Turn your BBQ into your summer oven!

Cooking on an outdoor grill is one of the things that truly says ‘summer’.  There’s a really practical reason for cooking outside, though.  When the temperature rises outside, the last thing you want to do is warm up your house by turning on your stove or oven.  This was something that was ingrained into me by my mother.  When I was a kid, she did a lot of baking, but in summer she’d group her cooking and baking so she’d just turn on the oven once a week.  I think the idea was that if you were going to heat up your house with the oven, you should at least get as much baked in it while it’s hot so you don’t have to make your house hot more than you need to.  (And summertime in the prairies with no air conditioning can get pretty warm!)

This weekend I was making supper for friends, and had planned out a nice meal of braised pork loin and strawberry rhubarb pie.  And because I always have my mother’s voice in my head, I figured I’d bake some bread too, since I was going to be turning on the oven anyway.  It was only after I had mixed the bread dough that I realized I was setting myself up for at least three hours of the oven being on, on the warmest day of the summer so far.  I soon realized that I was going to have a hot and sticky house for my little dinner.  I had originally contemplated cooking the pork on the grill, so I thought that part would at least be easy.  But then I wondered if I could cook the whole meal on the BBQ.

I quickly googled ‘bake bread on the BBQ’, and sure enough – there was a lot of information how to cook this way.  I was a bit hesitant, but I figured if it made a mess of the bread, I wouldn’t try baking my pie.

But it all worked out just great!  The trick is indirect heating.  My BBQ has a built-in temperature gauge, so it was relatively simple to turn it into an oven; I turned on the two burners on the right, and when the ‘oven’ was pre-heated to 350 degrees, I put my bread tins with the raised dough on the left.   The baking time was pretty much the same as it is in the oven – the only thing I’d do differently is to rotate the loaves 1/2 way through baking, so the bottoms of the loaves get baked evenly.  (The loaf closest to the heat was nice and brown, but the other two away from the heat were a little on the light side).

After I had success with the bread, I decided to try it with the pie too.  I made sure to put a pan underneath the pie so it didn’t drip onto the burners, and I opened the oven a few times to rotate the pie so it would bake evenly.  It came out perfectly!

After the baking was done, I did the rest of the meal – grilled veggies, boiled new potatoes (cooked on the side burner) and the grilled pork.  I was pretty happy with the way the pork turned out, so I’ll share the recipe.

Glazed and Braised Boneless Pork Loin.

1 small boneless pork loin roast (about 2 1/2 lbs)

(optional: brine the roast in some water with lots of salt, brown sugar and pepper for a few hours in the fridge before cooking.  This ensures this lean piece of meat stays tender.)

Brown roast in cast iron frying pan on all sides.  My frying pan had a bit of bacon fat left over from breakfast, so this is what I browned it in – but oil would work too.  After the roast is seared on all sides, add a splash or two of apple cider to the frying pan, and let simmer for a minute or two before popping it into the BBQ, which should be preheated to 350 degrees.  After about 40 minutes, I took some of the liquid from the frying pan and mixed it with a raspberry jalapeno jelly I bought from Pat’s Preserves at the market last week, and then covered the meat with the glaze periodically until it was up to temperature – about an hour an 15 minutes.

A more accurate way of knowing if your meat is done is to use a meat thermometer.  You want to cook this roast until it’s about 150 degrees or so, and then take it out of the oven to rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting.  The temperature of the meat will continue to rise as it’s resting.  This cut of meat tends to be very lean and can get pretty dry, especially if you skip the brining part – and cooking it this way ensures the center of the roast will stay a little pink.  (If you don’t feel comfortable with pink pork – go ahead and cook until it’s 165 or 170 – this will give you well-done meat, and if you started off with good quality pork that you brined for a few hours, it should still be really juicy.)

Finish your meal with your delectable strawberry rhubarb pie topped with ice cream (in your comfortably cool house)!

What do you cook in summer to beat the heat?  Do you have a ‘summer kitchen’?  Let us know in the comments below!

Yours in Food,

Alison

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2 thoughts on “Turn your BBQ into your summer oven!

  1. I’ve taken to using the toaster oven outside on the deck. Grilling is another favorite way of cooking in the summer. Most importantly though is eating outside! Always makes everything taste better and the breeze is nice and cooling!

    • Great tip about the toaster oven! When I used to live in Winnipeg, we’d use our camp stove a lot – and even warm up our dishwashing water outside too! Crockpot plugged in outside is good too.

      I totally hear you about eating outside!

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