If you've been doing more grilling since the pandemic, you're not alone: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, grill manufacturers and retailers have reported some of their strongest sales ever. As more people get out there and take playing with fire to the next level, Emily McGee of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association told us about some of the four hottest trends in grilling that they've noticed this summer.
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The intimidation factor of smokers is finally starting to fade, says McGee. These tools aren't as scary and mysterious as people may think. In fact, they're fairly easy to get the hang of, especially if you opt for an electric or gas version. Wood smoke imparts incredible flavor, whether you're cooking pork butt, brisket, or chicken.
Vegetables Beyond the Usual
We've been grilling eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini for years, and grilled corn has long been our go-to. Now, home cooks are leaving no vegetable behind when it comes to grilling. McGee loves sweet potatoes (scrub them, cut into half-inch discs, toss with olive oil, grill at around 400°F degrees for a few minutes on each side, and sprinkle with salt). We've even heard of people grilling Brussels sprouts on the stalk and—wait for it—spit-roasting entire cauliflower on a rotisserie, as you would a whole chicken.
McGee says she's seeing a big uptick in people buying grilling accessories beyond the usual spatula, grill brush, and tongs this year. A few cool tools we've noticed: a wireless thermometer, which will ensure you don't under- or over-cook your food without pesky wires snaking all over; a grill mat, which is great for preventing small foods from falling through the grates; and a burger press, which will help you create uniformly sized burgers that'll cook evenly.
Grill baking is gaining in popularity, says McGee, especially as people are now viewing their grills as extensions of their indoor kitchens. That means everything from casseroles and pies to brownies and pizza can be baked on a grill. As long as you've got a trustworthy thermometer, you can follow a recipe exactly as you would for an indoor oven, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature your recipe calls for.