grilling over wood fire

Lance Rood, Culinary Demonstrator, CIA at Copia

Summertime is just around the corner. With warmer days and nights ahead it’s time to clean off the grill and enjoy the deep flavors of the flames. We’ve put together great tips to make your summer grilling experience easy and flavorful. So, fire up the barbecue, invite some friends over, and have fun! Your friends will love you for it!


  1. Grilling is a direct heat method of cooking.
    Heat control is the most important part of grilling. You want to pay attention to how intensely your food is grilling and adjust the heat up or down accordingly. Create different heat zones for high heat, mid heat, and low heat to allow you to prevent burning or uncooked food.
  2. Upping your grill game?
    Accompaniments to the protein are a great way to bring new flavors and fun to the plate, they may even take over.
  3. Vegetables are a great vehicle for flavor.
    Most vegetables can be grilled, though some may need more care during the process. When preparing vegetables for grilling, it is best to cut them into large flat pieces before grilling. This will allow you to work more efficiently and prevent any loss from falling through the grates of the grill. Then after grilling, you can cut them into smaller, more manageable sizes for eating or appearance. Produce such as zucchini and summer squashes, eggplant, bell peppers, cauliflower, broccoli, and root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, or yams are great for the grill. Some vegetables are naturally small, such as string beans and asparagus. This is where finesse comes into play. A tip: grill these veggies perpendicular to the rails and take care when turning or flipping them over not to change direction.
  4. Creating grill marks—the sign of a pro!
    Place ingredients at a 45-degree angle to the length direction of the rails on the grill. Do not move the items for 3-4 minutes, monitoring the visible exterior for heat intensity. Then rotate each item 90 degrees, starting with the first ones placed down. Allow for another 3-4 minutes of cooking then flip directly over and repeat the process on the other side. Grilling with gas or charcoal develops great flavor but if you are looking for even more, try using wood chips to get extra smokiness into your food.
  5. Wood: It’s a great flavor enhancer!
    Mesquite and apple wood chips are the most potent for a deep intense smoke. Cherry, almond, and even cedar wood add great flavors that are more subtle. There are several ways to use wood chips. You can soak them in water or another flavorful water-based liquid such as juice or infused water. Allow for at least 2-3 hours of soaking; overnight is better. The absorbed water will allow the wood to smoke longer before burning up. You will need about a handful of wood chips per fifteen minutes of smoking. If you only want to infuse flavor, only a handful or two should suffice.
  6. The Amazing Smoker
    Smoking is an indirect cooking method that draws controlled heat from a nearby or deflected source. There are many types of smokers but there are basically two simple categories—electric or manual. Manual smokers require you to light a coal fire and add wood chips. This entails some experience or trial and error to find the right temperature for a nice low and slow smoke. Electric smokers are more user friendly because there is a timing dial that allows for an even smoke intensity. The heating element is also controlled via a dial and provides longer duration of consistent cooking. If you are going to bypass smoking to flavor ingredients, consider which method you are going to use to cook. If you are using a wet marinade and a direct cooking method, be sure to wipe off as much of the exterior to prevent burning.
  7. Marinades.
    Marinades are effective ways to infuse flavor. Purée or mince ingredients to ensure the flavors get imparted. Dry seasonings are great for providing flavor to small or thin ingredients. Use a combination of fresh or dry herbs, spices, citrus zest, salts, and sugars and a small amount of oil to allow the seasoning to adhere.
  8. Prep work.
    When preparing your mise en place, be sure to allow time to clean your grates well, gather tools and utensils needed, preheat the grill, clean marinades off and resting time.

So have fun. Experiment a little with flavors and ingredients. And start your summer off right!