Last summer, I was honored to have Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet create a top-notch outdoor kitchen design guest post for me. (I was also thrilled when they introduced the industry's only outdoor dishwasher at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show.)
Since this is the time of year -- maybe even the top week -- when more cooking gets done outside than in, I asked them to write a new post with their four favorite outdoor cooking tips. Thanks, Chris and Russ, for coming up with more great content (and recipes, which the food links direct you to)... This time for Gold Notes' month-long Fourth Anniversary Celebration. FYI, this is also my 200th post for Gold Notes!
The hot, slow days are perfect for outdoor cooking. Firing up a grill keeps the house cooler because the stove is not running. Clean-up is easy. And an evening cookout with friends and family always feels like a party, even if it’s just burgers on a Tuesday night. Here are my Four Fave Cookout Tips that make any cookout great:
1. The grill
According to a survey by the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, one of the top reasons we cook outdoors is because food tastes better when cooked on a grill. So it really is true that the barbecue is where “the magic happens.”
According to Russ Faulk, grillmaster at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, two of the keys to a good grill are a hot fire and enough cooking space to work with multiple temperature zones. Both of these give you the ability to explore different cooking techniques, such as indirect cooking. This is where you have a strong fire on one side of the grill, but you actually cook in the section that has no fire. This type of grilling is ideal for thicker steaks and chops, even whole chickens.
2. Pizza ovens
A wildly popular addition to outdoor cooking spaces, they offer an alternative to grill cooking and they cook…pizza! And while any pizza party is fun, an outdoor pizza party is perfect. Styles range from massive masonry units fired with wood to gas-fired countertop ovens. A good pizza oven is a HOT one. One that cooks at 800 degrees or more. At those temperatures you have the ability to cook Neapolitan-style pizzas in two minutes or less, letting your friends create and quickly cook customized pizzas.
3. Kitchen garden
Most of us have heard of the slow food or locavore movements – eat food from local producers. Can anything get more local than pulling your veggies and herbs from a garden near the grill or pizza oven? I list the kitchen garden as a Fave because of the bright and intense flavors that come straight from the ground and onto your plate. Use fennel to give a new flavor dimension to pizzas or burgers. Grill up tomatoes and let their roasted smooth taste bring a subtle boldness to salsas.
Those black little lumps that you may struggle to light play a bigger role in your outdoor cooking than you might think. Charcoal burns hot, making it ideal for direct cooking. Create an intensely hot fire, throw your burgers or steaks on the grill and the heat sears the outside for the perfect flavor and texture. It’s all about the Malliard Reaction, and charcoal’s dry heat does a better job at it than the heat from a gas flame. After searing your steaks for one minute per side, move them over to the indirect zone to let them coast up to the proper temperature. Choose your charcoal wisely. Lump charcoal burns hot and fast while charcoal briquettes aren’t quite as hot, but burn longer. If you choose briquettes, look for the all-natural versions
Wishing all of you great cooking outdoors this summer.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet started out as a Midwestern sheet metal fabricator a century ago, with a focus on food and dairy equipment. Fast forward 85 years or so and the founder's great grandson is running the business. His inspiration was to use the company's capabilities to create the world's best grill. A new company was born! Now this industry leaders creates outdoor cooking appliances and outdoor cabinets, still built with American craftsmanship and dedication, by hand!
All photos except kitchen garden shot courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.
Kitchen garden shot courtesy of City Farmer's Nursery in San Diego, our region's top organic resource and family-owned since its founding in 1972.