Ah, the potato. No meat, no vegetable can compete with the sheer versatility of the potato. Use it in a stew, as fries, mashed with butter and served as a side with a steak – the humble potato has many uses, all of which it fulfills wonderfully. No wonder it is the 4th most cultivated crop on the planet after rice, wheat and corn!
Potatoes are often the centerpiece of a vegetarian fare, and the perfect side dish for a barbecue loving carnivore. They make wonderful snacks, but also have the flavor and versatility to carry an entire meal on their own. You can prepare them howsoever you like, but one great way to cook them is by barbecuing them. BBQ potatoes have a special flavor that makes them a major hit when paired with steaks, sausages, burgers and ribs.
The first step to cooking a baked potato on a BBQ grill is proper selection. When picking potatoes, make sure that you pick only the ones with smooth skin – make sure that there are no knots, lesions or dark spots on the surface. The potato should be firm when pressed and should be no bigger than your palm. The ideal size would be around 3/4th of the palm.
Make sure that you pick potatoes of similar size. This would ensure that they all get cooked evenly. Larger potatoes take longer to cook than smaller ones, and large variations in size can lead to a dish that is overcooked in some parts, undercooked in others. In fact, this is a good practice when buying any vegetable – pick clean, firm, even sized veggies only.
Next, wash the potatoes thoroughly. I highly recommend keeping the skin on, though you can also choose to peel it off. The skin adds extra flavor and meatiness to the potatoes, and also tastes great when grilled until crisp. Cut the potatoes howsoever you like – medium size wedges, into large chunks, or sliced half. Or, if you’re like me, you can grill them whole (this is where picking the same size potatoes comes in handy). If you do grill them whole, make sure to stab them a few times with a fork – this allows the steam to escape.
To bake potatoes, you need to wrap each one individually in tin foil. Make sure that the tin foil is large enough to wrap a potato completely – this will help in keeping it moist and juicy. But before you start wrapping the potatoes up, you need to season them.
The kind of seasoning you’ll use will depend largely on the main dish. One very good seasoning is a bit of salt, a dash of pepper, a few herbs – parsley and rosemary are my favorite ones – some butter and to top it off, a bit of olive oil. Cover the potatoes in the seasoning mix and wrap each one individually with the tin foil. Preheat the grill to a moderate heat and place the potatoes on it. Make sure to keep them away from direct heat.
Keep them on for about an hour or so. Don’t open the lid too often – this will lend the potatoes a smoky flavor and make the skin crispier. After an hour or so, use a fork to see if they are done – you should be able to sink your fork all the way through.
Serve with melted butter and garnish with your choice of herbs. BBQ potatoes work wonderfully well with any kind of meat and are highly underrated.