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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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May is National Grill Month

Uploaded: May 18, 2019
May is National BBQ Month. Get ready for the season with a few grilling tips from Eating Well, and one of my favorite easy recipes.

Gas vs. Charcoal
The age-old debate over which grilling method is “better” involves multiple variables, from flavor to cost to convenience. While no studies prove that either is healthier, gas does burn cleaner. Charcoal grills emit more carbon monoxide, particulate matter and soot into the atmosphere, contributing to increased pollution and higher concentrations of ground-level ozone. From a taste perspective, on the other hand, many people prefer the smokier, richer taste of food cooked on a charcoal grill.

Get It Hot!
Preheat your grill 15 to 25 minutes before you start cooking to make sure it reaches the right temperature (and to kill any bacteria). Your grill should be 400-450°F for high, 350-400°F for medium-high, 300-350°F for medium and 250-300°F for low heat. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking. While searing doesn’t “seal in” the juices (contrary to popular belief ), it does create improved flavors through caramelization.

If you do choose charcoal grilling, consider additive-free lump charcoal, which is just charred wood. Conventional briquettes may contain wood scraps and sawdust as well as coal dust, sodium nitrate, borax and additives like paraffin or lighter fluid. As for lighter fluid - avoid it. Lighter fluid can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air, leave an unpleasant residue on food and pose a serious danger if used improperly.

Brush It Off
It’s easier to remove debris when the grill is hot, so after preheating, use a long-handled wire grill brush on your grill rack to clean off charred debris from prior meals. Scrape again immediately after use.

Oil It Up
Even on a clean grill, lean foods may stick when placed directly on the rack. Reduce sticking by oiling your hot grill rack with a vegetable oil-soaked paper towel: hold it with tongs and rub it over the rack. (Do not use cooking spray on a hot grill.)

BBQ Tofu with Lime

1 16 oz package extra firm tofu
1 bottle your favorite BBQ sauce
1 – 2 limes, juiced

Slice the tofu into 4 slabs, place on a dry dishcloth on a flat surface like a cutting board or baking sheet. Fold the cloth over the tofu to cover, or place another cloth on top. Top with another flat surface and a weight, like a big bag of flour or a few jars, and press the tofu for 20 minutes, removing excess water.

While pressing, mix your BBQ sauce with the lime. The juice “wakes up” the bottled sauce, and gives it a fresher flavor profile.

Remove the tofu from the towels; puncture slabs all over with a fork, and cover with the marinade. Best to let sit overnight, but you can use as soon as you need to.

Remove from the marinade and grill over medium heat. Low and slow is best because it gives the tofu time to caramelize on the outside and dehydrate even more, creating a lovely meaty texture. Give it 8 – 10 minutes per side and try to flip only once. Look for the grill marks before flipping.

Slice and serve. BBQ Tofu is delicious the next day.

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Posted by AJ Crawdaddy, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on May 18, 2019 at 10:42 am

Grilling Tofu? Who coulda' thunk it? Your dedication to the vegan lifestyle is admirable. Thanks for the grilling tips!!

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 19, 2019 at 7:53 am

AJ Crawdaddy the famous blues musician? Wow. Even musicians read The Food Party! I know we did a tofu recipe last week, but when I think BBQ I think this recipe. The nice thing about grilling plant foods compared to animal foods, is the potentially carcinogenic side effects of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), chemicals formed when muscle-meat is cooked at high heat, do not form when grilling plant foods.

Posted by AC, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2019 at 12:31 pm

AC is a registered user.

A couple of notes:

Caramelization happens with sugars. (eg. the sugars in onions and other vegetables). With proteins it's called the Maillard reaction, which not only produces flavours but chemically alters the exterior.

If you don't have a grill brush, two popular methods are to use a ball of aluminum foil (it scrapes off debris quite well) or half an onion which due to the combination of acids and sugars (caramelization) has the additive effect of seasoning the grates prior to cooking.

Posted by Tofu Meister, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2019 at 6:34 pm

I grill my tofu with one of those propane torches. The only drawback is that I cannot get the grill marks so I generally draw them in with food coloring.

I've also prepared a tofu turkey for Thanksgiving. Fun to shape and no bones to deal with when carving. I've also noticed that people don't seem to fight over the drumsticks as there is no dark/white meat contrasts. Stuffing it was a challenge as you have to be real careful or your pre-shaped turkey turns into a wad of tofu mush.

I've also made tofu pumpkin pie and tofu-style mashed potaoes. As a matter of fact, with the exceptions of the yams & green beans I can make an entire holiday dinner just from tofu. It's that versatile.

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of another community,
on May 23, 2019 at 9:58 pm

@ Tofu Meister--

A number of years ago, '60 Minutes' ran an interview with the man who developed 'tofurkey', and he joked 'Why did the tofurkey cross the road? To prove it wasn't chicken.'

Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on May 24, 2019 at 8:08 am

Funny William R. Good tips AC (you sound like you've been in one of my classes :)

@ Tofu Meister - I use a colander for Tofu Turkey. Whirl 5# of tofu in a food processor to crumbly. Pack in a cheese cloth-lined colander and hollow out the middle. Add your stuffing there, top with removed tofu, baste and bake. I love Tofu Turkey!

On another note, the grilling process of the tofu adds to the final texture, removing even more water and creating a chewy final product. The torch won't do that extra step.

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