Grilling tips for the summer BBQ - Part 3

By Chef Dez | Jun 24, 2009

As the final entry of a three part series on barbequing, this one will focus on grilling non-meat items and basic barbecuing tips. If you missed either two of my previous columns on poultry and pork, or red meats, please email me at and I will be more than happy to send them to you.

I always find it enjoyable to prepare a complete meal on the grill. A side burner will assist with accompanying sauces, but the majority of the cooking can be done right on the barbecue.

Vegetables can be simply tossed in a quickly made marinade of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried basil, dried oregano, salt and pepper. The balsamic vinegar will aid in the caramelization of the natural sugars in the vegetables. Higher sugar content vegetables like bell peppers or red onions turn out beautifully. Marinated and grilled red onion is like eating candy. Skewers are very helpful for creating colourful vegetable kabobs or simply cut the vegetables into large pieces to help prevent them from falling between the grates. Once cooked, they can be served as is, or cut down in size to create a grilled vegetable salad or to enhance a pasta dish.

One of our side-dish grilling favourites is sweet potatoes. Many are confused about the two different varieties. Sweet potatoes have orange coloured flesh, while yams are starchier, less flavourful, and have white flesh. The names are usually mismatched with each other at the supermarket. To prepare them for the grill, slice lengthwise into one-quarter inch thick slices. Lightly coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Grill them over high heat to create grill marks on the surfaces, and then lower the heat, or transfer to an upper rack, to finish cooking them through. Searing the outside first will help them keep their shape without falling apart.

I hope these tips will encourage you to do more backyard grilling this summer. Most importantly don't overcook. Even most vegetables taste better with a little natural crunch.

Dear Chef Dez:

I am trying to become better at using my barbeque and I have always wondered should I be using it with the lid up or down?

Nicole C.
Penticton, BC

Dear Nicole:

Unfortunately, there is no fail-safe rule. Using the lid will all depend on what you are cooking and what you are trying to accomplish. The lid will assist your grill cooking in a couple of manners, but it certainly isn't a necessity for all tasks.

The lid helps your barbeque act like an oven. A perfect example would be cooking whole roasts or chicken on a rotisserie. During this process the lid should remain down to help contain the heat and create an oven-like environment to assist in cooking larger masses of meat. Having the lid down also traps more smoke and will help meats and vegetables to have a more smoky flavour.

A very general rule-of-thumb would be to grill fast cooking items with the lid up and larger slower cooking items (like roasts and thick steaks) with the lid down. However this will still depend on the level of flame you are using, and the doneness you are trying to achieve (for red meat for example). Generally a higher flame is used when the lid is open.

Send your food/cooking questions to or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4

Chef Dez is a food columnist, culinary instructor and cooking show performer. Visit him at

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