Don’t fear the flame |

Don’t fear the flame

Tips for sizzlin' summer barbecues

Put away the skewers and start worshipping the grilling basket. It will change your barbecuing life.

If there is one summer grilling accessory we wouldn’t be without, it’s a grilling basket or wok with a non-stick surface. Grilling vegetables has never been this easy.

Threading chunks of onion and mushroom onto a bamboo skewer or stainless steel sword is not only tedious, but the vegetables never cook properly – onions are half raw, pineapple chunks are charred and mushrooms become, well, mush.

It doesn’t have to be that way. For less than $20, you can purchase a wok that allows you to vary cooking times and barbecue with a light marinade. Even better, you’ll never drop another chunk of bell pepper into the flames again.

You can purchase a small version of the traditional wok, but we prefer a grilling basket perforated with hundreds of quarter-inch holes that let smoke and just the right amount of flame reach the veggies.

A good example is the 12-inch Grill Topper non-stick porcelain basket. Its sides are angled out at about 30 degrees, allowing a perfect fit on most propane grills. The angled sides also make it easier to stir your food.

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Before cooking, segregate your chopped and quartered vegetables by cooking time – start with chunks of onions and pepper, eventually adding softer vegetables such as zucchini and mushrooms.

Toss the vegetables in balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil. Next, lightly douse the basket with cooking spray before setting it on the grill, and you’re in business.

Finer Fish

Veteran griller Billy Hamil from Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co. also recommends grilling baskets or flatter grill plates for cooking delicate fish like snapper or cod. He likes to baste fish with olive oil before grilling.

If you’re cooking a firmer fish with the skin on – salmon, for example – begin by oiling the grill. When you’re ready to cook the fish, place it flesh side down first. Flip it only once onto the skin side, and when you take if off the grill, you can leave the skin on the grill.

Hamil says successful summer grilling begins with a devotion to keeping your grilling surface clean. Always use a wire brush to clean the grill before cooking. People eat with their eyes, and clean grilling marks on an expensive steak always make the best impression.

If your grill already is encrusted with industrial black gunk, shop for a stainless steel replacement with the fattest grill bars you can find.

Hamburger Helper

Chris Wyant, resort executive chef for the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., has some tips for elevating the status of the all-American hamburger.

Gather some finely chopped condiments in advance – tomatoes, pickles, onions or mushrooms – and mash them into your beef patties.

Do not baste the meat with alcohol or juice, particularly if you are using lean ground beef. But it’s a good rule of thumb for all meats.

“You always want to baste the meat – whether it’s burgers, chicken or pork chops – with fat, not juice,” Wyant said.

If you want to splurge, use butter. Alternatively, use a healthier oil such as canola.

Finally, Hamil recommends that if you’re splurging on expensive steaks this summer, plan to give them a little nap between the time you take them off the grill and serve them.

“If you’re serving 2-inch-thick cowboy steaks, allow a total of 10 minutes cooking time per inch and let the meat rest for 10 minutes before you serve it,” he said.