Grilling with Herbs: Cook Up an Herbal Cookout

Herb-based rubs, marinades and sauces turn ordinary cookouts into flavorful feasts.

| June/July 2007

  • Create a natural basting brush by tying together sprigs of your favorite herbs.
    Barbara Pleasant
  • Create a natural basting brush by tying together sprigs of your favorite herbs.
    Barbara Pleasant
  • Create a natural basting brush by tying together sprigs of your favorite herbs.
    Barbara Pleasant
  • Create a natural basting brush by tying together sprigs of your favorite herbs.
    Barbara Pleasant

Fifty years ago, Harry Truman brought fame to the phrase “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” This time of year, many of us heed his advice by cooking outdoors every chance we get. We already know that cooking with herbs indoors adds flavor and color without adding calories and fat, so why not take those benefits outside too. Here are dozens of ideas for making herbs essential elements of this year’s cookout season.

Herbal Hardware

If your rosemary has gone leggy or your oregano is reaching for the sky, put those long stems to work as skewers for kabobs. Slightly woody stems work best, but any sturdy herb stems will do as long as you handle them gently. Thread rosemary stems with colorful sweet peppers, summer squash, sweet onions, and either chicken or shrimp. If you’re using sage stems as skewers, include large sage leaves in the kabobs for extra flavor. Choose stems at least 8 inches long, and remove the leaves except for a small tuft at the tip. Should you have trouble with the threading, use a wooden skewer to pierce the pieces of food before threading them onto the stems.

Tip: Finely grind herbs before using them as a rub, then let the meat rest in the refrigerator for an hour or so to absorb the herbs’ flavors.

As long as you’re gathering stems, why not bind some together to make an herbal basting brush? This idea comes from John Lingle of Lingle’s Herbs, and all you need are five or six herb stems and a 12-inch piece of cotton or jute string. Strip the leaves from the base of each stem, gather the stems together into a bunch and wrap the string around the base several times before tying off the ends.

Do you have a smoker or metal smoking box that you normally fill with hickory or mesquite chips before tucking it into your gas grill? Dried herb stems make fantastic smoking material, and you will always have a good supply if you make a habit of setting aside herb stems that might otherwise go into your compost heap.

Radical Rubs

If thoughts of herb-crusted foods make your mouth water, try experimenting with herbal rubs. Simply blend together fresh or dried herbs and massage them into meat that has been washed in cool water and patted dry. As the heat from cooking releases the meat’s juices, they will meld with the rub to form a tasty crust.

Tip: Use a zip-top plastic bag to marinate meats or vegetables destined for the grill. Simply flip over the bag to make sure every morsel gets a good soaking. Fish or shrimp can become tough if they are marinated for more than an hour, but you can marinate chicken and other meats (as well as tofu) overnight without worry.



September 12-13, 2019
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