For me, the grill is an outdoor kitchen. I use it year-round, even in snow. I love the way an open fire intensifies the flavor of food: It crisps the skin on a chicken and caramelizes the juices on a steak, giving it a nice charred crust.
I have loved grilling ever since I was a child. On special occasions, I was allowed to cook sausages on a bonfire in the backyard. When the fire dimmed, we'd bake potatoes on the coals, then crack open their thick, blackened skins and spread the floury insides with butter. Years later, when the gas was turned off in my Greenwich Village apartment just hours before friends were due for dinner, I turned to the fireplace. Perhaps the living room was a bit smoky, but the scent of lamb grilling on an oven rack placed above the embers won the guests over. It was such a success that I often cooked in the fireplace even after the gas was back on.
I've had my share of bad experiences—the burned chicken that was pink and raw inside, the mushrooms that shriveled and fell through the grid. But there's no mystique to grilling. It is informal and friendly, and much more versatile than you might think. You can sear fish, toast bread, steam vegetables in foil, smoke pork chops, or slow-roast a turkey. Indeed, I'm often surprised that intrepid cooks—women who can stuff a trout or clarify a stock with ease—avoid befriending their grills. If you are among them, read on, then try your hand at one of the recipes. Summer is here, and the time is ripe to enjoy one of cooking's elemental pleasures. Recipes: Get the perfect barbecue menu
Tips: Rules to grill by, from start to finish!Accessorize: Must-have tools for grilling