YOU Magazine - June 2011 - Achieving Barbecue Prowess, Part IMarinades and Tasty Side DishesBy Kirk Leins
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Achieving Barbecue Prowess, Part I
Marinades and Tasty Side Dishes
By Kirk Leins

Achieving Barbecue Prowess, Part IMarinades and Tasty Side DishesBy Kirk Leins

The official start of summer is nearly here and that means one thing. It's the height of grilling season! Some grill veterans have been firing up their barbecues since late spring while others may have just decided they no longer want to cook indoors. Regardless of where you stand, there are a few issues I'd like to discuss.

Grill maintenance is key to every cook's success. If it's been awhile since your grill was last used, you'll probably want perform a grill check-up. Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, start by giving it a good cleaning. Cleaning methods can vary depending upon the brand and type, so be sure to consult the owner's manual or the company's website for tips on maintenance.

If it's a gas grill, you'll want to inspect the lava rocks which lie directly above the burners and allow the heat to conduct evenly. If they look overly-worn, get rid of them. You can find replacement rocks at any home and garden store for a minimal cost. If your grill runs on propane, make sure there's still plenty of gas in the tank. It's also a good idea to keep a back-up tank on hand, as it prevents the awkwardness of running out when you're hosting family and friends.

With the boring logistics out of the way, it's time to start thinking about what and how you grill. When handled correctly, a barbecue offers three distinct advantages. For starters, it's fast. Generally speaking, food cooks quickly on the grill, making it the perfect vehicle for getting dinner on the table. Secondly, it saves on cleanup. Grilling doesn't require nearly the amount of kitchen equipment that a stove typically will. Lastly, grilling allows the heat to remain outside of your home, where it belongs.


Marinades impart flavor and lend personality to a meal. Truthfully, I find store-bought versions to be inferior at best due to the phony emulsification and artificial flavors. They are also extremely overpriced. The answer here is to make our own, and this is simpler than you might imagine.

Before I give you my recipes for three great marinades, I'd like to quickly share my philosophy on the subject. First and foremost, marinades need to be powerful. Meat is fairly dense and, in order to flavor it properly, the seasonings need to be big. The next sign of a great marinade is proper usage of the different flavor types (i.e. savory, sweet, spicy, and tart). My suggestion is to represent as many of them as you can with an understanding of the role they should play within the marinade. My last suggestion is that you try to include some type of oil in your marinades. Using oil will not only help with emulsifying your marinade, it also enables the mixture to adhere to the meat.

Chipotle Lime Marinade

  • 1/2 of a 7 oz. can of chipotle peppers packed in adobo sauce
  • the juice of two limes
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 3/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

Add all ingredients except the oil to a blender or food processor. Process the mixture until smooth. While continuing to process, slowly add in the oil. Process until fully emulsified.

This marinade tastes great on everything from pork chops and prawns to swordfish and chicken wings. If you're using seafood, allow it to marinate for no longer than one hour. For anything else, feel free to marinate for up to four hours. Be sure to reserve some of the marinade for basting. Before grilling, wipe the marinade off the meat to prevent burning. Toward the end of the cooking process, baste the meat with the reserved marinade.

Ginger/Lemongrass Marinade

  • 1/3 cup chopped lemongrass (using only the tender center of the stalks) OR the zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until the lemongrass is fine.

This marinade works well with both flank steak and chicken on the bone. Fish is another option as it tastes great with salmon, sea bass, and halibut. Once again, marinate the fish no longer than one hour and the chicken or steak for up to four hours.

Gremolata Marinade

  • 1 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and, using a spoon, whisk together until fully mixed. Allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes before marinating meat.

This marinade is a favorite of mine for skirt steak, boneless chicken breasts, and any grilled vegetables. It also makes a great topping for eggs and an awesome dip for crusty bread.

Side Dishes

Two of my favorite side dishes for the grill are potatoes and corn. Here are a couple of recipes you're absolutely going to love!

Barbecued Potatoes

  • 2 lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion (i.e. Maui or Texas Sweet), cut into thick slices
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • non-stick spray
  • 1 appropriate-sized disposable roasting pan and aluminum foil

Preheat your grill. Spray bottom of roasting pan with non-stick spray. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise, and cut into half moons roughly 1/4 inch thick. Place sliced potatoes into a large bowl. Add onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper to the bowl. Season the mixture liberally with salt and pepper. Toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil until all potatoes are lightly coated. Add contents to the roasting pan and cover with aluminum foil. Place roaster onto a medium-hot grill and close lid. Allow potatoes to cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Using a thin spatula, stir potatoes every 15 minutes, making sure you scrape from the bottom. This practice ensures many crispy bits in your finished product. Don't forget to make sure that everyone gets at least one clove of roasted garlic.

Barbecued Corn

  • 4-6 large ears of white kernel corn
  • 1 stick of quality unsalted butter
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp pure chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove husks and silk from the ears of corn. In a bowl, allow butter to come close to room temperature. Add lime juice, garlic, herbs and spices, and mix to combine. Return bowl to fridge and allow butter to slightly harden. Smear equal amounts of butter mixture onto individual ears of corn. Wrap each ear in a 12-inch by 12-inch piece of foil. Place ears onto the grill over a medium to medium-low heat. Cook for 15 minutes, turning frequently. Unwrap and serve.

There you go, friends, Part I of my all-encompassing homage to the summer barbecue. Just wait until Part II, which is all about grilling the perfect steak!

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk's free newsletter and cooking blog at

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