Brian Bailey’s healthy obsession with grilling has made him a popular man in his Jackson Township neighborhood. Be it mid-August or mid-January, he’s likely to be out on the deck working some kind of aromatic magic over the flames, and ever-willing to share tips and tastes.
Forget mundane burger patties and hot dogs.
“For me, it’s all about the creative part of grilling,” he says.
When neighbors wander over, Bailey might be grilling tomatoes for a fresh salsa, or grilling bananas for an ice cream split, or grilling a pizza topped with shrimp, cilantro, pesto and pine nuts.
Bailey’s grilling hobby is closely related to his day job. As one of the founders and owners of the Old Carolina Barbecue Company, with popular restaurants in Jackson Township and Massillon, he spends his days overseeing the slow smoking of ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork and chicken.
By contrast, “The nice thing about a grill is that it’s at such hot temperature, things are quick,” he says.
Grill that pizza!
Take pizzas, for instance, a food not commonly associated with the grill.
Bailey usually starts with frozen pizza dough bought at the grocery, which he thaws, rolls out into a crust, brushes with olive oil and sprinkles with Italian seasoning.
Because his grill has two sides with separately controlled temperatures, he first grills the pizza on medium-high heat for three minutes, then flips the crust over onto the grill’s other side where the heat is medium-low. Next, he applies the toppings to the browned side and closes the lid until the cheeses are melted and toppings are heated through. (Crusts also can be pre-grilled and topped later.)
Bailey makes a wide range of pizzas on his grill. One favorite is the traditional margherita pizza with tomatoes, basil and mozarella cheese; another is the Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple. Make a variety of pizzas for a patio party, he suggests.
His kids like to help with the topping process.
The entire meal
Fond of experimenting with recipes and ingredients, Bailey is a fountain of grilling ideas. For instance, grilled cheese sandwiches on the grill — muenster and asiago cheeses blended on sourdough bread, grilled open-face with the lid closed.
When entertaining, “I like to do as much of the meal on the grill as possible. Vegetables, potatoes, meat, appetizers, dessert,” Bailey says.
It helps that he has two grills.
For appetizers, he grills tomatoes for salsa or serving atop bruschetta, slicing them about a quarter-inch thick, brushing them with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, then laying them directly on the grill. Flour tortillas with a variety of stuffings — cheese, chicken, pulled pork, peppers, cilantro — can yield crowd-pleasing grilled quesadillas.
To grill potatoes, first cook them whole in water on the stove, removing them just before the water boils, then cut them into wedges, coat with olive oil and a rub — salt, cumin and ancho chili pepper is a favorite Bailey combination — and finish them directly on the grill. Grilled asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper is another tried-and-true favorite.
Tips for meat
Grilling meat is a very large topic, but Bailey is happy to share some practical tips. Because boneless chicken breasts tend to dry out during cooking, try pounding them out and skewering them, twisting the meat.
“I like to flavor them with herb seasoning,” Bailey says.
“I like to do as much of the meal on the grill as possible. Vegetables, potatoes, meat, appetizers, dessert.”
Those colorful shish kebabs alternating raw steak or chicken with vegetables look good but are logistically impossible.
“It doesn’t take as long to cook a cherry tomato as a piece of beef,” Bailey says.
Instead, cook the meat and veggies on separate skewers, then combine on a platter when cooked.
When cooking steaks for a group, start the ones needed to be medium-well on lower heat five minutes before starting the medium-rare ones on higher heat. After steaks come off, always let them rest and relax before you serve them, to let the juices absorb back into the meat, Bailey advises.
“Serving with a sharp steak knife will make them seem even more tender than they are.”
As for grilling pork chops, “they don’t have to cook for as long as your mother and grandmother used to cook them. There can be a little bit of pink,” he says. “I cook mine to 140 degrees.”
The big finish
One more thing: Dessert for your cookout prepared on the grill. Bailey has a foolproof finisher that is delicious and scarcely could be easier. Buy a Sara Lee poundcake, the kind that is packaged in a foil pan. Cut it into three-quarter-inch slices.
Brush each slice with melted butter, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and toast it on the grill.
“It’s fluffy, sweet and gooey,” Bailey promises. “Serve it warm with a scoop of ice cream and berries.”
For starters, he says, allow plenty of time.
“Cooking ribs on the grill is a four- to six-hour process.”
The time depends on the cooking temperature, ideally from 225 to 250 degrees. Forget precooking the meat, then finishing
on the grill.
“People parboil, bake and slowcook all the flavor out,” Bailey says with alarm.
Heat one side of your grill. Place the raw ribs, coated with a dry rub, directly on the grill rack, stacking them two high if necessary and using the grill’s upper rack if more space is needed. Make sure the ribs are placed on the side with no heat; indirect heat is a necessity, Bailey said.
The elements of moisture and smoke are essential. Keep a tin cup filled with water or flavored water on the grill throughout the cooking process. Wrap water-soaked wood chips in foil packets, poke holes in the foil and place directly on the heat side of the grill, changing the packet every half hour for the first two hours.
Bailey says you will know the ribs are done ”when the meat starts shrinking away from the bone.”
To finish the ribs, remove from the grill, baste them with sauce, then grill over direct heat for a minute on each side. Let them rest before serving.
If you are having a party, Bailey suggests cooking the ribs — and stopping before the final saucing step — the day before and refrigerating, or even cooking them the weekend before and freezing, then thawing in the refrigerator.
To revive them for serving, wrap the chilled ribs in foil and put them into the oven, preheated to 350 degrees, for 15 to 20 minutes to get them to the right temperature.
Then brush them with sauce and grill for one minute on each side over direct heat.
Barbecue Basics offers a primer on the history of barbecue and regional variations, and the basics of smoking and grilling. Participants will make their own dry rub and prepare their own slab of ribs for later smoking at home or at Old Carolina. The cost of $29.95 includes a meal of grill-roasted potatoes, grilled corn on the cob and smoked ribs. Offered June 6, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; June 17, 6-8 p.m.; June 20, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; June 25, 6-8 p.m; and July 18, 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Creative Grilling offers demonstrations, tips and recipes for making appetizers, main courses, sides and desserts, including pizzas, surf and turf popsicles, grilled tomato salsa and grilled banana splits. “You basically are eating for two hours,” Brian Bailey says. The cost is $19.95. Offered June 6, 2-4:30 p.m.; June 16, 6-8 p.m.; June 20, 2-4:30 p.m.; June 30, 6-8 p.m.; July 14, 6-8 p.m.; and July 18, 2-4:30 p.m.