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Summer Eats - Meat Meets Heat
CBC Radio | August 11, 2006

Summer Baking

Click to listen to the RealAudio file Listen (runs 5:01)

Chef Craig Youdale loves to cook outside.

"If I can go an entire summer and not turn my oven on inside my house, it's a good summer," he says.

But for Youdale, that doesn't mean a whole season without baking. A grill with a lid, he says, is in many ways like an oven, so baking is still possible – even if it is a little different.

Pizza from the grill has become a favourite trick of some, but a frustrating series of burnt-black crusts for many more. Pizza shares the same difficulty as anything you'll try to bake on the grill – most of your heat comes from the bottom, and the design of the grill makes it impossible to preheat effectively. As soon as you lift that lid, most of your heat is going to fly away.

Youdale suggests a couple of fixes. First, make your pizza crust as thin as you can. That way it has a chance to cook through before the bottom burns. Next, try baking on a tile. You can use a pizza stone, but a plain, unglazed tile will work just as well. The tile accomplishes two things: one, it protects your bread from the worst ravages of the direct heat, and two, it allows for some cheating on the preheating. The heat in the air will be gone pretty much as soon as you open the lid, but a preheated tile will stay hot as you slide your pizza onto it.

What about dessert?

Now after that pizza, how about some chocolate chip cookies? Again, it can be done, but you'll need to do things a little differently. Your grill is a lot like an oven, but it's not an oven. Your temperature readings are going to be approximate, your heat is going to be uneven, and again, it's going to be coming almost entirely from the bottom.

Don't try drop cookies. Instead, spread the whole pan with the batter to help distribute that uneven heat. Be patient. Because your temperature gauge is a rough guide at best, you're going to have to go by look and feel to figure when they're done. Generally, baking is going to take longer on the grill.

"They're still chocolate chip cookies, but they have a cool kind of smell to them," says Youdale.

"They'll kind of freak people out. If you don't tell them you did them on the barbecue, they'll know something's different about them, but they won't be able to pick it out."

Planks, well established for cooking salmon, can also be used for baking. They serve the same purpose as the tile, protecting the bottom of your food from direct heat. Try dropping a few blobs of bread dough on a pre-soaked plank for grilled rolls.

Metal pans, like cookie sheets can also be used, but don't take the good stuff outside. Like anything else that goes on the grill, metal pans are going to come off a little blackened.

Not everything that can be done in an oven can be done on the grill. Anything very fussy about even heat will not come out the way you want it. Because the heat is more extreme most of what you try to bake, like your pizza dough, should be relatively thin.

And finally, don't be worried if it doesn't come out of the grill just like it would have out of the oven. It's not going to.

"Be happy with the fact that it's going to be different," says Youdale.


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