Basic technique, Ramblings
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Weeknight Grilling on DadCooksDinner

*Wherein we discuss Dad Cooking Dinner when the chips are down.

I’ve mentioned this scenario before: It’s been a long day at work, the kids are ricocheting off the walls (and each other), and the wife has left for evening classes.  You’re tired, and not motivated to cook.  The siren song of pizza delivery is singing in the back of your head.  What do you do?

This week, I’m getting quick and dirty.  You need a protein, a veg, and a starch, and you need it now, or you’re going to lose your nerve and go to the drive-through.  Again.

What do I do?  I can have dinner on the table in 30 minutes.  45 minutes, tops.  It may not be gourmet, but it’s good, it’s quick, and it’s homemade.  All the other recipes and techniques I’ve shown you on this blog?  They’re my passion, obviously; I love food and cooking.  But sometimes I’m just not in the mood.  Or, we’re in a hurry to get to a kid’s soccer game.  Or…well, you know how life gets in the way.

For me, throwing something on the grill always helps me get my cooking groove back, so I’m going to start with Weeknight Grilling.  Even when I’m not inspired, I enjoy live fire cooking.  That helps me get some positive momentum, and dinner on the table.

Basic Technique: Weeknight Grilling

1. Cook something thin: If you need it to cook quickly, it has to be thin, and it has to be tender.  Steven Raichlen calls this his “Rule of Palm”.  If it’s as thin as your palm, or thinner, it will cook quickly over direct heat.  It has to be a tender cut of meat as well, because quick cooking won’t help tenderize it.  Think of breast or loin meat, cut one inch thick or less.

2. Give it a quick brinerade:  While the grill’s heating, soak the protein in a marinade that has a lot of soy sauce in it.  This seasons the meat, and will help it brown quickly.  At its simplest, I use equal parts soy sauce, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.*
*I hate to admit it, but I picked this up from Rachel Ray.  The horror!  I learned it in her first 30-Minute Meals book, the one with the ugly green cover, back before she became the cultural juggernaut that she is now.  It wasn’t until later that Cook’s Illustrated gave it the catchy “brinerate” name and explained to me why it works so well.

3. Use a gas grill set to direct medium heat: I know I come across as a charcoal snob, but if you’re juggling multiple dishes because you’re in a hurry, the ease and reliability of a gas grill can’t be beat.  Also, if I’m rushed for time, I prefer cooking over medium heat.  The slightly lower heat means you don’t have to watch the food as carefully.  You can usually say “5 minutes a side” and be done with it.

4. Grill the vegetable side at the same time: While you’re cooking the main course, throw a vegetable on the grill right next to the protein.  (Like some corn, asparagus, or zucchini).
4a. Or, make a salad: You already know how to whip up a quick vinaigrette, right?  Just pour it over a bag of spring mix greens, and toss.

5. Make a quick starch: White rice, couscous, or just serve some bread on the side.

6. Serve: Serve it family style – put it all on serving platters, and set it on the table.  Dig in!

So, what are we going to see this week?

Tuesday: Grilled Thin Pork Chops, Quick Brinerated
Wednesday: Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak
Thursday: Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, Quick Brinerated

Questions?  Comments?  Other ideas?  Leave them in the comments, below.

Related Posts:
I’ve already done a couple of recipes that qualify as quick weeknight grilling, so to whet your appetite, check these out:
Grilled Boneless Pork Loin Chops, Brined and Honey Glazed recipe
Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri recipe

Inspired by:
Reading my “Hello World” post after one year of blogging, and realizing that all I was posting was elaborate, Sunday dinner types of meals… and their September theme of Quick Weeknight Meals

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Filed under: Basic technique, Ramblings


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

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