Summer is officially barbecue season. It’s the time for gathering with family and friends, swapping recipes and enjoying the freshest foods right from the vine. How can you make the most of this culinary bonanza?
It all starts with a little know-how in the kitchen. Master a few basic techniques, and you’ll soon be adding unique twists that make your cuisine unique and mouth-watering. What should you know? Here are six quintessential summer cooking skills you need.
1. How to Grill Seafood
Before you can throw that perfectly seasoned shrimp on the barbie on the, well, barbie, you have to master the knack. Far too many novices have ruined pricey lobster tails by throwing them on with the steak. You might get away with this method if you prefer your filet rare to medium-rare, but otherwise, the extended cook time will leave you with a tough, chewy mess.
Hey, don’t feel bad about needing a crash course. Fully 50% of customers who buy lobster tails have no idea how to cook them once they get them home. Fortunately, it isn’t too tricky to master the knack. Most 8-ounce lobster tails grill to perfection in about eight minutes. Nature even gave you a color code. Your tasty little sand bug will be brown in the package, but the shell will turn red when your meal is ready to eat.
How do you season lobster? Many think it tastes fine with no seasoning, just a side of dipping butter. However, you might brighten the flavor with a touch of lemon juice — a secret among top chefs — or sprinkle the tails with Za’tar or Old Bay seasoning.
2. How to Judge Meat Temperature
The last thing you want at your summer barbecue is your guests to get sick from undercooked meat. Does that mean you shouldn’t serve your New York strips rare? Not necessarily. Raw meat contains pathogens, but they remain on the surface of dense cuts like steak. Therefore, once you grill the outside, it’s okay if the interior remains bloody.
However, you can’t say the same of hamburger or chicken. Hamburgers become problematic because they grind the meat. That allows the pathogens typically remaining on the beef’s surface to penetrate the entire cut. You should ensure the internal temperature reaches at least 160°, approximately medium doneness.
You should cook chicken to an internal temperature of at least 165°. The same goes for turkey burgers if you have any members of the non-red-meat-only tribe in your grilling group. How can you ensure you’re on your game? There’s no substitute for a quality meat thermometer. Professional-grade models can sell for over $200, but you can pick up a perfectly serviceable one for around $25 at your local department or grocery store.
3. How to Achieve the Perfect Char
Do you want a reputation for the best steaks in town? You can earn one with a trick that makes your meal better than some top steakhouses — the sous vide technique. It allows you to achieve that perfect external char and internal temperature while reducing your mealtime stress.
You can invest in a professional sous vide machine to use this technique. However, you can also get perfect results with ordinary sealed plastic cooking bags — ensure they’re BPA-free — a pot of boiling water and a thermometer.
Heat your water to the ideal temperature, clamping your thermometer to the side of your pot. Season your steak with butter, herbs or wine and place it in a Ziplock bag. Place the seasoned bag in the pot for the recommended cooking time. Afterward, you can let it rest in the bag until you are ready to grill. All it takes is one or two minutes max on each side to reach that perfect char with an internal temperature catered to your guests’ tastes.
4. How to Keep Your Salads Crisp
There’s more to barbecuing than just meat. After all, summer is when fresh fruits and veggies come into season. Enjoy them now when they are at their peak of nutrition to boost your immunity before the autumn cold and flu season hits.
When storing lettuce, wrap it in slightly damp paper towels before placing it in your crisper to keep it greener. Ensure you remove any wilted leaves from the head before storing them. They emit gasses that accelerate decay in the remaining bunch.
You can also revitalize many soggy veggies with a bit of water. Merely soak them in a bowl of cold water in the fridge to restore their crunch. This technique works particularly well for harder vegetables like carrots, celery and radishes.
5. How to Make Ice Cream
I scream, you scream — we all scream for ice cream. Give your kids an engaging summer activity that helps keep their maths skills sharp deliciously by making homemade ice cream in a bag.
- 1 cup half and half
- 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- ½ tsp. vanilla extract
- 3 cups ice
- ⅓ cup kosher salt
Combine the sugar, half and half and vanilla in a small Ziploc bag. Place the ice and salt in a larger bag and then add the smaller bag. Shake vigorously for seven to ten minutes until the ice cream hardens. Enjoy it with your favorite fresh summer fruit toppings.
Want an even easier way to make ice cream? Of course, you do! Another simple ice cream recipes includes:
- 2 cups heavy whipping cream
- 1 15 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
All you need to do is whip the cream until you reach firm peaks, gently fold the sweetened condensed milk into the whipped cream, add your vanilla and salt….then freeze for 3 hours or overnight and you’ll have perfectly scoopable vanilla ice cream!
Quintessential Summer Cooking Skills You Need
It’s finally here — the official barbecue season. What can you do to ensure that your backyard bashes go off without a hitch and your guests leave with full bellies?
Brush up on these five quintessential summer cooking skills you need. You’ll be the talk of the neighborhood and make mouths water each time you fire up the grill.