The food guru -- who is now sharing her expertise on eHow.com's food page – answered some questions and gave some simple tips for how you can make your next barbecue your best ever!
Q: Summer is here, and we all find ourselves entertaining more… what's one way to set your cookout apart from the rest of the folks on the block?
A: If you've run out of store-bought barbecue sauce or if you don't have enough for a recipe, don't fret. You can make your own sauce using fewer than 10 ingredients – and you'll mostly likely have them in your kitchen. Vary the spices and flavorings and have fun with it. Cool it down and put it in a mason jar for a great gift.
Q. We all want to be master of the grill, but you say that most of us are making the same mistake. What's that?
A: Yes, most of us are not using enough -- or are using the wrong kind of -- salt when we grill, especially when we grill the hamburgers. You must liberally salt your burgers with kosher salt, not regular salt. The kosher salt forms a crust on the burger and falls off into the grill, whearas regular salt sinks in to the meat and leaves it too salty.
You also want to shape your patties with a dimple in the middle, so the meat will expand as the burger cooks. The dimple ensures you get a nice, even hamburger and avoid the "dome effect."
Q. We know not everyone loves meat, so for our vegetarian friends, or those of us who are practicing Meatless Mondays, what's the best way to get some grilling goodness out of our veggies?
A: So many people make this mistake: they just grill the veggies as they are, so the veggies end up lacking flavor and texture. No wonder the kids don't like them! If you are going to make a portobello burger on the grill on in the broiler you need to make a vinaigrette and pour it over the mushroom caps, gill side up so it soaks into the gills before they go in. Mushrooms can dry up and the vinaigrette keeps everything flavorful and moist like a burger.
Q. And you can't have a barbecue without something sweet to wrap it all up? But who has time to put together a dessert when you're already doing everything else?
A: Who doesn't love a fantastic ice cream sandwich for a perfect finish to a summer barbecue? Get a head start by making a batch of cookies ahead of time and freezing the dough. When you make a batch, scoop the dough into balls and freeze it on a sheet pan. Once it's frozen, then store it in a re-sealable bag. This way, you have fresh cookies in 10 minutes out of the oven whenever you have company over. Let them cool and pile on a scoop of ice cream -- and pre-scoop the ice cream and put it in a bowl in the freezer, that way when it is time for dessert, you are not sitting there scooping, it is already done. Assemble ice cream sandwiches in a snap!
Q: What's a good way to carry grilling tools and other barbecue essentials out to the grill?
A: How many times are you struggling with carrying grill tools, condiments and food from the kitchen to the outdoor grill? Take an empty six-pack of beer bottles and fill each compartment with things you would need for the grill and table setting -- plastic utensils, ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper. It's a handy tool.