When you think of summer grilling, do you envision yourself manning a hot grill with a cold glass of iced tea? Refreshing, not doubt, but why limit your tea experience to just a beverage? There are flavorful ways to incorporate some of your favorite teas with your favorite grilling methods and recipes.
Before you even contemplate how to use tea with your grill, take a few moments to conduct some gas grill reviews, especially if you’re ready to upgrade your current model for one with more features.
As a tea devotee, you know the beverage has been around for thousands and thousands of years. But tea also has a long history of being used in cooking. Throughout many Asian countries, it’s frequently added to food to imbibe certain flavors or spice.
In recent years, tea combined with food, be it ice cream, duck or tofu, has become very popular with chefs in the West. But you don’t have to work in the food industry to know how to develop delicious results, especially on the grill.
Probably the most popular use of tea on the grill is as part of a dry rub on meats, such as duck, chicken, beef, even seafood like shrimp. If you decide to go this route, taste your tea/spice mixture before applying it to the meat. That way, if the flavor isn’t where you want it, you can adjust. Once it’s on the meat, or worse yet, on the grill, you can’t make changes.
You can also use tea in wet marinades. Steep the tea as usual, let it cool, then add it to the other ingredients. Again, taste test your marinade and make adjustments before adding the meat. Whenever you marinade meat or vegetables, pat them dry before setting on a hot grill. This way they will sear and brown, which is the whole point of grilling, instead of just steaming.
A Smoky Vibe
Teas are great for smoking food on the grill. While most smoking methods involve soaking wood chips in water before adding them to a grill, tea leaves are an awesome substitution. Follow the same steps as you would with wood chips: Soak the leaves in water in an aluminum foil pan, drain the water, then put the pan under the grill grates—be sure to check the manufacturer’s smoking instructions.
Or create a flavor packet to set on top of a gas burner shield. Robert Danhi, author of Southeast Asian Flavors, suggests combining tea with rice, brown sugar, various spices and a little citrus zest into a foil packet. Then close the lid and let the heat toast the packet to release its flavors.
Smoking adds a lot of character to a blank protein canvas, but it can quickly overpower the meat’s natural flavor if you’re not careful. For a hint of the tea smoke, use an indirect heat grilling method. Basically, this keeps the food away from the heat source, and uses the grill’s ambient heat to cook. Remember, the smoking packet or soaked tea leaves are right by the heat source, so that’s where the flavor is most potent. The indirect method will taper the smoke off a bit. This might take a little longer cooking time, but the result will be a nice balance between smoke and natural flavor.
Another thing is to make sure to dry the food completely before adding it to the grill. Not only will it help with browning, but dry meat absorbs smoke better.
And, hey, no one says you can’t enjoy a great-tasting glass of iced tea while you’re manning the tea-induced grilling action.