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Chef's Hat: Start of the season

The snowdrifts at the end of my driveway are no longer 8 feet tall. They’re still there, but they are definitely shrinking.

Some people may think that Memorial Day kicks off the grilling season, but with the melting snow, the sunshine and blue skies last week, I decided it was time to break out the grill.

If you’re like me, the grill was just more or less put away last fall, still full of half burnt charcoal and with the grate looking pretty tough. So, the first thing I had to do was dispose of the old charcoal and soak the grate for about 30 minutes.

Before you fire up the grill, it’s definitely a good idea to look over your grill to make sure there aren’t any holes that have burned through anywhere in the grill.

If you’re using a gas grill, check the burners and hoses before you fire up for the season.

Following are a few good tips to keep in mind throughout the grilling season:

• Clean your grill, especially the rack, before each use.

• Oil the rack prior to heating to prevent food from sticking.

• Preheat your charcoal grill and don’t skimp on the charcoal. Light the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to begin cooking. Do not put foods on the grill until the fire dies down to glowing coals.

• Even gas grills need to preheat. Turn on the flame at least 15 minutes before putting food over the fire.

• When cooking vegetables, as a general rule, don’t peel vegetables before grilling. You’ll get more nutrients and enjoy a smokier flavor. When cooking corn, leave the husk on corn to act as a natural insulator, keeping the steam in and preventing the corn from drying out.

• If using a sugar-based sauce on meat, poultry or fish, wait until the final 5-10 minutes of grilling to brush it on. This will allow the charcoal flavor to penetrate your food first, and prevents the sauce from becoming charred black.

For many of us, there is nothing better than a great burger or steak hot off the grill. So, who cares if there is still a little bit (or a lot) of snow on the ground? Get out the grill and think spring,

Happy eating!