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Rob Rainford provides tips and recipes on grilling
Rainford's love of grilling is well known to viewers of the Food Network Canada television station. His show, "License to Grill", ran on the network for five seasons from 2002 to 2007, and can still be seen in reruns. His signature line, "Look at those beautiful char marks!" became a mainstay over the show's 99 original episodes.
With plans underway to tape the pilot for a new television series, Rainford has spent much of the past two years working on a new book about — what else — grilling.
The recently published, "Rob Rainford's Born to Grill: Over 100 Recipes From My Backyard to Yours," contains an eclectic assortment of dishes. There are traditional grilling recipes for ribs and steak, but also a few surprises, including quiche, foie gras and sweetbreads. The book also includes recipes for side dishes and salads.
The book introduces readers to the "Rainford Method" — which Rainford says is a way to "deconstruct" each recipe in the book by working through the steps in a methodical and standardized manner.
"I look at it as just a blue-print. You don't know how to do it? Don't worry about it. I'm there with you," Rainford says.
Tips for new grillers
Rainford says grilling is about "ambition." He recommends that those new to grilling should start with a few basics and slowly work their way up to more complicated food.
"Learn how your grill works," Rainford says. "Learn to be comfortable with the distance you have from your grill. If you need extra distance, buy longer tongs."
Rainford says he believes the most intimidating aspect of grilling is the heat.
"The grill is throwing 500 degrees of temperature at you," Rainford says. "That would intimidate anybody. So part of my process is that you should ease yourself into it.
"Start with hamburgers and hot dogs. Then try a streak. After steak, try chicken.
"Chicken has a little more fat in it, so it sometimes get a little extra flare-up. But if you can deal with that you are ready to move to the next level, which is fish."
Fish: a special case
Rainford considers fish the most difficult thing to grill.
"Most people put fish on the grill and it sticks. Why did it stick? You didn't have the grill hot enough," Rainford says. "You didn't oil the fish or the grill grates. And — this is the caveat — you started touching it right away. You put the fish on and then you've started to try to turn it. You can't do that."
Rainford says that the skin on fish is the most difficult part in terms of grilling.
"It makes a big difference," Rainford says. "I recommend to most people that they take the skin off. That will eliminate the sticking.
"But if the skin does stick, that is okay. You can usually get underneath and get most of your fish without the flesh sticking to your grill."
Rainford says grilling fish comes down to two key things: patience and the type of fish being grilled.
"If you are a beginner, start with a very dense fish such as tuna, mahi mahi or swordfish. Those work very well and you don't have to be a pro," Rainford says. "Salmon or a delicate white fish require a little bit more dexterity."
Rainford suggests grilling on a wooden plank for those new to fish.
"Soak the plank overnight, throw your fish in it, put your plank on the grill and close the lid," Rainford says. "You don't have to worry about sticking."
"For more complicated cases, you have to oil the fish. You also need to oil the grate and make sure it is clear of debris," Rainford says. "Sear the fish and then do the flip. But you should be a more seasoned cook before you start getting into more complicated types of fish.
Heat manipulation is key
The key to successful grilling, says Rainford, is mastering the art of heat manipulation.
"When most people grill, they want to turn their barbeque right up to high. Or if they are cooking with charcoal they light the whole thing," Rainford says. "So you've got this flame thrower in front of you."
Rainford recommends setting up a grill so there is a heat gradient.
"With charcoal, push some over to one side. Create a one-quarter space with no coals," Rainford says. "With regular propane, turn one burner off. Always leave one burner off, one at medium, and then the others on high. You will have a better outcome."
While Rainford says that "mastering the art of the flame" can be difficult, it ultimately allows better control over the grilling environment.
"Once you get it, you get it," Rainford says.
Rainford encourages those interested in grilling to give it a try.
"Everybody can have a grill, whether it's on your balcony or in your backyard," Rainford says. "A grill is just an oven. It's all there for you to give you a try. Just have fun with it."