LIVING

Pros say basic tools and accessories all that are needed for grilling success

06/03/2015 12:43 EDT | Updated 06/03/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Those who crave every new gadget or tool in hopes it will improve their grilling game might do just as well to stick with the tried-and-true.

Better yet, eschew the fancy devices in favour of learning how your grill works and practising to make food flavourful.

"I keep things very basic. I have every accessory under the sun," says chef Ted Reader, who caters, teaches in the food and technology program at Niagara College and develops products for grocery and restaurant chains.

"But for me a simple short pair of tongs, a thermometer and a spatula, and really that's all I need. I believe if you can just cook it and make it delicious that's the easiest way."

While it's important to know the roasting times that correspond to the weight of beef, chicken or pork, experts say a thermometer is key to determine internal temperature for doneness and safety.

"It's the No. 1 tool in any kitchen," says Naz Cavallaro, resident chef for the Canadian grill maker Broil King.

Check batteries or test occasionally to make sure the thermometer is reading correctly. Insert the probe into a pot of boiling water. It should read 100 C (212 F).

Other go-to items for Reader are a sharp chef's knife, a cutting board and a lighter if using charcoal.

Reader, who has more than 50 grills in his Toronto backyard, also likes to use an injection syringe to boost flavour and juiciness on the inside of food.

Cavallaro points to a rotisserie and side burners as great features.

The rotisserie is a form of indirect cooking.

"The proteins will start opening up and the juices will start flowing out and the whole concept is it rotates, using its own juices to baste it and you're cooking those flavours back on with the rear burner," explains Cavallaro.

"If you have the bottom burners on it would drip and cause flare-up. It's not about smoke. It's about self-basting and cooking that flavour back on there."

Use a side burner for sauteing mushrooms and onions, deep-frying, boiling water for pasta and heating soups.

Sauce should be heated and applied during the last five per cent of cooking time.

"It will take less time to get it from hot to crust rather than going from cold to warm to hot to crust" and prevent food being overcooked, notes Cavallaro.

A griddle placed on the side burner or grill provides a flat cooking surface.

"It's great to have the hash marks on food.... But if you notice some of the best places, whether it be steaks or burgers, they use flat tops because when you flip the food over the entire surface of that protein is caramelized," says Cavallaro. "You're going to get a lot more flavour when you get more browning."

There are various apps available, but Cavallaro advises to treat them as guidelines since all grills perform differently.

Reader refuses to rely on electronics.

"There's nothing better than firing up a grill and learning it and having that hands-on approach to it. And if you're smoking for a long period of time it's great that you can go and do other things, but I believe in being by your grill and smoker and doing the work. Wait till it's done. Crack yourself a beer and relax, man.

"What do you need to check all those emails for and your app this and your app that? It's ridiculous. Go in your backyard, throw the phone in the lake and call it a weekend."

Follow @lois_abraham on Twitter.

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