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Jump to a section:

Preparation: Tips to get started | What gadgets to use | Marinades, rubs and sauces

On the barbecue: Chicken | Alternatives to flattened chicken | Steak | Uses for cooked flank steak | Slow grilled pork spareribs | Moroccan lamb kebabs | Salmon fillets with herb vinaigrette | Vegetables | Vegan burger


Lucy Waverman/The Globe and Mail

Now that summer is coming we can get out of that kitchen grind and grill. Grilling is all about flavour. Not just from the grill itself, but also from the wide variety of marinades, bastes, rubs, sauces, butters and condiments you can make or buy.

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The following recipes are for the grill, but if you don’t have one, the oven broiler or a heavy cast-iron frying pan will work.

A quick tip for indoor grilling: Use a heavy pan and sear the meat, chicken or fish on top of the stove then blast in a 450 F oven until the right temperature is reached. Sometimes this method is even better than the grill.

The following recipes offer many options for successful barbecuing. Because we are in isolation I have chosen recipes that can be altered, cut in half or doubled for the widest audience. Freely substitute herbs, spices, oils as our pantries vary so much.


Some tips before getting started:

  • Make sure your grill is clean before cooking.
  • Always preheat your grill and grill with the lid down for faster cooking. When the lid is closed, the barbecue acts like an oven as well as a grill, cooking foods more quickly.
  • Always oil the grill or the food before cooking to prevent sticking.
  • Keep an eye on the food in case there are flare-ups from the fat catching fire. Keep a spray bottle of water handy to put out the flames.
  • For food safety, don’t put cooked meat back on the raw meat platter – this is particularly important with chicken. Instead, place raw meat on a tray covered with parchment paper. Once the food is on the grill, toss out the parchment and you have a clean tray underneath.

There are many gadgets for the grill, but these are the ones that I find indispensable:

  • Long-handled tools to make turning the food easier.
  • An excellent brush for cleaning the grates but avoid ones with steel bristles as they can come off and lodge in food. A basting brush, too.
  • A thermometer. Yes, the finger touch works, but a thermometer will never let you down. The best is the Thermapen, available here.

Lucy Waverman

Marinades

Lesser quality meats, tougher steaks like flank or hanger, or less flavourful cuts like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, need a marinade to tenderize or enhance their taste. It can be as simple as a salad dressing or an herbal mixture with a base of mustard or a citrus. For spicier tastes, brush on Korean gochujang, Indian curry paste, or Thai red curry paste mixed with oil. Don’t marinate with sugar-based sauces as the sugar will burn on a hot grill.

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Marinating times vary, but one hour on the counter equals two hours refrigerated. Longer marinating should always be done in the fridge. Bring refrigerated meat to room temperature before cooking.

Rubs

Rubs are another flavour booster. They impart great taste to meats that will cook for either a noticeably short time, or in the case of ribs or brisket, a much longer time. Sprinkle over, making sure the meat is well coated.

There are many good rubs available to buy, but you can make a basic spicy one at home with this recipe. Do not salt meat if you use this. For a sweeter rub, especially for spareribs, add an extra tablespoon of brown sugar.

  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika (use mild for a les spicy rub)
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • Mix and store in a tightly sealed tin.
  • Makes about 3/4 cup.

Sauces

Finishing sauces, often barbecue sauces, are more often sugar-based and are brushed on toward the end of cooking to give added flavour. To enhance store-bought barbecue sauces, which are sometimes too sweet or not spicy enough, try adding one of the following to 1 cup of the sauce:

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 tablespoon chili powder for extra spiciness.
  • Juice and rind of one lemon, for a citrus hit.
  • 1 cup pureed tomatoes and 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar.
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika for a smoky tomato flavour.
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for a garlicky punch.

Barbecue sauce

Makes 1¼ cup barbecue sauce

When you do not have any barbecue sauce this is a quick version.

1 cup ketchup

½ cup rice vinegar,

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

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1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Chopped herbs, if desired

Combine together.

Red pepper tomato sauce

Condiments are always helpful to make an ordinary meal shine. This red pepper sauce can be served with pasta, sausages, pork or shrimp.

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  • 1 cup chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon chili flakes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine roasted red pepper, tomato, garlic and chili flakes in a food processor. Slowly add olive oil while machine is running. Process until smooth. Stir in parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper.


Best chicken on the grill

Serves 4

Flattened, butterflied and spatchcock chicken are all the same thing. The backbone is removed, and the breastbone is split to allow the chicken to sit flat. In this method, I use indirect heat on the grill. The temperature should be about 400 F for the chicken to cook evenly. This marinade is simple, but you could use any one that you particularly like. Add a touch of honey if you like some sweetness. Serve with a green salad and grilled potatoes.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, tarragon or oregano
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon grated garlic
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 3½-lb (1.5- to 2-kg) flattened chicken
  • Preheat grill to high. Turn off middle or side burner to provide indirect heat. Adjust heat so temperature is around 400 F
  • Combine olive oil, rosemary, lemon zest and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Brush olive oil mixture all over chicken and under skin if you can.

Place chicken bone-side down over a turned-off burner. Close lid and cook for 50 to 60 minutes or until chicken juices run clear and skin is crisping. To get grill marks turn skin side down for the last 5 to 10 minutes over direct heat. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Remove to platter. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Cut into 8 pieces. Serve with red pepper sauce (recipe below), aioli, harissa mixed with mayo or anything you might have in jars, such as pesto.


Alternatives to flattened chicken

Grilled chicken thighs

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Chicken thighs grill well. Buy bone-in, skin -on for the best flavour and juiciness. Brush with a marinade and grill the same way as for flattened chicken. They take about 25 minutes depending on size.

Chicken breasts

Chicken breasts tend to dry out on the grill, so be sure to grill them with the bone in. You can always remove it afterward. Boneless skinless breasts are fine if you are using them with fajitas.

Grilled chicken wings with hot sauce

Serves 4

These are tangier than traditional Buffalo wings thanks to the cider vinegar in the sauce. Go easy on the salt when seasoning the chicken, because hot sauce is usually quite salty. Serve these with a cool cucumber salad.

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Dunking sauce

  • ½ cup hot sauce
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Wings

  • 2 lb (1 kg) chicken wings, separated, wing tip discarded
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Preheat grill to medium high.
  • Combine hot sauce, vinegar and melted butter. Remove ¼ cup for basting and reserve the rest.

Toss wings with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place wings on grill, and grill for 3 minutes on each side. Baste with sauce and turn over again. Repeat turning and basting with sauce every 3 minutes or until chicken wings are cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes total depending on the size of the wings. You can throw the wings into the remaining sauce or serve separately for dipping.


Flank steak

Serves 4

We all love flank steak on the grill. When sliced against the grain, the meat is tender and succulent. Leftovers are always welcome; some ideas for what to do with leftovers follow the initial recipe.

  • 1 1½-lb (750 g) flank steak
  • Marinade
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh herbs of choice (I like tarragon)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Spicy mustard butter
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • Pinch chili flakes
  • Salt to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon grated lime zest

Beat butter with mustards, black pepper, chili flakes and salt and lime zest. Spoon onto plastic wrap and roll tightly into a log. Twist ends of plastic wrap to seal log. Refrigerate until solid, about 30 minutes.

Score one side of flank steak. Whisk together mustard, garlic, vinegar, herbs and olive oil. Pour all over steak and marinate for two hours at room temperature or overnight refrigerated.

Preheat grill to high. Season steak with salt and pepper. Grill steak about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on second for rare (125 F on an instant read thermometer). Let steak rest on a carving board for 5 minutes.

Slice steak into thin slices against the grain and serve with rounds of spicy mustard butter. Leftover butter can be frozen for another use.


Alternative uses for your cooked flank steak (or leftovers)

Fajitas

  • Tortillas, either corn or flour
  • Thinly sliced steak
  • Avocado salsa: Store bought or mix 1 avocado, chopped; 1 tomato chopped; jalapeno to taste; 2 green onions; cilantro; lime juice and zest to taste; salt
  • Lime crema: Mix 1/2 cup sour cream, 2 tablespoons lime juice and 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Grated cheese
  • Sunflower sprouts or chopped lettuce

Lettuce wraps

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  • Iceberg or Boston lettuce
  • Thinly sliced steak
  • Thin, cooked rice noodles or rice
  • Slivered green onion
  • Slivered cucumber
  • Spicy Sweet Sauce
  • ½ cup fish sauce
  • 2 tablepsoons sugar
  • 1 tablepsoon lime juice
  • 1 teapsoon grated ginger
  • Chopped chilies or Sriracha to taste
  • Place thinly cut steak on lettuce leaf. Top with noodles, green onion, cucumber. Top with Spicy Sweet Sauce.

Slow grilled pork spareribs

Serves 4

Spice rubs are the way to go for tougher cuts of meat like brisket or short ribs, as well as spareribs. They give flavour and character. Use lots of rub for a spicy taste, less if you prefer a more subtle touch. Store any extra in an airtight jar away from heat and light; it will keep for at least six months. The mop sauce in this recipe keeps the ribs moist throughout the long cooking time. I did a taste test cooking the ribs in the oven first, then finishing on the barbecue. My tasters liked the long slow grilled ribs better. They had more oomph! I opt for back ribs with this dish, as they have more meat than side ribs and more flavour in my opinion.

  • 2 racks pork back ribs

Rub

  • 2 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne or to taste

Mop sauce

  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha
  • ½ cup apple juice

Remove the membrane covering the underside of the bones as that stops the rub from properly absorbing. Using a small sharp knife, work the tip under the thin membrane until you have enough to grasp. Then, using your fingers, peel it back and discard. It is easiest to start in the middle and pull each part away from the bones.

Preheat grill to 250-275 F with one or two burners off to allow indirect heat.

Combine salt, pepper, sugar, mustard, chili, paprika, thyme and cayenne. Generously coat both sides of racks with rub. Place ribs on barbecue over indirect heat bone-side down and grill for 1 hour.

Place vinegar, Sriracha and apple juice in a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray sauce evenly over both racks of ribs. Cook for 2 more hours or until very tender, spraying with sauce every 30 minutes.

Brush with barbecue sauce of your choice and continue cooking until sauce is glazed, about 15 minutes. Cut into ribs and serve with more barbecue sauce.


Moroccan lamb kebabs

Serves 4

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Lamb is superb on the grill. It is the meat of choice all over the eastern Mediterranean. Boneless legs flattened are a favourite of mine, but cut into kebabs, it is also wonderful. Serve with couscous mixed with chopped dried apricots and sautéed onions or Moroccan flat bread. If you don’t have harissa use any hot sauce handy, such as sriracha, Asian chili sauce, even hot pepper sauce.

  • Lamb
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 lbs (1 kg) boneless lamb leg cut into 1 ½-inch (4-cm) pieces
  • Harissa sauce
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ¼ cup harissa
  • ¼ cup fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Garnish
  • 1 tablespoon cucumber, diced
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds

Mix the harissa, mint, cilantro and olive oil. Toss with the lamb cubes. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes on the counter.

Combine cucumber with yogurt, harissa, mint, and lemon juice. Stir together and season with salt and pepper. Reserve. Preheat grill to high. Thread lamb on to skewers. Grill about 2 minutes each side (8 to 10 minutes in total) or until medium rare. Garnish to taste.


Salmon fillets with herb vinaigrette

Serves 4

This is a basic recipe for grilling salmon to maximize the taste. Use whatever marinade or dressing you prefer. Best to buy a fish basket or a grill pan with open holes if you barbecue a lot of fish. Always cook fish fillets, such as salmon, with the skin on. The skin helps hold the fish together. It can be removed afterward, if desired.

  • 4 6-ounce (175 g) salmon fillets with skin 2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Vinaigrette

  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, grated
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cups torn, mixed lettuce

Garnish

  • ¼ cup kale or radish seedlings

Rub the skin side of each salmon filet with vegetable oil. Combine oregano, parsley, chives, grainy mustard, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar. Whisk in olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Remove ¼ of mixture and brush over salmon fillets. Reserve remainder.

Toss lettuce with remaining vinaigrette, adding 1 tablespoon at a time until just coated. With tongs, place on 4 plates.

Preheat grill to high. Place fillets skin-side down on grill, close lid and grill for 7 to 9 minutes or until still slightly pink in the centre. Grill a few minutes longer to completely cook through if desired.

Remove fillets from grill. Place on salad and garnish with seedlings.

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Vegetables

When I want to make a hearty vegetarian grilled main, I usually grill 4 or 5 different vegetables, dice them, mix them with quinoa or farro and a salad dressing, and serve. But when I am making a barbecue for the family, my vegetarians enjoy something that feels like something other people are eating, hence the Portobello Burger.

Brush a big portobello with oil, grill it with the other burgers then add grated cheese into the cap, letting it melt before it’s added to the bun. Topped with onions, tomatoes, lettuce, it makes a fabulous veggie main.


Vegan burger

Serves 4

Some of my family have become vegans, so I now make a vegan burger. Although you can buy meat substitutes, I prefer to make my own. I find that vegan burgers often fall apart directly on the grill, so I use a heavy pan or baking sheet on the grill.

  • ½ large cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup canned red lentils, rinsed and well drained
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala, Thai red curry paste or vegan garlic mayonnaise
  • ½ teaspoon chopped garlic
  • ½ cup chickpea flour

Toppings

  • Spicy mayonnaise
  • Mango salsa
  • Grilled onions
  • Grilled tomato slices

Preheat oven to 450 F. Grate cauliflower or place florets in a food processor and process until small pieces.

Toss cauliflower with oil and bake until slightly browned about 15 minutes.

Combine cauliflower, lentils, onions, and spices of choice. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in ½ cup chickpea flour. Mash the vegetables a bit and combine into 4 patties.

Grill about 3 minutes a side.

Serve on a bun with toppings of your choice.

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