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Backyard barbecue enthusiasts in Northwest Arkansas and around the region typically prefer the taste of grilled foods over meals prepared in other ways. Much of that devotion to grilled foods can be traced to the unique flavor open flames impart to meat, poultry and fish.

Many people try to bolster the flavor of grilled foods even further by marinating items, often for several hours, before putting them on the grill. But chef Chris Schlesinger and editor John Willoughby, coauthors of the book "The Big-Flavor Grill: No-Marinade, No-Hassle Recipes for Delicious Steaks, Chicken, Ribs, Chops, Vegetables, Shrimp, and Fish" insist that marinating foods is an entirely unnecessary step that may even adversely affect the taste of grilled foods.

Grill masters who have made marinades part of their grilling routines may be surprised to learn that Schlesinger and Willoughby recommend spice rubs over marinades. Marinating only flavors the surface of the meat, which may surprise marinade devotees who think marinating several hours prior to firing up the grill provides ample time for the flavor of marinades to soak into the meat. An additional benefit of rubs over marinades is that rubs need not be applied hours in advance of grilling. In fact, rubs applied minutes before foods are placed on the grill will still provide an intense burst of flavor.

Cooks who marinate to tenderize their grilled foods may also be surprised to learn that Schlesinger and Willoughby suggest that this, too, is a waste of time. The authors note that marinades, especially those left on for too long, may make foods taste mushy, a taste that's vastly different from tender. In lieu of relying on marinade to tenderize meats, cooks can make sure foods are cooked to the appropriate temperature. The Food Network offers the following guidelines to cooks who want to ensure their foods are cooked to the right temperature.

Chicken and turkey: Chicken and turkey breasts should be cooked to 165 F, while thighs should be cooked to between 165 F and 175 F.

Beef and lamb: Rare beef and lamb should be cooked to 125 F but given three minutes rest after removed from the grill. Medium-rare beef and lamb should be cooked to between 130 F and 135 F, while those who prefer medium well should cook until their beef and lamb registers temperatures between 135 F and 140 F on a meat thermometer. Well-done beef and lamb can be cooked to a minimum of 155 F.

Four popular grilling techniques

1. Smoking

Smoking is one grilling technique that is growing in popularity, as products such as the Big Green Egg inspire more people to smoke their foods. Smoking involves cooking foods in closed chambers at low temperatures. Smoking is not the quickest way to whip up a meal, as the low temperatures require foods be cooked for lengthy periods of time.

2. Spit roasting

Also known as rotisserie grilling, spit roasting may call to mind pig roasts in which food placed in a chamber with a rotating, often motorized spit. Indirect heat is used to cook the foods placed on the spit or skewer, and spit roasting is often a go-to method for cooking whole birds or ribs.

3. Indirect grilling

When employing this technique to grill foods, cooks will not place their foods over a direct heat source, such as an open flame. Some people prefer indirect grilling because it tends to produce foods that are well cooked on the inside but do not have the charred exterior that foods grilled by other means may have.

4. Plank grilling

Popular among people who like to grill fish, plank grilling involves putting food on top of a plank of wood and then placing the plank over a direct heat source. In addition to the flavor imparted to the food from the heat source, such as charcoal, the plank itself can add its own unique flavor.

NAN Dining Guide Spotlight on 06/10/2018

Print Headline: Get that grill goin'

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