The Art of the Grill

The best marinades, sauces and recipes for the perfect summer grill

Photo: Robert Couse-Baker

Okay, so let's admit it. We've all had those moments when our grilling techniques were sorely lacking, resulting in overcooked burgers that stick to the grill like glue, steaks that end up burned beyond repair and vegetable kabobs that are utterly inedible.

But there's no secret to a good grilling session. It just takes some excellent marinades and barbecue sauces, some careful attention to the grill and an understanding of the art of outdoor cooking. Take, for example, a simple blend of soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. It's so easy to make, and your meat need only marinate for a few hours. Toss it on the grill and cook it on both sides to medium rare or medium and it's perfect, especially served with horseradish or Major Grey's chutney.

Another great marinade,for steaks especially for London broil, combines soy sauce, garlic, olive oil and honey. The result is a teriyaki flavor that pairs well with meat. You could also make a lovely bistecca alla fiorentina, a simple recipe of olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon, typically served medium rare. This is a classic Tuscan dish served in most restaurants in Florence and it's so rich, flavorful and tender, you can cut it with a spoon The secret is in the meat, which comes from Chianina, an Italian breed of cattle that's one of the largest and oldest in the world.

When it comes to barbecued chicken, I wish that I had thought to have my mother write down her recipe for the best barbecue sauce I've ever tasted. I know it combined onions, vinegar, tomatoes and some secret ingredients that she'd learned about from her grandmother, Hattie Ward, who lived on a farm in Galax, Virginia and prepared lots of Southern dishes, including chow chow, fried chicken, succotash and mincemeat pie, which my mother used to make when I was a kid. I've searched high and low to find a recipe that replicates my mom's barbecue sauce, but I've had no success. Instead, I've had to invent my own, which includes all the ingredients I remember from my mom's sauce. It's perfect for pairing with chicken, and it makes a nice crusty glaze that compliments the flavors of the sauce.

Pork tenderloin is another good choice for the grill, as it marinades well and cooks on the grill to juicy perfection. Try a marinade of soy sauce, lemon, olive oil, garlic, basil and parsley, which turns out a deliciously moist and perfect entree

And so what do you serve for sides? One of my favorite ways to eat fresh ears of corn is right off the grill, where they cook, brushed with a combo of olive oil, salt and pepper and wrapped in aluminum foil, for about 20 minutes. As soon as they're done, douse them in butter and enjoy! Or thread slices of onion, red and yellow bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes, brushed with a marinade of olive oil, rosemary and salt, on skewers and toss them on the grill before the meat's done for the perfect taste of summer.

As for desserts, try grilled pineapple with mascarpone cream, a delectable combo of hazelnuts, pineapple and mascarpone and the perfect finish to an evening of al fresco dining! Or take a peach, slice it in half and top with bluberries, brown sugar and lemon, wrap with aluminum foil and seal tightly, then grill over low heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Serves 4, From Food and Wine)

2 T-bone steaks,1 1/2 inches thick (about 4 pounds in all)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, for serving

Light the grill. Rub the steaks with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Grill the steaks over high heat for 6 minutes. Turn and cook until done to your taste, about 6 minutes longer for rare. Serve with lemon wedges.

The Best Barbecued Chicken Besides My Mom's (Serves 6)

1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup tomato paste
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
6 chicken breasts


Saute onions and garlic in vegetable oil for 10-15 minutes, until onions turn translucent but not browned. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered on low heat for 30 minutes.

Marinate chicken in 2/3 of barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Grill the chicken quarters, skin side down, for about 45 minutes, turning once or twice Brush occasionally with marinade. Serve with extra barbecue sauce on the side.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin (Serves 6; From Food Network)

1/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 tablespoons dried basil
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon dried minced garlic (optional)
6 chicken breasts

Place soy sauce, olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, basil, parsley, and pepper in a blender. Add hot pepper sauce and garlic, if desired. Blend on high speed for 30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.

Pour marinade over desired type of meat. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours. Cook meat as desired.

Grilled Pineapple with Hazelnuts & Mascarpone (Serves 4; From

1 tablespoon chopped hazelnuts
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons honey
8 slices of peeled fresh pineapple, 1/2-inch thick

Preheat and lightly oil the grill. Shake hazelnuts in small saucepan over medium heat until the nuts turn golden and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Mix lemon juice, lemon zest, mascarpone cheese, and honey in a bowl until well combined.

Grill pineapple slices until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Serve two slices per plate with a generous dollop of sweetened mascarpone cheese and a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts on top.

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