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Cookbook review: Fire up the grill with America’s Test Kitchen

“Master of the Grill” (America’s Test Kitchen)
“Master of the Grill” (America’s Test Kitchen)

Quick look: Everything’s numbered in this softcover encyclopedia aimed at helping home cooks master the art and science of backyard grilling. With 692 entries in all – including more than 400 recipes – the comprehensive and well-organized cookbook from one of America’s most trusted culinary brands is good for grillers of any level.

What’s inside: Recipe No. 1 is Great Backyard Burgers.

Next chapter, those burgers return – only this time, they’re Pull-Out-All-the-Stops Backyard Burgers with fancy toppings such as grilled shiitake mushrooms, scallions, cabbage and radicchio.

By the final chapter, grillers have graduated from burgers to Korean Grilled Short Ribs, Kansas City Barbecued Brisket, Kalua Pork and more.

Recipes in this textbook-meets-cookbook are divided into three chapters according to skill level: basics, easy upgrades and serious projects. Chapters are further organized by main ingredients – beef, pork, lamb, poultry, fish and seafood.

The focus is on meat. But recipes for grilled bread, vegetables, tofu and fruit are sprinkled throughout the book, too. In those categories, look for grilled portobello burgers as well as grilled asparagus, butternut squash, zucchini, corn, eggplant, plantains, pizza, vegetable and bread salad, charred carrot salad and grilled chicken Caesar salad with grilled romaine lettuce.

There’s a number for every single section, no matter how short. Non-recipes are divided into the following categories: step-by-step, shopping, food science, test kitchen, grill hacks, and gadgets and gear. These entries run anywhere from a single paragraph to a full page and often include multiple photos or illustrations. They discuss accessories as well as accoutrements. They also answer questions: What exactly is liquid smoke? Can you brine beef? Is pink turkey meat safe to eat?

Look for basic recipes such as kebabs, steak tips, T-bone and porterhouse steaks, and pork and lamb chops. Upgrade to Grilled Argentine Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce and Peach-Glazed Grilled Chicken. Then there are the serious projects: Grilled Pork Loin with Apple-Cranberry Filling, Grill-Roasted Cornish Game Hens, Grill-Roasted Beer Can Chicken and Grilled Lobsters.

What’s not: Grilling and barbecuing are two different techniques, even though the words are often used interchangeably. This book explains both terms and features recipes for each – using a typical charcoal or gas grill. So if you want to learn how to do whole-animal, backyard spit-roasting, this isn’t the cookbook for you.

Great Backyard Burgers

From “Master of the Grill” by America’s Test Kitchen

1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

4 hamburger buns

Break meat into small pieces in bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss lightly to mix. Divide meat into 4 portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, lightly toss from hand to hand to form ball, then gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty. Press center of patties down with your fingertips to create 1/4-inch-deep depression.

For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of the grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.

For a gas grill: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place burgers on grill (on hotter side, if using charcoal) and cook, without pressing them, until well browned on first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip burgers and continue to grill until burgers register 120 to 125 degrees (for medium-rare) or 130 to 135 degrees (for medium), 2 1/2 to 4 minutes.

Transfer burgers to platter, tent with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve on buns.

Yield: 4 hamburgers

Note: Although the recipe doesn’t call for them, the photo with this recipe shows the patty with a bun as well as lettuce, a tomato slice and pickles.

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