right to it, starting with maintenance, courtesy of Weber.
Grills should be cleaned before each use. Burn off any residue by turning the grill on high, then brush the cooking grates with a stiff wire grill brush.
While cleaning the grill, inspect it carefully and take stock of any rusted or corroded pieces that need replacing. Go to the manufacturer's website to order parts. Keep your grill protected from the elements by investing in a weather resistant cover. Even if you store it in the garage, it will stay cleaner if it's covered. Moving the car in and out of the garage stirs up dirt and exhaust -- you should keep it off your grill.
After turning off the gas, and when the grill is cold:
1. Clear the burner tubes of any blockages that will slow the gas flow or prevent ignition. To clean tubes, brush the portholes with a stainless steel wire brush in an up and down motion.
Do not brush lengthwise across the ports, as this will only push debris from one hole to another.
2. Clean the heat distribution bars. Simply turn your grill on high and allow the residue to burn off (should have burned off when turned on as above). As needed, brush the bars with a grill brush or scrape with a putty knife. Then wipe with a rag and warm soapy water.
3. Clean the warming racks and grill baskets with a soapy, fine steel wool pad. Rub the racks gently and then rinse thoroughly.
4. Carefully scrape the inside of the grill with a putty knife, and push the residue through the bottom hole. Remove the cool bottom tray from under the grill and place over a trash can. To deep clean the tray, use warm, soapy water and a fine steel wool pad. Check the catch pan liner monthly and replace when needed.
5. Clean grease drippings on exterior surfaces by using mild, soapy water. Never use an abrasive, lemon-based or oven cleaner, as it can scratch the stainless steel or remove the paint finish. If you have a stainless steel finish, use an environmentally-friendly stainless steel cleaner and a soft cloth to give it a nice shine and remove fingerprints. For porcelain enamel, use a cloth and warm soapy water. For more information on grill care go to www.weber.com.
Now that your grill is clean, you'll need some ideas for your menu. Out this spring is Weber's Time to Grill (Weber-Stephen Products LLC and Sunset Books, $30) by California-based Jamie Purviance (www.realgrilling.com). Purviance is a James Beard nominee and Kansas City Barbecue Society certified judge who has written several cookbooks and made numerous television appearances.
I quite like Time to Grill. It's big, it's bold, colourful and well-organized with easy-to-follow instructions. It's also got a nifty little high-tech bonus. Using your mobile technology (see below for website), you can access grocery lists for every recipe in the book, start a grilling timer and access grilling guides. (Think of how smart you'll look at the next barbecue you attend -- offering to look up grilling info to help your flustered host.)
I've chosen two dishes that will make a great long weekend meal for your family. The chicken is cooked in pieces, which will cut your cooking time. The asparagus and tomato salad is hearty enough you won't need potatoes or any other side.
Access the grocery list for these recipes on your mobile device at timetogrill.mobi.
Easy Rosemary Roasted Chicken
You might want to start this in the morning so it has time to marinate before grilling.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Marinating time: up to 4 hours
Grilling Time: 30 to 50 minutes
30 ml (2 tbsp) extra-virgin olive oil
15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard
15 ml (1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) cider vinegar
15 ml (1 tbsp) finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 ml (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
1 ml (1/4 tsp) ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, about 2 kg (4 lbs), giblets and any excess fat removed (if you buy a chicken that has already been cut up and the pieces are smaller, adapt your times accordingly)
1. In a small bowl whisk all of the marinade ingredients.
2. Cut the chicken into six pieces: two breast halves, two whole legs (thigh and drumstick), and two wings (remove and discard the wing tips). Brush each chicken piece on both sides with the marinade. If you have time, marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for as long as 4 hours. If not, you can roast the chicken right away.
3. Prepare the grill for direct and indirect cooking over medium heat (350 to 450F).
4. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chicken pieces, skin side down, over indirect medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until fully cooked, turning once or twice. The breasts and wing pieces will take 30 to 40 minutes and the whole legs will take 40 to 50 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of grilling time, move the chicken over direct medium heat and cook until well browned all over, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Asparagus and Tomato Salad with Feta
Serves: 4 - 6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Grilling time: 6 to 8 minutes
Special equipment: perforated grill pan
15 ml (1 tbsp) Dijon mustard
30 ml (2 tbsp) champagne vinegar
1 ml (1/4 tsp) kosher salt
0.5 ml (1/8 tsp) ground black pepper
125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
750 g (11/2 lbs) asparagus
500 ml (1 pint) cherry tomatoes
3 slices country-style white bread, about 85 g (3 oz) total, cut into 1.25 cm (1/2 inch) cubes -- You should have about 500 ml (2 cups).
125 ml (1/2 cup) crumbled feta cheese
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh chives
1. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat 180 to 230C (350 to 450F) and preheat the grill pan.
2. In a small bowl whisk the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle and whisk in the oil until it is emulsified.
3. Remove and discard the tough bottom of each asparagus spear by grasping at each end and bending it gently until it snaps at its natural point of tenderness, usually about two-thirds of the way down the spear.
4. Spread the asparagus on a large plate. Drizzle with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the vinaigrette and turn the spears until they are evenly coated. In a medium bowl toss the tomatoes and bread cubes with 30 ml (2 tbsp) of the vinaigrette.
5. Brush the cooking grates clean. Spread the tomatoes and bread cubes in a single layer on the grill pan and lay the asparagus on the cooking grate. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the asparagus is tender, the tomatoes begin to soften, and the bread cubes are toasted, turning often. The asparagus will take 6 to 8 minutes and the tomatoes and bread cubes will take 2 to 4 minutes.
6. Arrange the asparagus on a platter and top with the tomatoes, croutons, feta, and chives. Serve with the remaining vinaigrette.
The heat is on
Before you light the fire, here are some more time-savers:
1. Read the whole recipe before you start.
2. Do your food prep while you pre-heat the grill.
3. Don't overcrowd your grill.
4. Keep the lid closed as much as possible.
5. Brush the cooking grates clean while they're hot, either after the preheat or after you are done cooking.