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How to Incorporate Barbecue Flavors into Your Summer Menu

With summer right around the corner and the last of winter’s chill finally fully abating, more and more people are looking forward outside dining options--and one of the favorites is barbecue. Of course, not everyone has access to an outdoor grill or a smoking rig, but with a little ingenuity and a few restaurant supplies, it is possible to incorporate the delicious flavors of the season into the menu with a minimum of investment. The first obstacle to look at tackling is the lack of a grill. Grilled food is hugely attractive in the summer months not just because outdoor cooking keeps heat out of homes but also because of the elemental appeal of char-marked food and the slightly smoky flavors--and complex browning--that comes from it. Fortunately, it is possible to get many of these effects without having to install or build an outdoor grill, through a few different means. Many commercially-available cooking ranges come with a grill insert that can either be added afterwards or included in the fundamental design--of course, there is a price point for this, but if you intend to grill foods on a regular basis, it’s something to consider. Another possibility for the home kitchen as well as smaller commercial kitchens is the grill pan. Usually made of cast iron or another hard, heavier metal, grill pans are easy to clean, and provide the ability to convert a regular burner into a grilling surface that, while not necessarily exactly the same as a dedicated grill, creates the deep browning and slight char that grilled food requires to feel authentic. These pans are great for quickly grilling corn or other small items either to be served that way or as an ingredient, and have the added benefit of being cost-effective compared to the other options. Of course, as any Southerner will tell you, true barbecue must be cooked via smoking; this presents somewhat more of a challenge. Where grill pans make a fairly reasonable replacement for an outdoor grill, and grill inserts on a cooking range work in almost exactly the same way--though admittedly with a different source of heat--smoking foods indoors requires a little more ingenuity. Ultimately, the goal of smoking is to maintain a controlled temperature that heats up wood sufficiently to coax it into releasing the good aromatic compounds in it--without heating it so much that it combusts or releases the more dangerous compounds. With some forethought and a few supplies, this can be accomplished in an oven or even on a stovetop; the secret is to use very well-soaked chips and the lowest useful level of heat (for ovens, generally around 250 degrees Fahrenheit). Kitchen smoking rigs can be made from metal pans inset with packets of soaked chips made from aluminum foil--with plenty of holes poked into the packets to release the smoke--or from covered containers on a stovetop rig made from service pans made to withstand that kind of heat. It is, of course, important to make sure you have proper ventilation before you start. Finally, make sure that you’re using the right cuts of meat, if that’s what you’re working with--fatty, tough cuts like shoulder, brisket, and ribs are traditional not just because they were cheaper but also because they are very well-suited to the slow cooking process of barbecue. If you’re working with vegetables, obviously this is not as much of a concern--feel free to experiment with different produce items to discover what works best. And make sure that you season your barbecued food liberally: nothing is worse than bland barbecue. The basic “dry rub” mix should include salt, sugar, some element of heat (black pepper and cayenne are popular, but feel free to taste and experiment according to what you’re making), and transition spices to tie everything together. Find more details and ideas in this Southern Living article. There you have it: with a little bit of creativity and some experimentation, you can incorporate some of summer’s most-beloved flavors into the menu to excite palates all around. With a smoking rig suited for the kitchen, a grill pan or grill insert for the range, and the right blend of spices--along with the right target food items--your barbecue efforts will pay off even if you don’t have the space outside to devote to the “proper” equipment. A few restaurant supplies and some work are all you need to get started, and from there, you can create something truly special and delicious.
2018-05-07 00:00:00
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