Before you drag out the patio furniture and wash the windows, much less put flowers in the ground, take these words to heart if you greet summer with outdoor cooking:

Clean the grates on your grill.

Seriously, get out the brush and wipe off the residue of your last meal outdoors. How many months ago was that? Seven? Eight? Would you let dishes stay dirty that long?

And, yes, this applies to me, too, having recently scrubbed my gas grill to test recipes (that would be seven months for me).

But a clean grate is only part of the intricacies of grilling. There's direct and indirect heat, charcoal vs. gas, and all the accoutrements. There are as many gadgets for the outdoor grill as there are for a full-fledged kitchen.

And what about recipes? A lightly charred hot dog is delightful on Memorial Day, but by July 4th, your regular dining companions may ask for a bit more variety.

You'll find it here in our new weekly grilling column, On the Grill. Look for inspiration for dinnertime and ideas to make your outdoor cooking easier and more memorable.

Start your coals or burners (after the grate is clean!). You've got 99 days to experiment. Make them count.

Pork Rib Chops With Sassy Barbecue Sauce

Serves 6.

Note: Make your own spice rub and barbecue sauce for the best flavor at mealtime. "These are the best pork chops I've had in my life," said the diner who sampled these after I tested them. Any size pork chops could be used; adjust cooking time accordingly. From "Weber's Greatest Hits," by Jamie Purviance.

• 1 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

• 1 1/2 tsp. yellow mustard seed

• 1 12 tsp. paprika

• 1 1/2 tsp. packed light brown sugar

• 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1 tsp. garlic powder

• 1 tsp. onion powder

• 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

• 6 bone-in pork rib chops, each 10 to 12 oz. and about 1 in. thick (see Note)

• Canola oil

• Sassy Barbecue Sauce (see recipe)


To make the spice rub: In spice grinder, pulse together peppercorns and mustard seed until coarsely ground. (No spice grinder? Use about 1 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper and 1 teaspoon ground mustard.) Transfer to small bowl and add paprika, brown sugar, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne. Mix well.

To cook the chops: Allow chops to stand at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350 to 450 degrees).

Lightly brush chops on both sides with oil and season evenly with rub, pressing spices into meat. Grill chops over direct medium heat, with lid closed, until still barely pink in center, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Remove chops from grill and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes.

Reheat Sassy Barbecue Sauce over medium heat. Serve chops warm with sauce on the side.

Nutrition information per serving with rub but no sauce:

Calories310Fat15 gSodium560 mg

Carbohydrates3 gSaturated fat5 gTotal sugars1 g

Protein39 gCholesterol110 mgDietary fiber1 g

Exchanges per serving: 5 ½ medium-fat protein.

Sassy Barbecue Sauce

About 1 1/4 cups.

Note: Wow. This is a fabulous sauce, dark and intense, that could be used with many meats. From "Weber's Greatest Hits," by Jamie Purviance.

• 1/2 c. ketchup

• 1/2 c. water

• 2 tbsp. unsulfured molasses (not blackstrap)

• 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar

• 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

• 1 tbsp. packed light brown sugar

• 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

• 1/4 tsp. hot pepper sauce

• 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


In small heavy saucepan, whisk together all the ingredients.

Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn down heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cover and set aside. (The sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead. Let cool completely, then cover and refrigerate. Warm gently before serving.)

Nutrition information per 2 tablespooons:

Calories35Fat0 gSodium250 mg

Carbohydrates8 gSaturated fat0 gTotal sugars6 g

Protein0 gCholesterol0 mgDietary fiber0 g

Exchanges per serving: ½ carb.

Vietnamese Shrimp Pops With Peanut Sauce

Serves 4 to 6 (makes 12 to 16 pops).

Note: Not your everyday kebab. The pork flavor is more pronounced than the recipe name implies. If you want more shrimp flavor, increase the amount of shrimp and decrease the pork similarly. Plan ahead as these "pops" need to chill for at least 30 minutes to make them firmer and easier to turn on the grill. To prevent the exposed part of the bamboo skewers from burning, place a folded piece of foil directly on the cooking grate and set the exposed sections on the foil. From "Weber's Greatest Hits," by Jamie Purviance.

Peanut sauce:

• 1 c. coconut milk

• 1/3 c. well-stirred natural peanut butter

• 1 tsp. finely grated lime zest

• 3 tbsp. lime juice

• 1 tbsp. soy sauce

• 1 tbsp. packed light brown sugar

• 1 tsp. hot chile-garlic sauce, such as Sriracha

• 1/2 tsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger

Shrimp pops:

• 1 lb. lean ground pork

• 12 oz. shrimp, peeled and deveined

• 1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

• 1/4 c. panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)

• 2 large garlic cloves

• 1 tbsp. soy sauce

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1/4 c. vegetable oil


To make the sauce: In heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the coconut milk, peanut butter, lime zest and juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, chile-garlic sauce and ginger. Place over medium heat and cook, without simmering, just until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly. The sauce will thicken further as it cools. Remove from heat.

To make the pops: In food processor or blender, pulse pork, shrimp, basil, panko, garlic, soy sauce and black pepper until a chunky paste is formed. (If using a blender, process the shrimp and seasonings first, then add the pork, for easier mixing; you may need to add a little oil to more easily process the mixture.)

Pour oil onto a sheet pan and brush it evenly over the bottom and sides. Using 2 tablespoons or your hands, shape about 1/3 cup shrimp mixture into small oval shapes, placing them on the oiled sheet pan as you make them. Turn them, making sure they are well coated with oil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour to firm up the texture.

Have ready 12 to 16 small metal or bamboo skewers. (Depending on size of skewers, you could put multiple ones on a single skewer.) If using bamboo, soak in water for at least 30 minutes before using.

Prepare grill for direct cooking over high heat (450 to 550 degrees).

Slide a shrimp/pork oval onto the end of each skewer. Grill these over direct high heat with the lid closed until opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes, turning once or twice (cut one open with a sharp knife to test for doneness). Watch the pops carefully so they do not burn.

Arrange the shrimp pops on a serving platter. Serve warm with the dipping sauce.

Nutrition information per 1 pop:

Calories145Fat10 gSodium170 mg

Carbohydrates4 gSaturated fat4 gTotal sugars2 g

Protein11 gCholesterol40 mgDietary fiber1 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 ½ lean protein, 1 ½ fat.

Korean Honey-Sesame Marinade

Makes 2 cups (enough for 2 pounds of meat or seafood).

Note: This dark, nutty, sweet-salty marinade is the classic used for bulgogi (Korean grilled thinly sliced beef). It also works with chicken, seafood, tofu and vegetables, such as shiitake mushrooms. Marinate steak or chicken breasts for 1 to 2 hours, covered in the refrigerator. To toast sesame seeds, preheat a dry heavy skillet over medium heat and add the sesame seeds, shaking pan occasionally, until lightly colored and fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. (From "Barbecue Sauces, Rubs and Marinades, Bastes, Butters, and Glazes, Too," by Steven Raichlen.)

• 1/2 c. soy sauce

• 1/4 c. dark sesame oil

• 1/4 c. sugar

• 1/4 c. sake or dry sherry

• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

• 4 green onions (white and green parts), trimmed and finely chopped

• 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (see Note)

• 1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger

• 1 tsp. hot paprika or gochugaru (Korean hot pepper powder)

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 1 small pear, peeled, cored and diced


Combine all ingredients for the marinade in a blender or food processor, and blend to a smooth purée. The marinade tastes best used within a few hours of making it.

Spicy Black-Pepper-Coated Drumsticks

Serves 6.

Note: Think of this as Italian Buffalo-style chicken. Plan ahead as you will need to bake these before grilling them. (You can also do the baking a day in advance.) From "Italian Grill," by Mario Batali.

• 12 chicken drumsticks

• Kosher salt

• 1/2 c. buttermilk

• 2 tbsp. hot sauce

• 1 tbsp. fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a spice or coffee grinder

• 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

• 2 fennel bulbs

• 4 oz. Gorgonzola dolce (a creamier version of this blue cheese)

• 1/4 c. red wine vinegar

• 1/2 c. extra-virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place drumsticks on a baking sheet and season all over with salt. Bake for 20 minutes (25 minutes for very large drumsticks).

In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk, hot sauce, fennel seeds and pepper. Set a wire rack over a small baking sheet.

As soon as the drumsticks come out of the oven, toss them, in batches, into the buttermilk mixture and turn to coat, then place skin side up on the rack to drain. Spoon a little of the mixture over each one and set aside. (The drumsticks can be baked and marinated up to a day ahead; leave them on the rack, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before grilling.)

Prepare a grill.

Trim the fennel bulbs, cut lengthwise in half, and cut out the core. Cut into 1/4-inch sticks and toss into a bowl of ice water.

Crumble the Gorgonzola into a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add the vinegar and stir until fairly smooth. Drizzle in the oil, stirring. Pour into shallow bowls for dipping.

Place drumsticks on the hottest part of the grill, cover grill and cook, turning occasionally at first and then more often as they start to caramelize, until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.

Put drumsticks on a platter. Drain the fennel sticks, pat dry and place next to drumsticks. Serve with the Gorgonzola dressing.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories500Fat35 gSodium455 mg

Carbohydrates8 gSaturated fat10 gTotal sugars4 g

Protein37 gCholesterol170 mgDietary fiber3 g

Exchanges per serving: 1 vegetable, 5 medium-fat protein, 2 fat.