Either way, the chefs say, you can cook almost any food on a grill. There is no reason to feel limited to meats or a select few specialties.
Learn the basics and you can adapt and improvise to your heart's, and stomach's, content.
To that end, the two shared their grilling expertise in a preview of grill cooking classes offered by top area chefs on the Main Line.
The annual course began last week with an introductory lesson that instructor Bud Bruno describes as "Grilling for Dummies."
Don't be offended. Think of it, instead, as Grilling 101.
A master in the ranks of grill instructors, Bud Bruno tells students to keep a lid on it because covered grills are the most heat efficient and versatile outdoor cookers.
"I see the grill as an oven. And the lid, like the oven door, should always be closed," Bruno said. "You wouldn't open the oven door at home 20 times while baking. And you shouldn't open the lid on a grill either."
Bruno is an expert at grill and fish cookery after years as a fish merchant and specialty grocer. Now he is director of dining services for the Wood Co., an Allentown-based food service provider.
He reminds us that food should be started on the grill with the presentation side down. That way the hottest, clearest hatch-marks (grill lines) are seared into the side diners will see.
Fish should be grilled skin-side down, Bruno says, for natural protection against overcooking.
And you know how it breaks apart when turned? Sure. That's why somebody designed those metal cages-on-a-stick for holding small and fragile foods on the grill.
Bruno goes one better. His advice: Grill fish skin side down (to protect the flesh) and don't turn it. And don't open the lid.
Fish is best left whole or in one large fillet, he says. More pieces, smaller pieces, increase the risk of overcooking, which results in drier, tougher textures.
By Bruno's reckoning, if you wait for fish to flake, it's way too late and too far overcooked, not worth eating. The chefs propose that fish be cooked more tenderly.
Sturdy vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini and Vidalia onions go directly on the grill.
"Corn, too, I usually cook right on the grill," said Bruno. "But first I pull the husks back and remove the silky fibers. Then I brush the corn with seasoning, put the husk back and put it on the grill for about six minutes."
Bruno steams more delicate vegetables, such as asparagus, in foil on the grill.
Among the best fruits for grilling are pineapple, melons, and exotics such as mango and papaya. Peaches and nectarines also grill really well.
"Most Americans don't have a clue to picking ripe mangoes and papaya," Bruno said. "They buy them so hard you could kill with them. There's no choice. You have to cook them."
Foods perceived as being too small or thin for the grill can be "kebabed," Bruno says. Even a fragile fillet can be skewered like a rippling wave.
GATHERINGS AT THE GRILL
The grilling style of Jon Jividen is a bit more sophisticated but just as easy for new-to-the-grill cooks to follow. His focus is on recipes for group gatherings around the grill.
"I try to do things that are different, unusual, but still easy . . . things that the average cook can do at home," said Jividen, who is executive chef for Feast Your Eyes Catering and Miss Amelia's Bar-B-Que. He joined this grill-coaching team after returning from a stint as executive chef at Ridgewells (the White House caterers) in Washington.
Both men take the simpler-is-better approach to grilling, and both teach basic techniques.
Jividen blends method instruction into preparations such as grilled pizzas, pumpkinseed pesto, or a menu such as the flank steak, sauce and radicchio salad he prepared here (see recipes).
Bruno focuses on the practical, on the basics of grilling. That's where timing and temperature come in. You need those basics to judge when certain foods are done.
Preheating the grill is key.
That's easy with a gas grill, but it may take a time or two to learn using charcoal since you have to remember how the coals will look and how the heat will feel when it reaches the desired 400 degrees for cooking.
The top and bottom grill vents should be wide open and the lid closed to heat the grill faster. Once it's hot, the temperature is regulated by adjusting the vents and lid. Open vents raise the grill temperature; closed vents (or an open lid) reduce it. Monitor temperature with an oven thermometer. If both vents and lid are closed, foods will bake/roast slowly on existing heat.
Though directions usually call for oiling the grill rack, Jividen has his own method for searing foods. He favors heating the dry grill (no oil) smoking hot.
"I put the oil directly on the food instead," he said.
Brush, dip or marinate the food in seasoned oil, then sear it on the hot grill. The technique works well with most foods. And there's no sticking, the chef assured.
It's the method he used for the Grilled Flank Steak With Chimichurri Sauce featured here. Though other beef cuts are more popular for grilling, flank steak provides a better balance of taste and value.
Except for hamburgers, which should be cooked medium to well done for safety, grilled meats are best cooked medium rare or to an internal temperature of about 150 degrees (160 degrees for pork).
WHEN IS IT DONE?
For the following foods, Bruno estimated cooking times on a covered grill, at 400 degrees:
For fish, allow 10 minutes per inch of thickness, based on the thickest part of the fish.
Boneless chicken breasts, about 15 minutes.
Bone-in chicken, about 35 minutes with the bone down.
Burgers, about 8 minutes.
Steaks, about 12 minutes for each inch of thickness.
"I try to get people away from 2-inch and 1-inch steaks," Bruno said. "I'm a 1/2- to 3/4-inch man. A thinner piece gives you an awesome-tasting steak in half the time.
Gas grills offer push-button convenience, but few people use their gas grills properly, Bruno says. Preheating is most important for gas grills since gas doesn't burn as hot as charcoal.
As for electric grills, they are the last resort of high-rise and condo dwellers.
IT'S A GUY THING
The mix of being outdoors and cooking with fire has atavistic appeal, making grilling almost irresistible to men. If there were a scale of such things, grills might rank somewhere between golf clubs and sports cars among big boys' toys. Prices run over $10,000 for top-of-the-line models.
Women shop for low-priced, utilitarian grills. Couples are more apt to settle on grills in the $300 to $500 range, a survey by Weber, the principal grill maker, concludes.
It's been only a few years since gas grills overtook charcoal models in sales, and already they are used by about 60 percent of the nation's grill owners, and are the replacement and upgrade choice of 37 percent more.
About half of those families have both charcoal and gas grills in the garage. Some keep several.
Whatever type of grill you have - and almost every home has at least one - you are likely to be among the 8 in 10 Americans who will be dining on grilled foods on the Fourth of July.
That's the kind of cookout at which Jividen shines. He encourages student grill cooks to be more confident and adventurous, to try new and unusual (if uncomplicated) dishes.
His success is reflected in the tale of a men's class - "16 or 17 guys" - that he taught a couple of years ago. Weeks later, he recalled, one student's very thankful wife reported that, since the class, the men had gotten together to reproduce the entire class menu for their mates.
Each session in the course is led by a top chef-teacher who brings his own culinary perspective to the grill.
Five classes remain.
Tomorrow, chefs Jack McDavid (Jack's Firehouse) and Greg Slonaker (Treetops) will be "Grillin' 'n Chillin' " barbecue-style with a menu built around baby back ribs.
Chef Nunzio Patruno (Monte Carlo Living Room) lead a class on Thursday, and chef Mustapha Rouissiya (lately of Rococo) on June 26.
On July 11, Jividen provides party ideas and recipes, along with a refresher on techniques that will include some newer grill foods such as pizzas and tortillas.
Chef John DiPrimio (Drexelbrook) wraps up the series on July 17 with a session on "Smokin' 'n Grillin' " that includes a grilled "wrap" of mozzarella and prosciutto in romaine, and mission figs wrapped in pancetta and grilled.
TIPS FROM THE CHEFS
Here are more of the chefs' guidelines for grilling:
Keep the grill clean. You'll always be ready to cook.
Don't precut portions. Use the largest piece available. Juices will travel from one area to another, helping to keep meat, fish or poultry more evenly moist.
When marinating meats for more than 20 minutes, refrigerate because bacteria grow more quickly at room temperature. Do not reuse marinades unless they have been brought to a full, rolling boil.
Apply glazes or sauces made with sugar or honey near the end of cooking or after since sugars tend to burn easily.
Use a digital instant-read thermometer to determine doneness. When the thermometer comes within five degrees of desired internal temperature, remove meat to a warm plate. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking on residual heat before carving or serving.
KEEP IT SAFE
Fire and safety officials add these precautions:
Use only equipment approved by an independent testing laboratory; follow manufacturer's instructions.
Never use a gas or charcoal grill indoors, or on or too close to a wooden or flammable deck or structure.
Check for gas leaks by wiping down hoses and connections with soapy water and watching for bubbles. Keep hoses clean and clear of obstructions.
Marilynn Marter's e-mail address is email@example.com
CLASSES, INFORMATION The Summer Sizzle series of outdoor grill cooking classes, sponsored by Albertson's Cooking School, is being held on Shipley Commons at the Shipley Upper School in Bryn Mawr. Classes begin at 6p.m. and cost $40 each. Proceeds benefit the Ronald McDonald House. For reservations, call 610-649-9290.
For online information on grills and grilling, visit the Web site www.bbqpeople.com
For more information on grilling, call the summer grilling hotlines, which operate until Labor Day:
Weber Grill-Line, 1-800-474-5568, provides recorded tips and e-mail answers to grilling questions. From 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, certified barbecue experts are on hand to answer questions directly.
The A-1 Steak Grilling Hot Line, 1-888-217-8325, offers a free recipe booklet along with its recorded grilling tips from steakhouse chefs.
Shady Brook Farms' Dial-A-Chef hotline, 1-888-723-4468, operates through Sept. 1, offering grilling tips and turkey recipes (recorded or by mail). Info is also available online at www.dialachef.com
NOW GRAB SOME GRUB, AND GRILL IT UP GRANDLY These recipes provided by Jon Jividen and Bud Bruno put some of the chefs' grilling guidelines into practice.
GRILLED FLANK STEAK
WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
1 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup fish sauce (see note)
3/4 cup lime juice
3/4 cup oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup minced, peeled garlic
1 ounce tamarind, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water (see note)
3 flank steaks, trimmed, about 1 pound each
Chimichurri Sauce (see recipe)
In large bowl, whisk together onions, fish sauce, lime juice, oil, brown sugar, garlic, tamarind mixture. Add flank steak to marinade. Cover. Marinate, refrigerated, 3 hours, turning steaks occasionally. Sear steaks on hot grill, 4 to 5 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Serve with Chimichurri Sauce. Makes up to 12 servings.
Note: Fish sauce and tamarind may be found in Asian markets.
Nutritional data per serving w/sauce: Calories, 427; protein, 26 grams; carbohydrates, 18 grams; fat, 29 grams; cholesterol, 46 milligrams; sodium, 1,440 milligrams.
6 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
2 jalapeno chilies, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup cider vinegar or lemon juice
1 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup minced oregano leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
With mortar and pestle or in food processor, mash garlic, bay leaves, jalapenos, salt to smooth paste. Add vinegar gradually; puree. Add flat-leaf parsley, oregano. Whisk in oil; mix well. Makes 12 servings, about 2 tablespoons each.
Nutritional data per serving: Calories, 67; protein, 1 gram; carbohydrates, 4 grams; fat, 6 grams; cholesterol, none; sodium, 817 milligrams.
GRILLED RADICCHIO SALAD
3 heads radicchio, quartered
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup walnut oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons grated locatelli or Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Blanch radicchio in boiling salted water for 1 minute. Drain; chill.
Season lightly with salt, pepper, sugar. Drizzle 1/4 cup oil over radicchio. Grill 3 to 4 minutes, turning just once, until edges are slightly charred. Transfer to serving platter; drizzle with remaining oil, vinegar. Sprinkle cheese, nuts over top. Makes six servings.
Nutritional data per serving: Calories, 251; protein, 5 grams; carbohydrates, 7 grams; fat, 24 grams; cholesterol, 5 milligrams; sodium, 134 milligrams.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch spinach, trimmed, rinsed, chopped
Salt and pepper
4 rainbow trout fillets, skinned
1 ripe tomato, sliced
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Heat oil; saute mushrooms until soft. Add spinach; cook a few minutes until wilted. Season with salt, pepper. Place fillets on oiled baking sheet or foil. Layer with mushrooms, spinach. Add sliced tomato. Top with shredded mozzarella. Bake 15 minutes in closed grill or oven at 400 degrees, just until cheese melts. Serve on rolls or with pilaf. Makes four servings.
Nutritional data per serving: Calories, 271; protein, 35 grams; carbohydrates, 7 grams; fat, 12 grams; cholesterol, 92 milligrams; sodium, 141 milligrams.
6 medium red potatoes
1 large head garlic, peeled
1 1/2 pounds sirloin, 1-inch cubes
1 cup orange juice
6 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 medium red onion
3 pattypan squash, quartered
12 fresh crimini mushrooms
12 cherry tomatoes
Boil whole potatoes 6 minutes; add garlic cloves; simmer 3 minutes. Rinse potatoes, garlic in cool water to halt cooking. While potatoes cook, prepare marinade by mixing orange juice, soy sauce, sugar, oil, scallions, minced garlic, pepper. Marinate sirloin in half of marinade, refrigerated, for 4 hours.
Cut onion into 6 wedges; divide into pieces 2 layers thick. Put onion, squash, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes in remaining marinade for 4 hours at room temperature.
Prepare, heat grill. Skewer vegetables, meat, alternating colors. Put skewers on hot grill 6 to 8 minutes, covered. Turn skewers, alternating placement over heat for even cooking. If desired, serve with prepared roasted garlic couscous. Makes six servings.
Nutritional data per serving: Calories, 574; protein, 45 grams; carbohydrates, 68 grams; fat, 15 grams; cholesterol, 87 milligrams; sodium, 1,150 milligrams.