When I’m hot and tired at the end of a long summer day, the last thing I want to do is turn on the stove or oven in my kitchen and heat up the house even more. Even if the AC is cranked, adding the heat of appliances to the mix just makes it harder to keep the house cool. Nevertheless, you’ve got to make dinner. Your people are hungry, not to mention sweaty. With a little creativity and a few kitchen items you can take your entire meal prep outside and straight to the grill. No fancy outdoor kitchen needed, just a little propane (or charcoal if you’re old school!)
The Main Component: Meat!
Everyone knows that grills are for meat. This is the easiest part of all. Regardless of what kind of protein you are grilling as the main entree, you only really need to worry about timing of the rest of the meal so that the meat, whether chicken thighs, New York steaks, has time to rest. About the only thing that doesn’t need to rest is the old favorite, hot dogs. Semi-pro tip: Try to get whatever type of meat you plan to grill for dinner into a marinade in the morning before heading to work. Meat can even be marinated for a few days ahead of grilling. On Sunday evening, toss some chicken legs into a bowl and some pork chops into another and you’ve got Monday’s and Tuesday’s grill selections ready to roll!
Potatoes on the Grill
The first grilled potato option may be the simplest: whole baked potatoes. To speed up the amount of time needed, cut a whole russet or other type of potato in half; salt and pepper and even smear a dab of butter onto the cut side. Wrap each half in foil and place on the grill, either using indirect heat (not directly over the flame) or if your grill has one of those smaller wire racks inside, above the main grill, place the wrapped potatoes on that so they cook while everything else does. Other options include slicing potatoes and onion and layering on a piece of foil. Add your favorite seasoning and a little butter and lay another piece of foil on top, pinching the sides closed securely. Test for doneness by sticking a fork right through the foil.
Don’t forget the veggies!
Vegetables are perhaps the most versatile grilling side dish you can make. Grill gadgets like wire veggie baskets or skewers make it possible to grill vegetables cut into chunks or diced. Because most veggies have a high water content, they cook fast, so no foil is necessary. Larger veggies, like corn-on-the-cob gets wrapped and placed right on the grill. Zucchini or eggplant can be sliced, seasoned, and oiled (olive oil works great) and then lald out carefully. For an easy one-step cooking process, cut one-inch-square chunks of beef and alternate them with veggies on a metal skewer for a summer shish-kabob meal. Season first and marinate the meat for a bigger punch of flavor.
Even fruit goes on the grill.
At the peak of the season, fresh peaches are a refreshing grilled treat that go well with just about anything. Cut the peaches in half, remove the stone, and then cut each half into wedges. Brush with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and lay the wedges right onto the grill. Stay close because it will only take a few minutes to get the perfect grill marks. Turn them over for another minute or two, and then garnish with a little chopped mint. Grilled peaches are a perfect side dish for red meat or just cut up into a salad for a grilled flavoring to an otherwise vegetarian side dish.
It may seem counterintuitive to go outside into the heat of the day to cook dinner, but keeping your house’s interior temp down and treating yourself to a cool beverage while you grill might be the perfect alternative to slaving away over a hot stove. Think of how nice it will feel to leave the heat outside and walk back into a cool house with a mouthwatering dinner.