Secrets to Perfect Summer Cuisine

Secrets to Perfect Summer Cuisine
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Secrets to Perfect Summer Cuisine

Jennifer Manning from Kraft Kitchen shares her secrets on foolproof grilling tactics and picnic perfection.

Image Courtesy of Kraft

Grill with Confidence

"You’ve got to have grilling confidence," explains Manning. While grilling can be intimidating, especially at the beginning of the season, knowing how to operate your grill properly can make the experience much better.

Work with a Clean Grill

Cleaning your grill at the end of each use is very important to a smooth grilling process. After each use, Manning instructs everyone to turn the heat on high so it will burn away any remnants left on the grill. "A clean grill is always your best friend," she says.

Let Proteins Warm Up

If you put cold foods on the grill, they will stick much more than if the food is room temperature. Manning finds it best to take proteins out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before actually grilling them so they warm up a bit.

Cutting the Perfect Veggies

Make sure to cut vegetables into large pieces. "There are so many vegetables that you can grill, but the cut always affects the way it gets grilled," Manning shares. "If you cut it really small, you are going to be so frustrated with yourself because it is going to fall through the grates and have your [food] down in the cinders."

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Have the Right Equipment

Manning recommends buying a good set of tongs that keep you a nice length away from the grill. Tongs and a grill brush are just about the only tools you'll need.

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Marinating Proteins

Let meats marinate for 30 minutes for amazing taste. Manning recommends coating proteins in garlic powder and soy sauce for a simple flavor.

Get Creative on the Grill

Try making unexpected foods on the grill! Pizzas, flat breads and sandwiches are all amazing when grilled, according to Manning. "You can make so many grilled vegetables and layer them into a sandwich. Then put the sandwich back on the grill, and it gives everything really great grill marks and some caramelization."

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Amp Up Flavor

"As far as flavor combinations go, freshness is key," says Manning. "Fresh herbs are always an easy way to bump up flavor. Thyme, rosemary and oregano are fantastic and then cilantro and garlic work amazingly together."

To store your herbs, always cut off the stems at the bottom and put the herbs in a class of water in the fridge. "They will stay fresher for much longer than if you just leave them in the bag and put that in the refrigerator."

Taking Sauces to the Next Level

Buy sauces from the store and give them something special by adding other ingredients. "One of my favorites is barbecue sauce," begins Manning. "Add a little bit of orange juice and orange zest to it and it gives it a sweet, citrusy flavor." While marinades can be added to protein before grilling, be sure to only use sauces in the last few minutes of the grilling process.

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Achieving Smoky Flavor

"Smoky" is one of the hottest food flavor trends this season.

"Charcoal gives a certain extent of smoky flavor but if you use charcoal and a mixture of hardwood, you will get a better smoke flavor than just charcoal alone," explains Manning. While true smoking takes expensive equipment and time, Manning and her team at Kraft created a Smokey Mesquite BBQ seasoned breadcrumb and cheese mixture to offer instant smoky flavor to proteins and dips.

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Never Smash Down Burgers

One of the biggest grilling mistakes people make is smashing their burgers down with a spatula. "You are just smashing out all the flavor of the burger," she explains.

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Be Aware of Temperature

Another big mistake Manning sees grillers make is not being aware of the temperature. Some grills have a hot spot. If you know you have a hot spot, make sure not to put items there so that food is not "torched" immediately.

Preheat Your Grill

"It is good to let your grill heat up for a good 15 minutes before you actually cook on it," says Manning. "Make sure you build that into your prep time."

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The Perfect Picnic Dish

"Picnics are also a great way to take your food outside," says Manning. She recommends a tomato pie made with Kraft's Fresh Take Italian Parmesan seasoning blend. "It's a great way to use tomatoes in a way that is unexpected."

She also recommends using separate ziplock bags for each veggie to be added to your salad once you reach your picnic destination. That way, the veggies stay crisp and the lettuce won't wilt. To bring a bit of style to your picnic, pack fun mismatched napkins and make your salad dressing in an old jelly jar!

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From picnics to barbecues, summer meals are seriously fun! But preparing the food for these gatherings can, at times, be overwhelming and frustrating when fare does not turn out as planned.

For insights and tips that make preparing summer food a breeze, we spoke with Jennifer Manning, associate manager of Kraft Kitchen, who develops recipes for the company and works with Kraft's new Fresh Take products like Smokey Mesquite BBQ cheese and breadcrumb mix, which bursts with summer flavor. From the best ingredients to use when grilling to what you should never do to a burger, Manning spilled her best secrets on foolproof grilling tactics and achieving picnic perfection.

Check out the slideshow above to learn what you can make on a grill besides hamburgers and hot dogs and how long to let meat marinate before putting it on the grill.

Also, check out How to Make Fruit Salsa to learn how to craft a fresh and delicious addition to any barbecue!

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