Anytime Is Barbecue Time

IN THE KITCHEN

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Warm spring days are perfect for a good old-fashioned barbecue. It's a fun, sure-"fire" way to get the gang together. And admit it, you're dying to don that questionably clever "Kiss the Cook" apron, arm yourself with two-foot-long grilling utensils and ceremoniously fire up the BBQ.

Barbecue sizzle isn't just synonymous with summer and fireworks. Anytime can be barbecue time. After all, there's nothing better than food cooked over charcoal -- perfectly seared on the outside, tender on the inside -- sending exquisitely taste-tempting aromas throughout the neighborhood all through the year.

Light a fire under yourself with these easy grilling tips and recipes.

It's not only what you grill, but how you prepare, cook and serve it up that will make your barbecue successful.

Fire Up the Grill

Charcoal grilling is a great way to add flavor to your food. The number of briquettes required for that perfect flame will depend upon the size and type of grill as well as the amount of food being prepared. As a rule of thumb, it takes about 30 briquettes to grill one pound of meat.

Let It Marinate

Prepared marinades are a quick and easy way to get flavor into every bite of your grilled meat. For foolproof flavor, marinate your choice of meat in a closed container or a resealable food storage bag for at least 30 minutes (longer for a more intense flavor). When ready to grill, discard the used marinade and use fresh for basting.

Easy Freeze

For another time saver, freeze individual chicken breasts or hamburger patties in a sealable wrap. It helps prevent freezer burn and makes it easy to dole out portions, whether feeding the family or a larger gathering.

Take Away

Send guests home with delectable leftovers packaged in those popular disposable containers -- they're great both for storing and transporting. Give new meaning to the word "doggie bag" by including the recipes and an instant photo of the gang with you in your silly chef's apron!

Be Safe

Food safety is just as important as grilling safety. Here are some easy tips to help avoid cross-contamination (transferring of bacteria) among foods while you're cooking:

  • Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before starting any meal preparation and after handling raw meat or fish.
  • Be sure to wash all plates and cooking utensils that have touched raw or partially cooked meat or fish immediately after use.
  • Use separate designated cutting boards and plates for meats and vegetables.

Beer Cheese Dip

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus additional for garnish

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1 (1-ounce) packet ranch dip mix

1/2 to 3/4 cup beer

Chopped green onions for garnish

Pretzels or assorted fresh vegetables

In a medium bowl, combine cheddar cheese, cream cheese and dip mix. Gradually stir in beer until mixture reaches desired consistency. Garnish with green onions and additional cheddar cheese. Serve with pretzels or vegetable pieces. Makes 3 cups.

Ranch Picnic Potato Salad

6 medium potatoes (about 3 1/2 pounds), cooked, peeled and diced

1/2 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup sliced green onions

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 cup ranch dressing

2 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped, for garnish

Paprika for garnish

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, celery, onions, parsley, salt and pepper. In a small bowl, stir mustard into dressing; pour over potato mixture and toss lightly. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Sprinkle with eggs and paprika before serving. Serve in lettuce-lined bowl, if desired. Makes eight servings.

Garlic and Herb Chicken Satay

1 bottle garlic and herb-flavored marinade

3 tablespoons chunky peanut butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon water

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken, cut into strips

Combine 1/3 cup marinade with peanut butter, brown sugar, water and spices; whisk together and reserve. Combine chicken strips with remaining marinade; marinate for 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Remove meat from marinade and thread onto 8 skewers*. Discard excess marinade and broil both sides of chicken until meat reaches 160 degrees. Heat reserved dipping sauce, and serve with meat. Makes four to six servings. (*If using bamboo skewers, soak in water 30 minutes before use.)

Smokehouse Baked Beans

4 bacon slices, diced

1 teaspoon bacon drippings (or 1 teaspoon oil)

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

2 (15-ounce) cans small white beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup honey smoke-flavored barbecue sauce

3 tablespoons chili sauce

Cook bacon in medium skillet until crisp; drain on paper towels and set aside, reserving 1 teaspoon; discard drippings. Sauté onion and pepper in reserved drippings or oil. Combine all ingredients in 1-quart casserole dish; bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes eight servings.

Recipes courtesy Family Features.

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