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Versatile new grills can cook more than the basics

Consumer Reports News: April 29, 2011 06:37 PM

It’s not good enough to just throw a shrimp on the barbie anymore. Grill makers are going gourmet by whipping up recipes for such non-traditional grill fare as frittatas, grilled fruit, Chinese-style sea bass, and chocolate sandwiches. By redefining the barbecue, manufacturers hope to attract more women to the male-dominated grill market.

"Guys can go out with a pitchfork and flip a steak and be happy," Sean Tegart, vice president of product marketing for Weber-Stephen Products LLC told the Wall Street Journal. "With new recipes and ergonomic grilling tools, it makes the experience more like cooking a full meal, and we're drawing on women." Of course, to execute these new recipes, grills need better temperature control and more accessories. That’s a trend we noticed in our just-completed tests of gas grills.

Grills with rotisserie attachments and side burners have been around for awhile. We found some new models, such as Stok Grills’ Quattro SGP433OSB ($350) that come with custom-fitted griddles, pizza-stones and vegetable-basket inserts that replace sections of stock grates. Unfortunately, the grill itself was just middling. The Kenmore 16135 ($500), which allows you to replace a section of grates with a built in-steamer, performed better. Char-Broil offers cast-iron griddle inserts on many of its grills for an additional $20.

“Some manufacturers’ add-on accessories are great, but keep in mind that you can use simpler accessories like cast-iron skillets, steaming trays and fish baskets from any company on your own grill to stretch its abilities,” notes Larry Ciufo, who oversees Consumer Reports grill testing. Our new grill tests increase emphasis on low-temperature cooking performance and we also rate indirect grilling, where food is placed next to heated section rather than right over the flames.

You’ll need these techniques to make many of the new recipes. Weber’s new Time to Grill cookbook and On the Grill iPhone and iPad apps offer recipes like black cod in banana leaves and creamy chicken linguine with wilted tomatoes. Vermont Castings’ recipe website includes a Chinese-style grilled sea bass recipe, while Char-Broil’s online recipes feature cedar-plank grilled salmon with orange-Muscat beurre blanc and EZ roasted broccoli with caramelized shallots and toasted walnuts. Brinkman’s recipes are a little more traditional with venison and peach cobbler, but Napoleon Grill’s recipe blog recently offered up plank-smoked chocolate chocolate chocolate brownies. Here’s a quick recipe to try from Weber’s Time to Grill cookbook.

Plums with honey-lemon yogurt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
6 plums, firm but ripe, about 2 lbs. total, each cut in half.
Vegetable or canola oil
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pistachios

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, honey, lemon juice and cardamom. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 °F to 450 °F).
  3. Lightly brush the cut side of each plum. Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the plums with the cut side down first over direct medium heat with the lid open until slightly charred and grill marks appear (about 3 minutes). Turn the plums over, sprinkle evenly with sugar and continue cooking for 3 more minutes.
  4. To serve, place two plum halves in each bowl. Spoon the honey yogurt over the plums. Sprinkle the pistachios on top.

Gian Trotta

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