Have you ever noticed how the food just tastes better on those warm afternoons spent outdoors with friends and family?
It’s not just the company that makes the experience special.
Grilling infuses food with a rich smoky flavor and allows for a more satisfying texture.
Whether you’re enjoying a lightly seasoned steak cooked medium-rare, or a vegetable kebab, food is just more exciting when cooked over hot coals or a gas burner.
Let’s take a look at what makes grilling special, as well as some familiar ingredients to see just how much a grill can change your favorite recipes.
The Maillard Reaction is Responsible for that Unique Grill Flavor
If you’ve eaten a few steaks or even grilled burgers in your time, you will know that when they’re seared to perfection, they taste wonderful.
We’re not talking about foods that have been blackened to a crisp.
The best-grilled food is browned, with some sear marks created by the cooking grates.
Grilled food has a firmer texture on the outside, and that’s where a lot of the flavor is.
Even in your kitchen, browning adds more flavor to food. This is thanks to the Maillard reaction.
At around 285 degrees Fahrenheit, flavor molecules form as amino acids break down and react with sugar molecules.
Essentially, heat is bringing flavor to your food, and your grill is one of the most efficient ways to do it.
In addition to this reaction, grilled food also takes flavor from the juices that are vaporized.
On a charcoal grill, the juices are vaporized directly on the coals. On a gas grill, vaporizer bars do the work.
Charcoal gets hotter than vaporizer bars and can create more complex and flavorful results.
However, both styles of grill end up tasting much better than food that is pan-fried, baked, or roasted.
As the juices are vaporized, they rise back up and bind with the outside of your food, contributing to the browning.
Favorite Ingredients You Must Try on a Grill
Flavor comes from the Maillard reaction and the ability of grills to vaporize juices and infuse the volatile compounds into your ingredients.
You understand what’s happening, so now it’s time to try some of your favorite ingredients to see how they take on new characteristics when cooked on a grill.
- Apricots, peaches, and other fruits: Fruits are rich in sugars and moisture. Grilling them creates an amazing caramelization on the outside with tender and sweet flesh on the inside.
- Pineapple: Pineapple contains an enzyme that helps to break down proteins. Not only does it taste better when grilled, but it will also help to break down animal proteins in a burger or salad.
- Chicken Breast: Chicken breast can taste bland when cooked in a pan or oven. Instead, try a dry rub and grill your chicken breast. You’ll get amazing texture and flavor.
- Lobster: This ingredient is simple to cook over the grill. Outside of some salt and pepper, you don’t need to season much. Try melting a soft cheese over lobster and serve with fresh lemon juice.
- Calamari: Just like lobster, calamari tastes better when cooked on the grill. The heat of a coal or gas fire will help to break down the protein so that the texture is light and pleasant, unlike the rubbery calamari that often comes out of a pan.
- Clams and Oysters: These are also perfect for the grill. Cook these with some smoker chips and you’ll be able to infuse delicious flavors fit for a high-end restaurant.
- Steak and Pork: These classics work so well on the grill. Cook at a moderate to high heat to achieve a beautiful sear.
- Corn on the Cob: This simple ingredient is mouthwateringly delicious when grilled. Cook at high heat to get some char on the outside of the kernels.
Most ingredients you would cook in a pan or on an oven will taste better coming off the grill.
Remember to cook with the hood down to lock in all of the smoky goodness that only grilling can provide.