Back in the day, I used to look at a recipe that called for boiling something destined for the grill and think “What? Why cook it twice? Will there be any flavor left?” The answer for many foods turned out to be a resounding “Yes.” Parboiling can actually add flavor, plus speed your grilling time, reduce flare-ups and increase moisture and tenderness. Best of all, it can take a lot of guesswork out of that eternal question “Is it done yet?”
If you’ve ever had a grilled sausage that was unpleasantly charred on the outside and raw in the middle, you’ve experienced a case for parboiling first-hand. As sausages cook, fat begins to drip, causing the delicate casing outside to brown very quickly. Dripping fat can cause flare-ups when it hits the fire, subjecting your links to blackening flames. One solution is to be super-vigilant at the grill, keeping heat low or indirect and monitoring your sausages at all times.
But if you want to relax a bit, try poaching them first. You’ll speed the cooking process and render some of the fat, ensuring that the middle is nicely cooked and safe to eat and safeguarding your sausages’ tender skin and overall juiciness. Use a flavorful liquid for poaching and you’ll be extra happy, as in these recipes for Beer-Poached Grilled Sausages and Grilled Sausages with Maple-Glazed Fruit.
Other Fatty Meats
Like sausages, there are some additional meats that are likely to burn before they reach an ideal internal temperature. Ribs are one and chicken wings are another. By parboiling them first, you’ll help release some of the fat and guarantee they are cooked right to the middle. When you get to the grill, you can concentrate on glazing the ribs or wings with a flavorful sauce and getting a crisp (not blackened!) skin or exterior.
Produce is the star of many a grilled meal, but a number of comely veggies seem like poor candidates for the flame. Thick, hard vegetables like beets, Brussels sprouts, carrots, artichokes and parsnips need longer, slower cooking than is practical for most grilled meals. Enter poaching. With a few minutes beforehand, you can get your veggies into a semi-tender state that makes finishing them on the grill a snap. This method is particularly successful with potatoes; try our recipes for Spice-Grilled Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Potato Salad and you’ll be a convert.
Most parboiling is easiest to do at the stove, with the added bonus that you can usually do it in advance. But if your grill has one of those fancy gas rings on the side, like mine does, it’s fun to put it to use (for once!) and do your poaching right there.
Fired up about summer grilling? Us too. Check out our complete guide to grilling for more recipes, methods and techniques.