Specialty Grilling Techniques

article image
Photo courtesy Running Press (c) 2012
“The Gardener & the Grill” is the go-to grilling guide for gardeners, vegetarians and “flexitarians.” It’s an outstanding seed-to-table guide filled with seasonal recipes, tips on grilling for preserving and beautiful photography.

Step out of the box at your next backyard barbecue, and try these specialty grilling techniques from The Gardener & the Grill (Running Press, 2012). Savor the flavors of stuffed vegetables, fingerling potatoes and whole chicken or fish by grill-roasting them to perfection. Smoking onions, peppers and soft cheeses brings out a delicious, smoldering hardwood flavor. And nothing says “summer” like garden-fresh grilled vegetables alongside plump grilled fruits and savory meats. This excerpt is taken from the chapter “Specialty Grilling Techniques.”

Sometimes, to get a certain flavor and texture from foods, you’ll want to go beyond basic grilling. Your grill can perform many of the same cooking functions as your indoor stovetop and oven, such as searing, stir-frying, planking, and roasting. The grill just gives the food you cook outdoors more flavor.

By moving the food away from the fire, keeping the grill lid closed instead of open, adding wood or herbs to the fire, and using a grill gadget like a grill wok or plank, you can increase the versatility of your grill and your own barbecue repertoire. Here are three delicious grilling recipes and six specialty grilling techniques you should try.

3 Great Recipes for the Grill

Grill-Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Baja Fish Tacos
Red Hot Blackened Seasoning

Grill Roasting

Grill roasting is cooking food away from the fire, with the grill lid closed, for a longer time than simple indirect grilling. Grill-roasted foods cook through and scorch, but do not get grill marks or char. Vegetables usually take about 15 to 45 minutes; a grill-roasted whole chicken takes about 90 minutes. This technique works well for whole peppers, stuffed vegetables, whole baby carrots, cauliflower slices, fingerling potatoes, root vegetables, and whole chicken or fish. Wood-roasting takes this technique a step further; you add wood to the fire, producing an additional smoky flavor.

Indirect Grilling

Indirect grilling is cooking food away from the fire, with the grill lid closed, for a short time, usually under 15 minutes. Most often in this book, we ask you to prepare an indirect fire in your grill–a fire on one side and no fire on the other–so you can get good grill marks on foods on the hot side with the grill lid up, then transfer them to finish cooking on the indirect side, with the grill lid up or down, depending on the recipe. This allows more delicate dishes like Grilled Salmon in Corn Husks or grilled pizzas and flatbreads to get good flavor from the fire without getting burned.


Planking is placing foods on a flat piece of hardwood–usually cedar, maple, oak, alder, apple, or hickory–then placing the planked food on the grill grates. Planked food like butternut squash or salmon cook and gently burnish on the indirect or no-heat side with the grill lid closed for anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes.


When you want planked foods to be scorched instead of gently burnished, as for Plank-Roasted Pear Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts, you place the plank over direct heat. You close the grill lid and plank for a shorter time (so your plank doesn’t burn up), about 12 to 15 minutes.


Smoking adds the flavor of smoldering hardwood to food. You start with an indirect fire, add wood to the fire, place the food on the indirect side, and smoke with the grill lid closed. Smoking usually takes anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes for foods in this book, and is wonderful for garlic, onions, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and soft cheeses like fresh chevre.


Just as you would use a metal wok to stir-fry on your stovetop, so you can use a metal grill wok–one with perforations to let the grill flavor reach the food–on your grill. As for a stir-fry, you want a lean protein (beef, fish, chicken, shrimp, tofu) and possibly also a mixture of colorful vegetables cut in small pieces and usually marinated ahead of time. Because the grill wok has holes in it, you pour the marinated foods into the grill wok placed in the sink or outside on the grass, so you don’t have a mess. The grill wok goes over direct heat and you use long-handled grill spatulas or wooden utensils to stir the food as it grills. Your food will have the flavor of the grill, some scorching, but few grill marks. Depending on how hot your fire is and how quickly your food is getting done, you can leave the grill lid open for less heat or close it for more heat. Stir-grilling usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Gardener & the Grill, by Karen Adler and Judith Fertig, published by Running Press, 2012.

Need Help? Call 1-800-456-6018
Mother Earth Living
Mother Earth Living
The ultimate guide to living the good life!