Keep the galley cool and the grill hot.
Grilling is our favorite way to cook aboard Easy Goin’. For Arlene and me, nothing compares to the smoky flavor of grilled foods. Plus, grilled foods are easy and taste great, and using the grill keeps the cabin cool on hot summer days.
It’s the best part of the day, relaxing on deck in a secluded anchorage, enjoying a spectacular sunset with a cool drink. As the sun fades, it’s time for dinner. Nothing is easier than firing up the barbecue and enjoying the tantalizing aromas that soon waft through thecockpit and drift through the anchorage.
Grilling is a great way to enjoy delicious foods with a minimum of cleanup, thanks to the fact that there are no pots and pans. No one misses the fun in the cockpit while working in the galley, and avoiding a hot stove or oven keeps the boat cooler and leads to more comfortable sleeping conditions on summer evenings.
A gas grill is ready with a flick of a switch and it’s easier to control the temperature, and there are no worries about storing charcoal and lighter fluid. One major caveat with propane: make sure there’s enough in the tank to finish grilling. Nobody wants a barely grilled steak when the flames go out. On Easy Goin’ we have a couple of one-gallon propane bottles for the grill, so we never have to worry about running out of fuel. It’s easy to change out bottles in the middle of grilling, if necessary.
These additional propane bottles also act as a backup in case our galley stove runs out of the boat’s regular propane supply, and we don’t have to worry about how or where to dispose of those small green camping-style propane canisters when they’re empty.
Just about anything that can be prepared on the galley stove or in the oven can be grilled. Everyone can relate to grilling hamburgers, pork chops, chicken, fish and steaks. But we use the grill to prepare lamb chops, vegetables, shrimp, kabobs, pizza, bread, garlic bread, nachos — the list goes on.
I met Shawn Walter with Magma Products Inc. (magmaproducts.com) at the Seattle Boat Show. During our discussion I shared with him that we really enjoy our 18-year-old Magma Catalina grill but it had a couple of issues. It blew out on windy days and it burned too hot, even on low.
Walter agreed that those were two inherent problems in the original design of the Gourmet Series but said in recent years the grills’ combustion systems had been completely redesigned to keep the grill burning in heavy winds and provide better temperature control.
After our discussion, I decided it was time to replace our old Catalina model with a Newport II. We wanted a larger grilling surface that could accommodate an entire meal or extra meat when we entertain guests. The Newport II had some additional features that were attractive: an electronic ignition system powered by a single AAA alkaline battery, a hermetically sealed thermometer in the lid that controls the grill’s heat level, tightly spaced grill struts for grilling food of any size, and an elevated secondary grill/warming rack.
We used our Magma Levelock Fish Rod Holder Mount from the old grill to mount the new grill to Easy Goin’. When the grill is not in use, it is simply slipped out of the rod holder and stowed in the lazarette.
We installed the new grill before our three-and-a-half-month cruise last summer up the British Columbia coast, and it performed as advertised. We used it in steady winds of 15 mph and 20 mph gusts, and it never blew out. The thermometer does not show precise degree readings, but a gauge with color-coded low, medium and high ranges works well for determining when the grill is ready, and the approximate cooking temperature.
Never begin grilling until the unit has reached the desired temperature, especially when it comes to beef and pork. The grill needs to be hot enough to sear the outside of the meat, which seals in the juices.
Grilled meat tastes better if it’s allowed to reach room temperature before it is placed on the grill, which allows for a more even cooking temperature. Be sure not to puncture the meat during the grilling process; always use tongs or a spatula. Fork stabs allow juices to seep out, leaving the meat dry and tasteless, and the dripping causes flare-ups.
The most common problem with grilling is not paying enough attention to the time. All grills are different, and each owner needs to learn his grill’s tendencies. Our barbecued chicken and pork chops tend to take about 12 minutes over medium heat: eight minutes on the first side and four on the other. Hamburgers also take about 12 minutes, depending on the thickness. Medium-rare steaks take about 10 minutes, six on the first side and four on the other.
Resist the temptation to open the lid too often, because all the heat will escape and affect the cooking time.
After it’s cooked, let the meat stand for three to five minutes so it can reabsorb its juices. Cutting into it right away releases the juices that keep it moist and tasty.
Don’t bother cleaning the grill grates after every use. Grill grates are like a good cast-iron skillet: food tastes better when the grates are “seasoned.” We run a wire brush over the grates after each use and only “clean” them every six months or so.
Grilling accidents are rare, but when they occur it’s usually after the grill has not been used for a while — a common scenario for seasonal cruisers. Before using the grill, or after reattaching the grill’s gas supply, take a minute to visually inspect the hoses for cracks, loose connections or blockages. Check for gas leaks by turning on the gas and swabbing the connections and hoses with soapy water. If bubbles form, fix the leak before using the grill.
If you smell propane while cooking, turn off the grill and do not reignite it until the cause of the smell is determined and repaired. Never check for propane leaks using a match. If a camping propane canister shows signs of excessive rot, gouges or bulges, switch it out for another. Use caution when storing propane tanks. Camping propane canisters need to be stored upright in a dry and cool location, never near the grill.
When lighting a gas grill, always keep the lid open to prevent gas from accumulating, which could result in a fire flash. If the burner doesn’t light, turn off the gas and wait several minutes before trying to light it again. If the burner goes out during grilling, turn the gas off and wait a few minutes. Open the lid before relighting. When it’s not in use, turn the propane off at the source.