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Using your grill as an outdoor oven

This is the time of year where we tend to get outside more often during the warmer months. This is prime grilling and BBQ season, not that you can’t grill year ‘round. Myself, I don’t let weather or season get in my way of outdoor cooking but some of us live in regions that make it a little more difficult in inclement weather.

Most types of grills can double as an outdoor oven…to cook things other than meat, too! (Provided it can get to the appropriate temperature) There are plenty of reasons that this works for several applications. We have talked about grilled pizzas before, but think inside the box. There is no reason why you can’t bake cakes, cookies, pizza, quiches, frittatas, casseroles, mac n cheese, etc…

When you think about it, the best reason to explore this is alternative energy. It makes sense to use gas or charcoal instead of the electricity it takes to fire up your oven. Also, it may be warm outside and you’re trying to keep your house cool with air conditioning, inside.

If you have an electric grill, smoker or pellet grill that uses electricity…that’s ok, too. Mostly because you’re house’s interior won’t raise in temperature from your oven’s output. This will also this provide more room in your kitchen for guests!

All you need are some cookie sheets, casserole dishes, pizza pans, cast iron skillet or other inexpensive items that might already be in your kitchen. Just make sure that you’re ok with getting those dirty. 🙂 Oh yeah, invest in a good pair of heat resistant gloves if you don’t have oven mitts. http://www.amazon.com/health-personal-care/dp/B001EPR98Q

Now that we have mentioned the environmental reasons for using your grill as an outdoor oven…

How about the best reasons? Taste and togetherness.

You’d be surprised at the flavors that can be subtly and quite deliciously added to your macaroni and cheese when you cook over charcoal. (I would recommend indirect heat at 350 F degrees) If you don’t want that kind of smoky flavor, use your gas grill when baking things like cookies or cakes.

However, the very best reason is the gathering of friends and family. Getting others involved and getting everybody in your crew outdoors. Cooking outdoors is not just for the adults and the guys. This is the chance for you to hone your skills for then next time you go camping, your next birthday, graduation, retirement or summer party that could be transformed by making that killer dish that you baked in you “outdoor oven.”

I have just started getting into doing this and it makes sense. As soon as I bake some outdoor brownies, or smoke some green bean casserole, I’ll be sure to feature those in their own blog. For now, I just wanted to get the idea out there.

Happy outdoor cooking!

-J

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Cedar plank smoked salmon with bonus leftover salmon salad roll

Using flavored wood smoke for your foods is way easier than you think. If you can soak a piece of wood in water, beer, wine or fruit juice…you can smoke anything on virtually any kind of grilling contraption.

Using a cedar plank may be one of the easiest methods, ever. It’s particularly great for delicate food like fish. But can be equally as tasty using shellfish, beef or poultry. It’s simple, effective, makes presentation rustic and clean up easy, too. My other favorites are scallops and London broil/flank steak on the plank.

You can find grill planks at pretty much any hardware store or big box store, as well as online. And the easy part is all you need to do is soak it in a liquid for prep. About a half to full hour is all you need and you can use anything you like from water to beer to apple juice. Since some of the grilling planks can be a little long, a cookie sheet is probably your best best to use as vessel to soak the plank in. You can weigh it down with a glass or bowl of water. Then just set aside after soaking and the cool thing is you can use it as a prep dish and go right to the grill!

Set up your grill for indirect heat. It doesn’t matter if you use a charcoal grill, gas grill or smoker with this…with the exception of time and temperature. As long as your plank isn’t over a direct flame, you’re all set.

I used wild caught sockeye salmon, as it marries perfectly with the cedar smoke for a distinctly Pacific Northwest inspired flavor profile. I washed the filets and patted dry with a paper towel and placed on the soaked plank. For me, I think it is easier to leave the skin on the filet. I think it may be a personal choice, but for me it holds in the juice and helps the filet stay intact. I keep it real simple; grass fed butter (ie Kerrygold), fresh lemon zest and juice, fresh rosemary sprig, (I used thyme in the pics) sea salt and cracked pepper.

I used my ceramic egg for this…but like I said, it’s a versatile dish, so just pay attention to your temperature. I was able to have this a perfect medium rare in no time at all. The planks will get a little char on them, but won’t go ablaze. You can serve this directly on the planks for a rustic buffet style. Otherwise, they will slide right off intact for a plate presentation. It all depends on how many filets you’re doing.

This also provides an excellent leftover opportunity, if you lucky enough to have some left! I mixed a small dollop of some olive oil mayo and diced dill pickle into my left over salmon to make a smoked salmon salad roll. I spread the mix on a whole wheat tortilla, rolled it up, and cut it sushi style to make an appetizer roll which I topped with some hot pepper sauce served with sliced dill pickles. Truly a bonus left over dish that’s really simple and quite amazing.

-J

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