Sunday, July 8, 2012

How to Grill a Pie

When I took the pictures for this post, I didn't know if the title would be How to Grill a Pie or How Not to Grill a Pie.  As you can tell, there's a happy ending to today's blog post!

There has been a giant bag of rhubarb burning a hole in my freezer for about a month now.  I've been dying for an excuse to make a rhubarb pie, the most delicious dessert on the planet.  With temperatures over 105 for the last several weeks and the air conditioner laboring to keep the house under 80, I haven't turned on the oven, dishwasher or dryer since the heat wave started.  And yet, there was the rhubarb.  And it was our turn to host dinner club.  And nothing is better than rhubarb pie.  Maybe the flavor of rhubarb would compensate for our guests having to blot sweat from their faces all during dinner.

Heat-dispersing platform for baking a pie in the grill.

I called Mom to remind me about the perfect ratio of sugar to rhubarb, and she suggested opening a window to vent the kitchen if I must make the pie.  Then I got to thinking about our grill.  It's really just an outdoor gas oven, right?  If I could figure out how to cook the pie out there, the house would still be cool for dinner.  So this time I called Dad, and he thought it would work, but I should put a heat-deflector under the pie dish with some air between the heat-deflector and the pie to allow air and heat to circulate.  The above picture shows my system for evening out the heat from the burners, with the metal grill for elevating the pie off the cast iron pan.  I think any baking sheet would work in place of the cast iron pan for a heat-deflector. 

Pie with edge protector for protecting the crust edge from burning.
To the left of the pan, you see a crucial element for the success of grilling a pie: an oven thermometer.   I preheated the grill to 400 degrees, the temperature required by my pie recipe.  My grill doesn't have any sort of temperature gauge besides purely decorative 'low' and 'high' markings, but after some playing, I discovered that keeping both burners on low would keep the temperature somewhere between 375 and 450 - close enough! 

Success!  One rhubarb pie baked in the grill.

The pie was supposed to bake for 50 minutes.  I checked it every 15 minutes or so, and ended up letting it cook for about an hour and 15 minutes.  It cooked perfectly - no burnt crust and no grill taste - just delicious, tart, heavenly rhubarb.

Some tips:
  • Clean the grill really well before you start, especially if your grill is full of meat fat that might burn and smoke your pie with carcinogenic meat fat smoke.
  • Use metal pans so they don't crack from uneven heat.
  • Elevate your pie dish off of the pan underneath it - this is a must.  I also cooked cornbread in the grill, and I made the first batch straight on the pan and burned the bottom.
  • Put foil under the pie to catch any juice dripping out of it - you don't want smoke from burning sugar to flavor your pie.
  • Check frequently until you trust your temperature, but just barely crack open the grill to keep the heat inside.
  • Maybe try some cornbread or something easy first to learn the process before you use expensive and time-consuming ingredients.

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