Get your family to the grill
Since playing with fire is generally a no-no, parents really need to know the safety drill if they plan to open the grill to their kids and teach them how to make a deliciously fun dinner.
Grilling experts local Chef Chuck LaPorta; BBQ blogger Cyndi Allison (who writes a blog called “YES! You can grill!”); and Carlisle dad John Ulsh who operates two sets of hot smoking devices that slow cook everything from baby-back ribs to scallops wrapped in bacon—serve up tips on how to safely get your kids grilling.
From start to finish
LaPorta, who is the executive chef/culinary instructor for The Cornerstone Culinary Kitchen in Camp Hill, tells parents to involve children in the entire process; let them set the menu, shop for ingredients and experiment with food preparation. “Let them help select the cuts of meat and the kinds of veggies you’ll cook together,” said LaPorta, adding that many children get a real kick out of grilling pizza (see recipe).
Kids can help you push grilling boundaries, said Ulsh, who soaks strawberries in balsamic vinegar for about 30 minutes before grilling them per the request of his 13-year-old daughter, Katie, who likes to top her vanilla ice cream with the finished product.
Allowing children to prep and season items to be grilled gives them a sense of contributing to the family meal, said Allison, who lives in North Carolina. She is a fan of the dry rub because it gives children a tactile understanding of the food. Alternating chicken and vegetables on a skewer helps teach a balanced diet. And watching warm, grilled vegetables soak up vinaigrette provides an understanding of how one food can transfer flavor to another.
Allison always stressed the points of handling food safely to her own boys, now 19 and 20. Anything—a knife, a platter, a little hand—that touches raw meat gets a thorough washing before it touches anything else.
LaPorta and Ulsh agree that both long, insulated gloves and long tongs are a must-have for any junior griller in charge of flipping grilled items.
But you also have to be mindful that the heat being thrown off by the grill is also at a small child’s face level, a dangerous situation should, say, fat from a sirloin drip and cause a flame flare-up. LaPorta suggests putting wannabe grillers on a high stool, armed with a squirt bottles filled with water so when there is a flare-up they are ready to take aim and put it out.
Christine Burns Rudalevige is a classically trained food writer, recipe developer and cooking instructor based in Carlisle. Her two biggest culinary critics are Owen, 13, and Eliza, 10.