It is time to get out those hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, fish and veggies. It is time to get cooking and fire up the grill! The summer months are a prime time for picnics, back yard barbecues and grilling out with friends and family. For some of us this cooking ritual has been a big part of our life and even with a visual impairment there are ways to actively participate.
When I lost my vision I stopped barbecuing because I felt it was too dangerous using charcoal, lighter fluid and wood chips. But after listening to a recent webinar from the Hadley School for the Blind, called “backyard grilling basics”, I am now thinking differently. The webinar gave history on barbecuing, grilling and types of grills that are safe to use for a visually impaired person along with various cooking techniques. I learned that instead of using a traditional backyard charcoal grill, a gas or electric might be better because there is no flame to manage. Even using a George Foreman Grill was highly recommended. One of the presenters discussed the benefits of using a gas grill and the steps she took to purchase and use it properly. Additionally, the importance of reading the instruction manual was noted for maximum performance and cooking safety.
When it came to preparing your food and actually cooking it several tips and suggestions were offered. The first step was to gather and prepare your food in advance. Since grilling is a fast cooking method, you want to have everything you need ready and quickly available. This could mean having vegetables washed and cut to size. Or having meats cut and seasoned so they are ready to get on the grill right away. Other tips included how to wrap food in aluminum foil. For example, grilling fish can be done this way by placing the fish in a foil wrap along with your seasonings, herbs and vegetables and then putting that on the grill. Other examples were using foil for potatoes and corn on the cob. Using foil is quick, easy and there is not much clean up afterward.
Extra cooking tips included using a grilling pan specifically for vegetables like beans and asparagus. The pan keeps everything in one place and you can gently toss with a spatula for even cooking. One of the presenters liked using skewers for cooking meats and vegetables. She mentioned the challenge of some things on the skewer cooking to fast while others were cooking slower. To remedy this she suggested cooking your meats on one skewer and your vegetables on another. Once done mix them altogether in a bowl and serve. The overall consensus on skewers is that they are easy to use because you don’t have to figure out how to turn it over. Just take the end of the skewer in your hand and flip one time. Also, because the portions are smaller and typically chunk size they will cook faster and you don’t have to wonder if it is done or not.
When it came to accessible cooking utensils, all the presenters used regular size forks, spatulas and tongs. They explained that using regular utensils were more manageable and they had more control. But one presenter did explain that he uses an iPhone app that helps him with grilling.
One very important aspect of grilling is keeping the grill racks clean to avoid bacteria and contamination. One suggestion was to heat up the grill rack and clean with a grill brush while warm. One approach that I saw my father do when I was a child, was to let the grill rack cool and wash with a brillo pad. But I think the quickest and easiest method is to cover the grill with aluminum foil and just remove after cooking.
What I have shared is only a portion of the webinar, so if you are interested in grilling please check out the webinar on the Hadley website. Also along with the webinar, a grilling resource list is available too.
So, do you grill out? What tips and techniques do you use to be safe on the grill? Do you use an electric, gas or charcoal grill? Share your comments below and let’s get ready to fire up the grill!