Fire is a mighty ingredient all on its own, adding an alluring smokiness to meat, seafood and vegetables. So skip the marinade: Grill your ingredients with only oil and salt, and over unrelenting direct heat for a crisp char. Then, season them hot off the grill. This style of cooking takes little time and less planning — and can simplify and shake up dinnertime.
For a good time grilling, heed these tips:
Prep your ingredients, and get the grill super hot.
Choose something slender and sturdy (like scallions) or lean and marbled (like skirt steak) that can cook in less than 20 minutes. As the grill heats up, pat your ingredients dry with paper towels, then let them air-dry until you’re ready to cook. You want the grill hot, but only on one side, so that there’s a cool zone where you can move ingredients if you need to pause and regroup. This is called two-zone grilling. Make sure to clean the grates with a grill brush, then lightly grease the ingredients and the hot grates to prevent sticking.
Follow the flames more than the recipes.
Each time at the grill will be a little different, so use your senses for the best results. Grill ingredients over direct heat until the bottoms release naturally from the grate, then flip and cook until the outsides are golden and speckled with char and the insides are cooked through. If your food could use more color, move it to a hotter area. If it flares up, move it to the safe, cool zone.
Once everything is hot off the grill, season enthusiastically.
Use acidic, salty, fresh or spicy seasonings that stand up to smokiness — and distract if the cooking went awry. Rest ingredients in a bold sauce so no meat juices are wasted. Add crunch with a dressed salad, nuts or breadcrumbs, which will also conceal a less-than-crackly crust. Create a big-flavored glaze by coating your food with butter and a condiment, like hot sauce. Butter can fix most problems.
Grilled swordfish with corn salad
• 4 swordfish steaks, 1- to 1 1/2-inches thick
• 6 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
• Neutral oil, such as grapeseed
• 1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, plus more for serving
• 2 ears of corn, kernels cut straight from cobs
• Kosher salt and black pepper
• 1 slightly heaping cup chives, cut into 1-inch lengths
• 1 small bunch cilantro, leaves and stems cut into 1-inch lengths
• Flaky salt, for serving
Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking over medium-high heat by pouring the coals onto one half of the grill. For a gas grill, heat all the burners to high, then turn off one of the end burners before cooking.
While the grill’s heating, pat the fish dry and make the salad: In a medium bowl, combine the rice vinegar, 3 tablespoons neutral oil, sesame oil and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chives and cilantro on top, and season with salt and pepper.
When you’re ready to grill, pat the fish dry again, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon salt and lightly coat with oil. Take the fish, salad, a tightly folded paper towel soaked with oil, tongs, a fish spatula and a serving platter to the grill. Clean the grates, then oil with the paper towel. Grill the fish until well browned on one side, 4-6 minutes. Flip with a fish spatula and cook until it registers 130 degrees, 2-4 minutes.
Transfer to the platter. Toss the salad, then top the fish with it, spooning extra dressing over the fish.
Let rest for 5 minutes before eating. Season to taste with flaky salt, pepper and sesame oil.
Medium-high is 375-450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4-5 inches above the grates for 4-5 seconds. High is above 450 degrees. You should be able to hold your hand 4-5 inches above the grates for 2-3 seconds.