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With warmer weather, it’s time to fire up the grill

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Gas grills are still the most popular type for grilling, but today’s units are multi-tasking appliances. In addition to the burners, many now include infrared searing “zones,” charcoal pans to convert to charcoal grilling and built-in smoker boxes with dedicated burners for smoke cooking.
Charcoal grills are still quite popular because of the “true” charcoal flavor obtained when grilling. Today’s electric grills seem to burn hotter than their predecessors, now reaching temperatures high enough to actually sear a steak.

Use the finger test
Are you one of those outdoor grillers who likes cut into the meat to peek for rare, medium or well-done? If so, you’re releasing the juices that help keep the meat moist. You can easily check for the doneness of meat without using a thermometer by comparing how the meat feels with the feeling of your hand as you touch different fingers together.
Raw meat: Open the palm of your hand. Take the index finger of your other hand and push on the fleshy area between the thumb and the base of the palm. Make sure your hand is relaxed. This is what raw meat feels like.
Rare: Press the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb. The fleshy area below the thumb should give quite a bit. This is what meat cooked to rare feels like. Open up your palm again and compare raw to rare.
Medium rare: Gently press the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb. This is medium rare.
Medium: Press the tip of your ring finger and your thumb together. The flesh beneath the thumb should give a little more. This is what meat cooked to a medium doneness feels like.
Well-done: Gently press the tip of your pinky and your thumb together and feel the fleshy area below the thumb. It should feel quite firm. This is what well done meat feels like when you press on it.

Grilling tips
Lightly brushing or spraying the meat will produce fewer flare-ups than oiling the grate.
Preheat the grate. Once it’s hot, then you can brush off leftover bits from the last time you cooked, and it will be ready to sear your food.
Keep the lid closed, as it helps to speed up the cooking process, develop smoky flavor and prevents flare-ups.

Grilled Marinated Pork Chops
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chili sauce
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
6 rib or loin pork chops (about 1-inch thick)
Combine the first five ingredients. Place chops in a glass baking-dish and pour marinade over the top. Cover and refrigerate 3-6 hours or overnight.
Preheat grill to medium high heat. Remove chops from marinade and grill to desired doneness, turning once. Brush occasionally with the marinade. Makes 6 servings.

Grilled Chicken with Brie and Melon
Skinless, boneless chicken breasts are pounded and stuffed with cubes of Brie cheese and melon, rolled up and grilled.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/4-inch thick
3/4 tsp. sea salt
3/4 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
2 Tbsps. chopped parsley
8 oz. Brie cheese, 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup cantaloupe, 1/2-inch cubes
3 Tbsps. butter, melted
Preheat grill to medium high. Lay chicken out on work surface, boned side up; season with salt, pepper and parsley. Top with cubes of Brie and melon. Fold in sides; roll up jellyroll style. Fasten with toothpicks that have been soaked for 30 minutes. Brush with butter. Grill 3-4 minutes on all 4 sides. Makes 4 servings.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Flank Steak
1-1/2 lbs. flank steak (1/2-inch thick)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsps. dry mustard
1/4 cup Jack Daniel s whiskey
Vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Score the flank steak with a sharp knife, about 1/8-inch deep, in a diamond pattern; set aside. Mash the garlic with the mustard. Stir in the whiskey; pour mixture over the steak and refrigerate, covered, overnight. Set out at room temperature for 2 hours before cooking.
Grill over high heat 3-5 minutes per side, dotting each side with butter while cooking. Slice the steak immediately by cutting across the grain into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Cedar-Planked Salmon
1 or 2 untreated cedar planks (depending on size of salmon)
1/2 cup Italian salad dressing (more herbs, the better)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes in oil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 salmon fillet (about 2 lb.), 1-inch thick
Immerse the cedar plank in water, placing a weight on top of the plank to keep it submerged, and soak for at least 4 hours. Combine dressing, parsley and tomatoes; set aside.
Preheat grill to medium heat. Place cedar plank on hot grill; allow bottom side to become charred and smoking. Turn plank over, brush top with oil and place salmon, skin side down, on cedar plank. Grill for 10 minutes. Brush with dressing mixture; continue grilling 10 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with fork. Makes 8 servings.

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad
The flavor of German potato salad with a twist, sweet potatoes, red bell peppers and balsamic vinegar make up this delicious salad.
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
1/2 cup red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsps. butter, softened
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 slices bacon, cooked, crumbled
Heat grill on medium heat. Place sweet potatoes, onion and red pepper onto a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil; dot top of vegetables with small pieces of softened butter. Top with another piece of foil and seal edges by folding over twice. Place foil packet onto grill. Grill, turning once, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Carefully open packet; spoon vegetables into serving bowl. Add all remaining ingredients; gently toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at nharding@brunswickbeacon.com.