Grilling with the Kids for Father’s Day and Beyond

Grilling with the Kids for Father’s Day and Beyond

Get the family out into the fresh air and bond over BBQ this Father’s Day—and all grilling season long. While you might just intuitively say ‘Yes!’ to the idea, let’s have fun and look at all the reasons this is a great plan for the family.

  • Cooking is a hands-on creative outlet for all ages
  • It’s healthy to eat home-cooked meals and preparing them together is even better
  • Education—from measuring to fractions to cooking times (Get a cool education about the science of grilling here)
  • It’s an alternative to screen time—tho recruiting the kids to research recipes online is completely legit
  • Just plain togetherness

Let’s get cooking!

Grilling safety for kids

Grilling involves a whole array of hot and sharp objects. Gauge the maturity level of your crowd and assign them age-appropriate activities. Assignments for the younger kids can include mixing and marinating, laying out trays of uncooked meat to bring to the grill, measuring and assembling ingredients, and tossing salads. Knife handling and cooking on the hot grill belong in the domain of older children.

Food safety around the grill is part of kitchen sanitation—a good habit to start young. Since grilling involves handling raw meat, proper handwashing practices rank high in importance. Remember to also provide instruction about washing cutting boards, trays, tabletops and any other surfaces that might carry raw meat juices. Finally, refer to expert references (in this case, the US government’s food safety site) for grilled meat temperatures that meet the safety standard. This highly-rated, well-priced, long-probe digital meat thermometer might be the perfect new grilling gadget for the occasion (and a Father’s Day gift idea if anyone is looking for hints). Here’s a Father’s Day grilling gift guide, coming to you directly from the dads at Griller’s Gold.

Father’s Day grilling favorites

Everything’s better when it’s grilled. Kids happen to agree with that statement. So put vegetables on the Father’s Day menu; grill portabello mushroom caps or multi-colored veggie skewers. Enjoy fancy sausage, nice steaks, shrimp, or the always-fun drumsticks on the grill.

Make the popular burger even better; read about burger trends and wood pellet techniques. And even the simplest burger is more celebratory when it’s patted into a heart shape.

Hearty, happy Father’s Day wishes from the Griller’s Gold family.

OUTDOOR DINING ROOM 2: ACCESSORIES AND DÉCOR INSPIRATION FOR THE GRILLER’S TABLE

OUTDOOR DINING ROOM 2: ACCESSORIES AND DÉCOR INSPIRATION FOR THE GRILLER’S TABLE

You pay attention to the food you grill. So set the mood for a special outdoor dining experience every time you set the table. And surround your patio or deck with color and light.  When you pick your outdoor tableware and other accessories, keep both functionality and visual appeal in mind. Plan thoughtfully, enjoy your creativity, present your grilled creations in style—and you might never use Styrofoam cups again.

PLATES, CUPS, FORKS AND KNIVES

Whatever you’re eating outdoors, these are the essentials. We recommend that you choose tableware that’s 1. Unbreakable and 2. Reusable. While the initial cost for sturdy, colorful, dishwasher-safe plastic plates and drinkware might be higher than the cost of a package of disposables, you break even after just a few uses. Bamboo plates also offer a natural, reusable and outright handsome choice for your table—explaining their increasing availability at affordable prices. Either option is more eco-friendly than paper or styrofoam—respecting the great outdoors where you enjoy grilling and dining.

Note that many of the less expensive bamboo, wheat straw and palm fiber plates are biodegradable and compostable, but not reusable. Check for cleaning instructions before finalizing the purchase.

And having a range of designs is just plain prettier

Choose plates and cups that look great in and outside your home and demonstrate your good taste. As for flatware, you can find reusable, affordable forks and knives in either durable plastic or stainless steel or even bamboo. You can go high end or shop the big boxes, but the dollar store is also a treasure chest of choices.

When it comes to putting reusables in dishwashers, it’s good to make a few notes:

  • Plastic does better on the top rack.
  • Any drinkware (plastic or glass) that has printed designs or lettering is safest in the sink.

PLATTERS AND SALAD BOWLS

Handsome, good-enough-for-the-holidays metal serving platters make lots of sense outdoors. They’re unbreakable. And they’re great for bringing meat out to the grill.  Cutting boards also do double-duty for food prep and carrying between kitchen, grill and table. They all clean up with ease, but remember to give a quick wash to anything that’s transported raw meat before using it again. Metal and plastic salad bowls seem made for outdoor dining. Plastic tongs and salad servers offer convenience.

Napkins

BBQ lovers who want to opt for sustainability can thoughtfully choose their napkins for outdoor dining. Pick darker colors and prints that can stand up to a few stains. And don’t expect them to look absolutely perfect.

DECORATIVE ACCESSORIES FOR YOUR BACKYARD

Outdoor lighting does brilliant things to create atmosphere and polish. Many stores have an array of fun decorative light strands and lanterns.

Finally, let your garden be part of the décor

Move bright clay or plastic containers full of colorful plants to the corners of your patio and deck. Have fun coordinating your tableware and serving pieces with the flowers that bloom around your yard, too!

For more inspiration, read about outdoor furniture and seating in this recent post. Bon appetit!

*Shopping for special, memorable wedding gifts? Buy an upscale metal serving platter or salad bowl that will become an heirloom, or put together a complete set of outdoor tableware for the happy couple. Everyone deserves to enjoy beautiful outdoor dining, summer after summer.

Ideas for your outdoor dining room Part I: seating and furnishing

Ideas for your outdoor dining room Part I: seating and furnishing

Make the space where you enjoy your grilled creations as good as the food. Plan your outdoor dining area for maximum comfort, minimum maintenance, and a touch of your style. Create room for food-friendly fun times all summer long.

Take a seat

Your biggest investment will be in seating and furniture. You’ll want to start with a plan. Do you want to sit around a dining table or prefer a conversation set with chairs, loveseat or couch, and a low table for your food and beverages? What’s your available space? It’s important to take measurements. Remember to allow room to move between and around your furniture pieces as you arrange them on your lawn.

Material considerations

Just like food, furniture relies on ingredients. Different materials used in outdoor furniture construction deliver their own unique benefits. Here’s a little to think about when looking at furniture frames.

  • Wood — natural, sturdy and substantial. It’s a renewable resource, too. If you’re especially interested in sustainability, search out products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).*
  • Metal — stable, solid and generally weatherproof. Metal curves, so armrests are comfortable and design variations abound.
  • Wicker and resin weaves — lighter weight for easier moves, traditional patio look. 

Your furniture might come with seat cushions. Or, you could buy them separately, giving you the freedom to pick from a multitude of colors and patterns. Whatever you decide, keep in mind that different fabrics offer different levels of UV protection. The higher price points apply to the cushions with the most protection from the sun; they’ll last longer without fading.

Be prepared to measure when you’re buying your own cushions. Size up both the seat width and seat depth, plus back height and back width when that applies. Note if the back of the seat is rounded or square. And take measurements for back cushion height from the top of the seat cushion to the top of the frame’s backrest — so everything fits and none of the cushions hang over the edge. For loveseats and sofas, measure all the way across the seat and then divide by the number of seats the piece provides to get the width of your individual seat cushions.

Finishing touches

To umbrella or not to umbrella?… Think about how much sun your dining area gets, and whether you’re going to use it more in the evening hours, daytime, or a mix.

Outdoor rugs help define your space and add more color. With the growing popularity of this outdoor décor element, you’ll find a range of prices and designs in weatherproof, durable materials. Coordinate your rug with the color palette of your seat cushions — and even the colors of the flowers in the surrounding yard.

What to eat in outdoor dining rooms

Once you’ve put together your beautiful outdoor dining room, it’s time to think about menus that earn their place in your new space. Here is a selection of great grilled vegetable side dishes to accompany whatever protein you love.

Now all that’s left to do is get your dinner invitations out!

*FSC is a not–for–profit organization that ensures wood has been harvested from forests that are responsibly managed, socially beneficial, environmentally appropriate and economically viable.  At Griller’s Gold, we believe in sustainable sourcing of wood for our all-natural premium BBQ pellets.

Truth: Cherry is a great fruitwood for smoking

Truth: Cherry is a great fruitwood for smoking

Honestly, smoking with cherry wood pellets is a grand idea

There’s something about cherry that encourages forthrightness — remember the folk story* of the young George Washington owning that chopped-down cherry tree? You can believe pretty much every good thing you hear about cherry trees, their fruit and their wood.

Cherry trees mature quickly and produce their first crop of fruit within three to four years of planting in the orchard. Their sensitivity to damage from rain and hail, plus the costs of irrigation, spraying and labor, make cherries a relatively expensive fruit crop, but their popularity justifies the investment. The two main cultivated species are the ones we eat fresh and others we cook: sweet cherries (P. Avium) and sour cherries (P. Cerasus). Both originated in Europe and Western Asia and grow in temperate regions of the US.

Sweet cherry crops grow mainly in Washington, California, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The list of sour cherry-producing states leads with Michigan, followed by Utah, New York and Washington. The Cherry Capital of the World, Traverse City, Michigan, hosts the National Cherry Festival every summer and vies with nearby Charlevoix in trading off the title for the world’s largest cherry pie. (One recent report mentions the Guinness Book of World’s Records marker in Traverse City for a pie weighing 28,350 lbs and measuring 17′ 6″. Both cities exhibit giant pie pan roadside attractions, which might inspire some summer travel ideas.)

Cherry is edible and beyond… Because of its rich color and fine grain, cherry wood finds use in interiors and furniture — flooring, cabinetry, tables, desks and chairs.

Cherry blossoms inspire admiration around the world, figuring in haiku poems and art from Japan. In Washington, DC, the nonprofit National Cherry Blossom Festival “commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city… and celebrates the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.” Today’s Festival spans four weeks and welcomes more than 1.5 million people. (It’s a favorite spring tourism adventure and you’re invited!)

Smoking with cherry wood pellets

Cherry wood adds a sweet and medium-smoky flavor suited to proteins ranging from beef and pork through duck, chicken and fuller-flavored seafood. The smoke also brings an appetizingly rich brown color to the surface of the foods for which it’s used.

To bring cherry taste to your wood pellet grilling, grab a bag of Griller’s Gold Fruitwood, Cherry or Competition Blend at your local retailer or on Amazon.

And for a perfect dessert after your cherry-smoked entrée, bake a pie using this homemade cherry pie filling. It requires just five ingredients, including fresh cherries. Baker Veena Azmanov also suggests cherry pitting tools in this piece, in case you want some new gear to enhance your culinary game.

*Somewhat ironically, the George Washington cherry tree ‘I-cannot-tell-a-lie…’ story isn’t true. According to mountvernon.org, the tale was added only in the fifth edition of the early biography, The Life of Washington. The author, Mason Locke Weems, was an itinerant minister who wanted to credit Washington’s public greatness to his private virtues, including honesty. So he fabricated this account to make Washington a role model for youth.

Smoke this: Fish on the pellet grill

Smoke this: Fish on the pellet grill

Smoked fish has been a popular food item for ages. It’s assumed that smoking food — whether fish or meat — came about soon after humans started cooking with fire. (Fire. Smoke. Logical connection.) And once the method became popular, so did the taste.

The number-one reason our ancestors started smoking fish was to preserve it

Hot-smoking  cooks the flesh, coagulates the protein, inactivates food spoilage enzymes, and eliminates food pathogens. Smoked fish is also bathed in or injected with a salt mixture, and salt is another preservative. Together, all this means hot-smoked fish can be stored for limited times without refrigeration.

Following on the benefit of unspoiled and nutritious protein, there’s that matter of taste. And there’s a lot of it. And it’s mighty fine.

Certain cultures historically get credit for introducing the world to the joys of smoking fish

Seafaring peoples with access to fish — such as the Scandinavians, the Dutch, the Scottish — have smoked fish at the center of their cuisines. Americans in the Pacific Northwest and Canadians carry on the traditions. No one in Europe is that far from the sea — and smoking works very well for freshwater fish, too. Because of dietary restrictions that are part of their faith, European Jews also prepare and enjoy plenty of smoked fish, and that tradition lives on in Jewish delis throughout the US. According to Wikipedia, the most common types of smoked fish in the US are salmon, mackerel, whitefish, and trout. Along the Mississippi River, hot-smoked locally caught sturgeon is also available.

Hot-smoking fish for yourself

Smoking fish on your wood pellet grill doesn’t require a recipe. It’s all about method.

1. Select your fish

Salmon and trout are ideal for smoking because fattier fish absorbs more smoke flavor. Skin-on fillets and whole fish are the best choice because they hold their shape during the process.

2. Brine with something as simple as salt and water

Use 1 tablespoon of plain (not iodized) salt per cup of water. Variations on brine can include seasonings. Add peppercorns or brown sugar. You can substitute some of the water with white wine, but note that the acid in wine can break down the flesh and too much wine in the brine will lend to an undesirably mushy texture in your fish. (For smoking and grilling other proteins, read more about when to marinate vs brine.)

3. Choose the right wood

Wood with the restrained flavor profile to complement fish’s lighter textures and tastes. At Griller’s Gold, we recommend Fruitwood Blend or Cherry wood pellets for smoking fish.

4. Get smoking

Hot smoking only takes a few hours, using temperatures of up to 250 degrees F. Some experts recommend a low smoking temp (below 150 degrees F) for the first one to two hours, then turn up the heat to 200 to finish. Be sure that the internal temp on the fish reaches 165 degrees. And you’ve smoked fish.

So now that you’ve stimulated your appetite, you need an actual recipe using smoked fish, don’t you?

Yes, we understand. Try something simple that highlights the pure flavors of your lovingly crafted smoked fish: a spread. Combine with cream cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Slather on crackers. Prepare to be wowed.

And for a detailed salmon-on-the-pellet-grill recipe, follow the link in our Valentine’s Day blog post.

Thanks to Wikipedia, Encylopaedia Britannica and The Spruce for information on the history and enjoyment of smoked fish around the world.

VALENTINE’S DAY MENU IDEAS FOR SMOKE LOVERS

VALENTINE’S DAY MENU IDEAS FOR SMOKE LOVERS

It’s that romantic dinner time of year again. At Griller’s Gold, we love the idea of special meals cooked in the intimacy of your own cozy home—on your own grill. Grilled pizzas and homemade hot-smoked salmon are two menu items that make the most of the irresistible smoky flavors of wood pellet cooking. And don’t miss the wine recommendations for smoked foods.

Grilled pizzas

Make a pizza perfect for two. Or do individual pizzas, one for each of your unique tastes. It’s pretty simple, leaving you and your mate time to focus on each other. Make things really easy with a purchased pizza dough; whole wheat dough makes for a filling and hearty crust.

Customize your pizza with toppings that that suit your fancy. Maybe you’ll opt for luxury toppings for this holiday. Combine vegetables, fruit, herbs, fancy cheeses, prosciutto, smoked chicken or big juicy shrimp—the possibilities are limitless. You’ll typically want to cook veggies and meats in a grill basket before assembling and grilling the pizza itself. Here’s one delicious grilled pizza recipe that combines color and flavor.

Hot-smoked salmon

Go upscale and indulgent with smoked salmon on the grill. It’s a main dish that requires some advance planning, including time for wet brining (which is used for hot-smoked salmon as opposed to a dry salt rub on cold-smoked salmon); letting the salmon dry off in the fridge to develop a pellicle, the sticky outer layer that holds smoke flavor (think bacon); and cooking at low temps for several hours. But the taste is well worth the time and effort and preparing a dish this delicious really shows your love.

The perfect pairing: wine with smoked food

When picking a wine for savory smoked foods, remember the menu principles from this popular Griller’s Gold post on complementary and contrasting flavors.

Complementary pairings match like with like, in this case, a smoky oak-aged wine that will go great with the menu items we described above.

Chardonnay is often aged in oak, and those big, weighty flavors are prized for special occasions and priced accordingly. (That’s because oak aging adds to the winemaker’s cost—from buying the actual oak barrels to holding the wine in the cellars and off the market for several years after harvest.) If you want to impress your local wineseller, ask for a Chardonnay with ‘heavy toast.’ Wineries use flames to ‘toast’ their barrel wood (striving for light, medium, or heavy toast). Heavier toasting contributes caramelly and smoky notes to the flavor of the wine that’s aged in these vessels. Think of heavy toast on a wine barrel like a dark roast for coffee: richer, weightier, and a bit smoky.

For a contrasting flavor in your romantic dinner wine, opt for something refreshing and fruity. The ever-popular Sauvignon Blanc grape is bound to win your heart.
And whatever your menu plan this Valentine’s Day, cook what you love for the people you love.

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