Grilling is a delight everyday in Southwest Florida because of the great weather, but Father's Day is a special day for dads to show off their cooking skills. To make outdoor cooking a more informed and fun experience, Mike Sierra, sous chef of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Naples, and his assistant, Patrick Osthoff, have compiled some handy information. Here, straight from Sierra, is some valuable wisdom:
"Outdoor grilling is different from barbecue. When you barbecue, you are doing slow cooking at 180 to 300 degrees, and grilling outdoors, the heat is 500 degrees.
"Use your outdoor grill to make anything from a simple burger to a fancy roast, vegetables, seafood, poultry, pork or even fruit. Just remember to clean the grill every time after changing foods.
"To make grilling easy, have all your ingredients ready to go so you don't have to keep going inside. It will also keep everything at the right temperature and help against spoilage. You should also have different spatulas for different dishes, tongs for turning, and a meat thermometer to measure the inside temperature. Medium-rare is 130 to 135 degrees, medium is 140 to 145 degrees and well-done is 165 degrees. Be sure to check the temperature to know when it's time to turn. Remember to only turn the food twice at the most. Having the proper temperature inside temperature is very important.
"If you are using a gas grill, start by putting the heat on the grill and closing the lid for 10 minutes to clear away any dirt that was left over from the last time you grilled. If you are using charcoal, start by building the coals in a pyramid and lighting them an hour before so the coals are white when you are ready to cook.
"Always keep a water bottle close by to keep the flame from engulfing your food when you start grilling on a charcoal grill. You should also have a cold spot somewhere on the grill to keep the food hot that is already cooked."
Charcoal needs patience and experience, Sierra said, and the more you do it the better you will become.
"You can also use wood chips to get different tastes — hickory, mesquite and applewood, which will give great aromas," he said. "Soak the chips in water before you fire them up and put them around in an even distribution."
Gas grilling is easier because you only have to turn the grill on or off, he said, but remember to have gas in your tank.
Once your grill is ready, flavor your meat with salt and pepper and a little bit of oil if you aren't using a marinade, Sierra suggested. If you marinade the meat, leave it in the marinade covered in the refrigerator for two hours or less for a thin piece or overnight for a thick or tough piece.
And he has an important reminder: "Meat or poultry that is marinated cooks faster."
Sierra wouldn't stop with meat; seafood on a grill can be spectacular. Here are his observations on grilling seafood:
"Shrimp may be butterflied and placed on skewers, and you can even cook them in their shells. On a hot grill, they only take about three minutes. Seafood and fish are ready to be turned when they the color has cleared and (it) doesn't stick to the grill any longer.
"If you are going to grill salmon on a plank, wet the plank before using it."
"Vegetables cook fast and should be the last things you put on the grill. Season the veggies with a little bit of oil and salt and pepper to make them stand out," Osthoff said.
Sierra adds two grilling facts for when the dinner is done: "Let meat rest to get the blood to circulate before serving."
And, he said, practice makes perfect.
If you want to take dad out to eat and grill on another day, there is a list of restaurants having special Father's Day dinners in this section. Dad also will appreciate these new gadgets and seasonings:
Gifts for the grill
Dad will be grilling in style with gifts from Williams-Sonoma: He'll be cooking up a storm with a 4-piece tool set and storage case ($99.95) and always have them ready.
He can keep the grill really clean with the Grand Grill Daddy grill cleaning brush ($59.95). Just fill it with water, turn on the grill and it scrubs and steams without any harsh chemicals.
The Ultimate Grilling Rub Collection ($27.95 or $10.50 each) offers professional-quality taste.
Grilling sauces ($15.95 each) will bring the flavor of the meat or fish up a notch.
Books for barbecue kings
Is Dad a purist who makes his own marinades? Give him some ideas with these barbecue/grill books, which can be found in or ordered in Collier County through Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million (prices here are list, but some online companies offer used and discounted books):
"Weber's Way to Grill — The Step-By-Step Guide to Expert Grilling": by Jamie Purviance (Weber Grills; $24.95)
"Soaked, Slathered, and Seasoned: A Complete Guide to Flavoring Food for the Grill": by Elizabeth Karmel (John Wiley & Sons; $19.95)
"Seven Fires — Grilling the Argentine Way": by Francise Mallman with Peter Kaminsky (Artisan, New York; $35)
"The Lowfat Grill — 175 Surprisingly Succulent Recipes for Meats, Marinades, Vegetables, Sauces, and More!": by Donna Rodnitzk (Prima Lifestyles; $18); available with a plastic comb binding for laying flat
"Planet Barbecue! 309 Recipes, 60 Countries": by Steven Raichlin (Workman Publishing Co.; $22.96)
Where to shop
Williams-Sonoma, Waterside Shops, 5375 U.S. 41 N., Naples, 239-514-2213
Books-a-Million, 9100 Strada Place, No. 2100, Mercato, Naples; 239-514-0783
Barnes & Noble, 5377 U.S. 41 N., Waterside Shops, Naples; 239-598-5200
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Naples, 8985 U.S. 41 N., Naples; 239-598-2424