Grill Basket: The Best Thing To Happen To Summer Since Bikinis

When I was a kid, the division of labor for cooking chores was clearly defined: Dad grilled, and Mom did everything else. In fact, it's still that way at my mom's house. And if you think that's unenlightened, just try to get into the kitchen when she's making dinner - she'll enlighten you posthaste. She's 75 years old and she still won't hesitate for one instant in kicking your butt if you even remotely deserve it.

I don't know whether the division of labor was the cause or effect, but my Dad was an expert griller. That's the only thing he knew how to do. He couldn't boil water if you paid him a hundred dollars. Once when my mom was in the hospital he called her up to say he was starving and he didn't have anything to eat. My mom walked him through boiling some eggs. He screwed it up.

But when it came to the grill he was master and chief of all he surveyed. All summer long, he'd turn out fish after perfect fish, with the occasional chicken, vegetable, or kebab thrown in. He had a lot of secrets - many of which won't be revealed here, in the interest of preserving the franchise - and one of them is how to master the grill basket.

You know what I'm talking about - a hinged basket with handles. You put the food inside and set the whole shebang on the grill. Then, at turning time, you simply turn the grill basket over. It isn't too useful for meat or chicken, which can easily be turned with tongs. It's very useful, however, for fish and vegetables - anything that's in danger of sticking to the grill or falling through the cracks.

Here's Dad's grill-basket gospel:

Selecting a Grill Basket:

Choose one with parallel ribs that run in only one direction - not the crosshatched kind. Regardless of how nonstick the surface is, something, someday, is bound to stick to it. For that reason, you'll be glad you went with the parallel kind.

Get one with a nonstick surface, if you can find one. It won't work all that well, but it's better than nothing.

Get a big one. You may think you only want to grill two burgers or one fish fillet at a time, but I guarantee that won't always be the case. Remember, you can grill small things in big baskets, but not vice versa.

Buy one with bars small enough to fit between the tines of a fork. (Or, alternatively, buy a fork with spaces large enough to accommodate the grill bars.) The reason for this will become clear.

Using the Basket:

No matter how well-insulated the handle, use an oven mitt.

Using cooking spray or olive oil on the grill bars will help, but don't count on it to prevent sticking.

Remember that fork? When food sticks, turn the stuck side of the grill up and run the back of the fork over the bars where the food is sticking - this will release it with minimal damage.

This is no guarantee that you'll grill like my Dad, but it's a start.

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