5 Unexpected Foods That Are Even Better on the Grill
Hear from Food Network's Master of 'Cue, Rashad Jones, about how to elevate everyday ingredients with a quick turn on the grill.
By: Rashad Jones
In order for a dish to be considered barbecue, smoke should be the lead flavor and ingredient. (Barbecue is more than just meat with a sweet-tangy sauce poured on top!) Smoke is the most-unique ingredient and flavor in the culinary world. It has a magical way of transforming flavors in an incredibly special way. These five foods are surprisingly better with a little bit of influence from the grill or smoker.
1. Garlic transforms itself into a soft, heavenly, spreadable elixir with warm, nutty flavors and super savory aromatics after a few minutes on the grill. Pro Tip: Smoke garlic in its fresh, unpeeled bulb state. Simply cut off 1/8 inch from top of the bulb (be sure to not cut the root base or the bulb may fall apart). This is one of my go-to tricks for creating compounding levels of flavor in a dish. You’ve got to try it to add a mild smoky flavor to any dish that calls for garlic!
2. Spicy peppers like jalapenos, Fresnos, habaneros and Serranos intensify in flavor and spiciness after being smoked or grilled. Pro Tip: Smoke peppers whole and intact. After they finish cooking, remove the stem and any other parts that you don’t intend on incorporating into your dish.
3. Onions of all kinds — white onions, red onions, sweet yellow onions and shallots — become supple, tender and more mild once smoked. Their flavors round out and their aromas are amplified. Pro Tip: Smoke them whole and unpeeled, then remove the peel once they have finished smoking.
4. Homemade smoked salt is everything! Salt is arguably the most universally important ingredient in the culinary world. But not many people know that you can change its flavor, and smoking is a great way to do that. When salt is smoked, it becomes a super seasoning that’s bold and sultry, and it offers a really fun and flavorful twist to many dishes. Smoked salt is also a great way to add a finishing touch to a dish right before serving. Pro Tip: Place 1lb. of the flakiest coarse salt you can find into a smoker-safe dish lined with parchment paper. Fill a food grade/safe spray bottle with spring water and lightly spray the salt with the finest mist setting 4-5 times before placing it in the smoker, and then repeat that misting every 30 minutes thereafter for a total of 6 hours. The results are well worth the wait.
5. Cocktails that have some sort of grilled or smoked element can elevate the entire drink to a special place. One of my favorite ways to do this is with citrus. Slice your favorite citrus fruits (lemons, limes, grapefruits all work well) about a 1/2 inch thick and grill them over direct heat. As the peel heats up, it releases its beautiful oils, and the pulpy flesh develops the perfect amount of char to mix with your favorite cocktail ingredients. Ultimately this creates such a bold and delicious flavor you’ll want to keep on sipping.