Grilling? Don’t hold the mayo!

May­on­naise is turn­ing out to be grilling’s best friend.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste - By NOELLE CARTER

A BAR­BE­CUE cook­out is when those of us self-pro­fessed grill masters and weekend war­riors deftly show off our live-fire cook­ing skills in front of fam­ily and friends.

That is, un­til the grill flares up and those beau­ti­ful steaks are re­duced to char­coal and we’re peel­ing them off the grill through a cloud of smoke.

It’s an all-too-com­mon tragedy played out in back­yards ev­ery­where. What if there was an easier way?

My chal­lenge was al­ways fish, which would glue it­self to the grill whether I oiled the fil­lets or the grill racks, or both.

Then I no­ticed chef Michael Ci­marusti lightly brush del­i­cate hal­ibut fil­lets with may­on­naise be­fore grilling.

Yes, mayo – the stuff of cafe­te­ria bologna sand­wiches and pic­nic potato sal­ads. Ci­marusti is chef and owner of Prov­i­dence, No.1 for the last few years on Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restau­rants List.

He uses the tech­nique at the res­tau­rant, and when I asked him about it, he ex­plained that the may­on­naise keeps the fish from stick­ing to the grill. He adds a very thin layer, “so it’s al­most not there”.

This isn’t the first I’d heard about cook­ing with may­on­naise. It’s of­ten touted as the fat of choice, par­tic­u­larly when mak­ing a grilled cheese sand­wich.

Dave Danhi, founder of the Grilled Cheese Truck, slathers a com­bi­na­tion of but­ter and may­on­naise on the out­side of his sand­wiches be­fore cook­ing.

“I’ve done it since the be­gin­ning,” said Danhi, for­merly chef at fine din­ing restau­rants in­clud­ing the Wa­ter Grill, tout­ing the gold­en­brown crust it gives the sand­wiches.

He ar­gues that the ad­di­tion of may­on­naise raises the smok­ing tem­per­a­ture so the sand­wiches don’t burn on the grid­dle.

But what about the grill?

It can take the heat

“This is an area I’m play­ing a lot more with now. May­on­naise re­ally works,” said Meat­head Gold­wyn, founder of the pop­u­lar web­site Amaz­ingRibs.com and au­thor of Meat­head: The Science of Great Bar­be­cue and Grilling.

“It sticks re­ally well to the food, helps re­lease food from the hot grill sur­face, and gets a beau­ti­ful golden colour.”

Part of the rea­son may­on­naise works so well is be­cause of its com­po­si­tion.

“May­on­naise is an emul­sion, which means you have small droplets of oil sur­rounded by egg yolk, and that has a cou­ple of re­ally cool prop­er­ties,” said Greg Blon­der, pro­fes­sor of prod­uct de­sign and engi­neer­ing at Bos­ton Univer­sity and co-au­thor of Gold­wyn’s cook­book.

This emul­sion al­lows the oils in may­on­naise to stick to food, un­like plain oil. Oil and wa­ter don’t mix, which is why it’s hard to get the fat to ad­here to foods you want to grill.

So as you grill, you’re left with a very lim­ited amount of oil to keep food from stick­ing.

Also, as the oil runs off, it’s likely to re­sult in flare-ups.

“May­on­naise acts like lit­tle timere­lease oil cap­sules, and you can put it on thick. And the emul­si­fiers like to stick to the meat,” Blon­der said.

May­on­naise is a great re­lease agent for meat, and is par­tic­u­larly help­ful for grilling chicken and fish.

Where oil only heats and browns the food ther­mally, may­on­naise also browns food chem­i­cally – that golden-brown colour – through the Mail­lard re­ac­tion, which re­quires su­gars and pro­teins to work; as

th­ese are heated, the non-en­zy­matic re­ac­tion pro­duces brown­ing.

“When you just put reg­u­lar oil on meat, it doesn’t bring th­ese to the ta­ble. It only brings fat,” Blon­der said.

May­on­naise may help foods re­tain mois­ture as they cook on the grill. “Chicken breasts – they’re the world’s dri­est food. Mayo is one way to make them moist,” Gold­wyn said.

Though he hasn’t for­mally tested mois­ture re­ten­tion yet, Gold­wyn said he be­lieves the may­on­naise might help to keep food ten­der.

“If noth­ing else, the mayo evap­o­rates un­der the heat rather than the mois­ture in the meat,” he said, ar­gu­ing that the meat won’t dry out.

He com­pares it to the baste that pit­mas­ters use when cook­ing tough cuts for long pe­ri­ods over low heat. The baste is what evap­o­rates, rather than the mois­ture in the meat.

“But the baste drips off and evap­o­rates pretty quickly, so you’re not get­ting a great deal of ben­e­fit,” Gold­wyn said.

He said he thinks may­on­naise might give more ben­e­fit as a baste. “I haven’t tried it on a pulled pork or, heaven help me, on a brisket. But I’m get­ting ideas now.”

The may­on­naise mojo

One of the rea­sons peo­ple may be afraid to try may­on­naise is flavour. “They think it will add flavour. But that’s the thing. It doesn’t al­ter the flavour” of the food, Gold­wyn said.

May­on­naise works well as a ve­hi­cle for other flavours. “It’s a white can­vas you can flavour with al­most any­thing,” Gold­wyn said, in­clud­ing just about any­thing in your spice rack. “I call it mayo mojo.”

I’ve re­cently brushed may­on­naise on ev­ery­thing I’ve grilled, from chicken breasts to pork chops, as­para­gus to mush­rooms. When I added a dill-flavoured may­on­naise to salmon, it was as if I was grilling on Te­flon, the fish re­leased so eas­ily. I al­most felt like I was cheat­ing.

For what it’s worth, al­le­giance to may­on­naise brands can spark as much de­bate as pol­i­tics or re­li­gion.

“This coun­try is di­vided into, not Demo­crat and Repub­li­can, but Hell­man’s and Mir­a­cle Whip,” Gold­wyn said.

Per­son­ally, I’m a Best Foods (or Hell­man’s, as it’s known in other parts of the coun­try) fan, and haven’t tried grilling us­ing Mir­a­cle Whip, though I did use an olive oil­based store brand I found in the back of the fridge when my Best Foods stash ran out last week, and ev­ery­thing grilled up just fine.

I also fre­quently use Kew­pie

– a Ja­panese may­on­naise, and a favourite of some of my chef friends – on my grilled cheese sand­wiches.

Gold­wyn rec­om­mends may­on­naise for gar­lic bread on the grill, and slathers a flavoured mayo to add a crust to cooked bak­ing potato slices – “They get crunchy, like those coated French fries.”

I men­tioned one of my favourite meals is a steak sprin­kled with Mal­don salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Would may­on­naise work on steak, I asked.

Gold­wyn paused to con­sider. “Well, why not?” he de­cided.

For the record, I brushed a thin layer on prime rib-eye steaks just the other day. It worked per­fectly.

PER­FECT GRILLED STEAK

Serves 4

2 thick-cut bone­less rib-eye steaks, prime or choice grade

4 to 6 tbsp may­on­naise coarse sea salt freshly ground black pepper

Re­move the steaks from the re­frig­er­a­tor and set aside to come to room tem­per­a­ture, about 1 hour. Blot the steak on all sides with pa­per tow­els to re­move ex­cess mois­ture.

Brush a thin layer of may­on­naise over both sides of the steak. Sea­son each steak on each side with salt, to taste, along with sev­eral grinds of black pepper.

Heat a grill over medium-high heat un­til hot. Add the steaks and grill for about 3 min­utes on one side, then ro­tate the steaks and grill for another 3 to 4 min­utes.

Flip the steaks over and re­peat, grilling each steak for a few min­utes, and then ro­tat­ing to get good grill marks.

Check the steaks for de­sired done­ness. Re­move to a cut­ting board sev­eral min­utes to give the meat time to rest.

Slice and serve.

GRILLED SALMON WITH DILL

Serves 4

4 salmon fil­lets

2/3 cup may­on­naise

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill salt and freshly ground black pepper lemon wedges, for serv­ing

Pat the salmon fil­lets dry to re­move all ex­cess mois­ture.

Make a dill spread: In a bowl, whisk to­gether the may­on­naise, dill, a gen­er­ous 1/2 tea­spoon salt, or to taste, and sev­eral grinds of black pepper.

Brush the spread over the salmon fil­lets on all sides.

Heat a grill over medium-high heat un­til hot.

Place the fil­lets flesh-side down on the grill. Grill for about 6 min­utes on one side, ro­tat­ing half­way through for good grill marks.

Flip the fish over and con­tinue grilling, skin-side down un­til the fish is cooked to de­sired done­ness, about 6 min­utes more.

Re­move the salmon steaks to a platter and serve gar­nished with lemon wedges and a side dish of grilled or roasted pota­toes, or mash. – Los An­ge­les Times/Tri­bune News Ser­vice

A bit of mayo brushed on salmon be­fore it goes on the grill makes it seems as if you are grilling on Te­flon – the fish re­leases so eas­ily. — DIDRIKS/Visu­alHunt (Right) May­on­naise sticks to food, helps re­lease food from the hot grill sur­face, and helps food gets beau­ti­fully browned. — JULES:STONESOUP/Visu­alHunt

Rib-eye steaks brushed with may­on­naise and sea­soned with salt and pepper, to be served with grilled potato brushed with may­on­naise and sea­soned with parme­san, gar­lic and rose­mary. — TNS

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