The Thrill Of The Grill

It may be hard to make unhealthy food on a grill, but it’s frighteningly easy to make bland barbecue. To avoid that ugly fate, we provide a slew of marinades, glazes and rubs for four different types of meat. Our only other tip: Use one at a time.
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Why hover over the stove when the sultry summer months are the perfect opportunity to play with fire and take your cooking outdoors? But don’t settle for lackluster hot dogs and hockey-puck-like hamburgers when you could be grilling up a bounty of proteins that have sizzling flavor and the nutrition chops needed to keep you a lean, mean machine throughout swimsuit season. These recipes for top-notch meats are perfectly suited to the grill, and the accompanying flavor boosters are sure to keep your summer smoking hot.

Pork Tenderloin

Pork-Tenderloain

There are plenty of reasons to pig out on pork tenderloin in your backyard cookouts. As one of the best-kept secrets of grilling, this tender cut has an impressive 6-to-1 protein-to-fat ratio and cooks quickly over fire. The large ratio of surface area to meat also ensures a tasty crust. Pork tenderloin is congenial to a range of flavors in rubs, marinades or glazes, and it is generally a good bargain at the butcher compared to its beef counterpart. 

  • 2 pork tenderloins (12 to 16 ounces each)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium. 
  2. Remove any silvery skin found on the surface of the pork. (It makes the meat tougher and interferes with proper seasoning.) 
  3. Dry with a paper towel, lightly coat with oil, and season with salt and pepper if not using a rub or glaze. 
  4. Grill tenderloins with lid closed, rolling them around every three to four minutes for even cooking, until done to your liking. It will take 10 to 12 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees) or 12 to 15 minutes for medium (160 degrees), which will yield just slightly to the touch.
  5. Remove from heat, cover with foil and let rest for five to 10 minutes to let the juices settle before slicing. Slice at a 90-degree angle to the grain to shorten the muscle fibers, making the meat more tender. 

Serves 4. 

Tip: Because pork tenderloin has little fat, it can dry out on the grill. Brining (1 tablespoon kosher salt for each cup liquid used; enough to submerge the meat) goes a long way in keeping the meat moist. Brine loin in the fridge for up to 12 hours, and shake things up by swapping out some of the water for flavored liquids like beer, white wine, apple cider or orange juice. 

Mayan Rub

Stir together 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Sprinkle over pork and gently pat in place 15 to 20 minutes before grilling.

Mustard-Maple Glaze

In a bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons chopped rosemary, ¾ teaspoon coriander powder and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper. Remove half the glaze and set aside. Brush all sides of tenderloins with glaze during the last five minutes of cooking. Remove meat from grill and brush with reserved glaze.

Wine-Poached Plums

Place 4 sliced plums, ½ cup port or other sweet red wine, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons minced ginger, 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, 3 whole cloves and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until plums soften, about 12 minutes. Serve over pork slices.

Top Sirloin Steak

Top-Sirloin-Steak

Steak on the grill is the ultimate classic, and a grilled rib-eye, New York strip or T-bone steak is a great thing for sure, but they come with an indulgent price tag and are among the fattier cuts. Often overlooked, less costly top sirloin is a good alternative for grilling season. It’s among the leanest cuts of beef and, like all red meat, is a source of creatine to help bolster muscular strength. Because of its leanness, it takes well to marinades that tenderize. Skirt, hanger or flank steaks are other excellent budget-friendly options for the grill. For best grilling, opt for steaks that are 1 to 1½ inches thick. 

  • 4 (6-ounce) top sirloin steaks
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Preheat grill to high. 
  2. Pat steaks dry with paper towel, lightly coat in oil, and season with salt and pepper or a rub.
  3. Cook steaks for about eight minutes for rare (125 degrees; soft to the touch), 10 minutes for medium-rare (145 degrees; gently yielding to the touch) or 12 minutes for medium (160 degrees; yields little to the touch), flipping once halfway. Let steaks rest for at least five minutes before slicing on the bias against the grain.

Serves 4.

Tip: For crosshatch grill marks that make you look like a pro, arrange steaks on a 45-degree angle to the grate bars. Rotate steaks 90 degrees after three minutes. Flip and cook on the other side the same way. Carve off any fat after grilling because it helps retain moisture during cooking.

Lime-Soy Marinade

In a shallow baking dish or container, whisk together L cup grapeseed oil or canola oil, L cup soy sauce, the juice of 2 limes and 1 teaspoon cumin. Add steaks, cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours, flipping once. Remove steaks from marinade, pat dry and season with salt and pepper before grilling. 

Smoky Mustard Rub

In a bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon dry mustard powder, 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Sprinkle over steaks and gently pat in place 15 to 20 minutes before grilling. 

Chimichurri Sauce

Place 1 finely chopped bunch of parsley, 2 tablespoons chopped oregano, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes and ¼ teaspoon black pepper in a bowl. Stir in L cup extra-virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar. Serve over steak slices.

Salmon

Salmon

Reel in salmon fillets for the grill because their firm texture prevents them from falling apart as they cook. Salmon’s natural fat content also helps prevent it from drying out when exposed to the high heat of the grill. As a nutritional bonus, salmon provides a boatload of the ultra-healthy omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids, shown to help improve physique gains and shore up heart health. For the healthiest, most sustainable salmon, choose swimmers labeled “Wild Alaskan.” 

  • 4 skin-on salmon fillets (6 to 8 ounces each)
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high. 
  2. Season salmon with salt and pepper and lightly oil the skin sides. Cook fillets skin side down with lid closed, just until almost opaque throughout and skin is crackling crisp, about 10 to 12 minutes total. If skin starts to burn before flesh is finished cooking, slide onto aluminum foil and finish cooking./li>

Serves 4.

Tip: Opt for fillets with the skin still intact to make life easier — you won’t have to flip them on the grill. Skin also equals more flavor.

Ancho Honey Glaze

Place 2 dried ancho chili peppers in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak for 15 minutes, or until soft. Slice off the stems and pour out most of the seeds. Place ancho chilies, 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon orange zest and juice of ½ orange in a blender container and process until smooth. Remove half the glaze and set aside. Brush salmon fillets with glaze with about five minutes left in cooking time. Remove salmon from grill and brush with reserved glaze. 

Pineapple Salsa

Pat 6 pineapple rings dry with a paper towel and brush both sides with a light coating of oil. Grill pineapple rings for two minutes per side, or until they have developed grill marks. Let cool, chop and combine with 1 diced avocado, 1 diced red bell pepper, ½ cup finely diced red onion, 1 seeded and minced serrano chili pepper, L cup chopped cilantro, juice of ½ lemon and ¼ teaspoon salt. Serve over salmon fillets.

Basil Oil

Place 1 packed cup fresh basil, L cup extra-virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons water and ¼ teaspoon salt to taste in a blender container and blend until smooth. Pour into a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl and press down with spatula to extract as much oil as possible. Discard solids. Serve salmon with oil drizzled over top.

Chicken Thighs

Chicken-Thighs

If you’re not careful, chicken breasts can quickly become drier than the Sahara on the grill. On the flip side, juicier dark-meat cuts such as thighs are less prone to becoming parched and contain just 1 measly extra gram of saturated fat.

  • 1½ pounds boneless chicken thighs
  1. Preheat grill to medium and pat chicken dry with a paper towel. 
  2. Brush with oil and season with salt and pepper if not using a rub. 
  3. Cook chicken with the lid down for 12 minutes, flipping once halfway, or until juices run clear and an internal temperature of 165 degrees is reached. 
  4. Remove from grill and let rest five minutes. 

Serves 4. 

Tip: If possible, opt for cuts of chicken that come with skin still attached because it will hold in juices during grilling. It is undeniably fatty, however, so enjoy the crispy skin in moderation. When grilling meats, a digital instant-read thermometer takes the guesswork out of ensuring you have body-slammed dangerous bacteria without overcooking your prize.

Chinese BBQ Sauce

In a bowl, stir together L cup hoisin sauce, 1½ tablespoons gluten-free soy sauce, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1½ teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ teaspoon cayenne powder. Remove half the sauce and set aside. Brush chicken thighs with glaze only during the last five minutes of cooking to prevent the sauce from burning. Remove chicken from grill and brush with reserved sauce. 

Curry Rub

Stir together 1 tablespoon curry powder, ½ tablespoon cumin powder, ½ teaspoon coriander powder, ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon ginger powder, ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Sprinkle over chicken and gently pat in place 15 to 20 minutes before grilling. 

Smoky Berry Sauce

Stir together 3 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries, ½ cup water, 1 chopped shallot, 2 minced garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary, 2 teaspoons minced chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, 1 teaspoon lemon zest and ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch in 2 tablespoons water, stir into sauce and continue to simmer until slightly thickened, about four minutes. Serve over chicken. 

Hot Stuff

To prep your grill, preheat gas grills for 15 minutes at the specified heat level with the lid closed. Meat is less likely to stick to a very hot grate. If using an old-school grill powered by coals, wait until the coals are completely covered with gray ash, then hold your hand about 5 inches above the grill grate. Count how many seconds you can comfortably leave it there: One to two seconds is high heat, three to four seconds is medium heat and five to six seconds is low heat. Following preheating is the best time to scrub the grate free of any crusty gunk with a long-handled brush. A clean grate is one of the best lines of defense against food sticking. Also, lightly oiling meat keeps it from sticking and promotes good caramelization (read: yum!).

Veggie Madness

The barbecue is mostly thought of as the domain of meat, but grilling concentrates and caramelizes the natural sugars in vegetables and fruits, making them an even sweeter addition to a healthy summer diet. Cut items like red peppers, Portobello mushrooms, beefsteak tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peaches, pineapple and mango large enough so they don’t fall through the grate, lightly coat with oil and toss them right on the grill. Anything that may fall apart or slip through the grate — like cherry tomatoes, onions, small mushrooms and strawberries — should be skewered. A perforated grill basket is handy for grilling a bunch of veggies or fruits at once without worry of sending any to a fiery death. Grill fruit and vegetables over a medium heat for three to five minutes, turning as soon as the grill marks appear. Watch the clock and the grill so they don’t get mushy.

You Can Grill That?

Revel in the oohs, aahs and “holy bleeps” from your backyard guests by bucking tradition and grilling up foods that nobody else is.

Avocado: Brush cut sides of avocado with oil and season with chili powder, salt and pepper. Place on grill cut side down and cook until golden brown and slightly charred, three to five minutes. 

Eggs: Place whole eggs directly on the grill over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning every couple of minutes, or until shell is golden brown all over. Try serving chopped over a head of grilled romaine lettuce.

Grapes: For a sweet treat, place a bunch of slightly oiled grapes still connected to their stems on the grate and cook for three to five minutes, turning once. 

Halloumi: Made from sheep and goat milk, this protein-rich Middle Eastern cheese has a meaty texture that grills nicely. Grill thick slices over high heat for one to two minutes on each side. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil immediately upon removing from grill.