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Winter has finally loosened its grip and we’ve seen our first 70 degree weather… summer is right around the corner! It’s time to fire up the grill. What is grilling, anyway? To begin with, we need to get one thing straight: Despite the fact that everybody and his or her brother refers to a cookout as a “barbecue”, grilling is not barbecuing. These are two very different techniques and, in fact, are at opposite ends of the live fire cooking spectrum.

To make it simple, barbecuing consists of cooking tough cuts of meat by exposing them to the smoke and indirect heat of a very low fire for a very long time. The idea is not only to infuse the meat with smoky flavor, but also, through long cooking, to break down the tough connective tissues and make the meat tender.

Grilling, on the other hand, is a high-heat method in which rather tender foods are cooked quickly over the flame of a very hot fire. Grilling is similar to sauteing, with the added benefit of the smoky char that comes from cooking directly over live fire. When food is exposed to the direct heat of the flames, a seared crust develops on its exterior, and it is this flavor-packed crust – rather than the fuel used for the fire, as many believe – that is most responsible for the characteristic grilled flavor.

So… what shall we eat? Pork tenderloin is a perfect cut of meat for the grill. While most people think of pork as high in fat, pork tenderloin actually has no more fat per ounce than a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Because of its weight and thickness, the best grill treatment for this cut of meat is to sear it over a hot fire until it looks good (golden brown) on the outside, then pull it to a cooler section of the grill and let it finish cooking from radiant heat, as opposed to direct heat.

Here, an easy marinade complements lean pork tenderloins beautifully. The dish is simple enough for a weekday supper but tasty enough for company. Consider grilling an extra tenderloin or two, as they are also terrific sliced and served cold the next day. Try this recipe for Marinated Pork Tenderloins and it will become a family favorite for sure!

“I grill, therefore I am.”
~ Alton Brown

Marinated Pork Tenderloins Photo