In the early '90s, some health researchers suggested that grilling can be harmful to your health and can even cause some forms of cancer. However, Americans still fired up and continue to fire up their grills in order to enjoy a backyard barbecue whenever an opportunity allows them to do so.

In the early '90s, some health researchers suggested that grilling can be harmful to your health and can even cause some forms of cancer. However, Americans still fired up and continue to fire up their grills in order to enjoy a backyard barbecue whenever an opportunity allows them to do so.

Today it is estimated that more than 80 percent of American households own a grill and 75 percent of those households actually use it year round. This tells me that I am not alone in my love of grilling, as it is one of my favorite ways of cooking.

This ancient technique not only adds great flavor to foods that cannot be obtained from braising, steaming or sautéing but also generates sensational mood-changing aromas.

Outdoor grilling is perhaps one of the greatest forms of celebrating life and togetherness. One can only speculate that once upon a time our primitive ancestors gathered around open fires tearing at succulent flame-cooked fresh wild game. Today the setting hasn’t changed much, as the grill has taken center stage while all the family and friends gravitate around it.

On the surface, grilling may seem easy enough for anyone to do, but deep down, mastering this art is indeed tricky. First, one must understand and appreciate how the heat from the grill relates and interacts to the size, thickness and the molecular structure of any type of food. The molecular structure or the texture is different for many types of foods, therefore the time and heat on the grill will be different too.

Understanding the texture of a particular food will be a key factor in determining your dinner planning. Some foods are denser than others, and for them to grill properly they need the tender love and care of low or indirect heat. The lighter in density the food is, the higher the heat it can be grilled on. For instance, potatoes and acorn squash fall under the dense type requiring slow cooking while eggplant and zucchini belong to the light density category and can take the high heat. Onions and brussels sprouts, however, belong to the medium textured vegetables and, you guessed it, can be cooked on medium heat.

When grilling, you must be aware of four types of heat: low, medium, high and indirect heat.

Protein, fiber and liquids all react differently to various heat levels. In meats for instance, the tougher the cut the lower the heat should be. This approach helps in breaking down the fiber without over-charring the meat. A good rule of thumb when setting your grill temperature is to look at the thickness of your food. High heat can be applied to steaks, fish and seafood if they do not exceed 1-inch of thickness. Similarly, the same strength of heat is applied on any vegetables with a light texture as long as they are within the 1-inch-thick range.

For whole fish, thick cuts of meat and bone-in chicken parts, low heat is the key to excellence. Whole birds such as chicken, pheasant and duck do very well with indirect heat.

It doesn’t matter whether you are grilling on gas, wood, charcoal or infrared grills, what does matter is for you to be able to control the heat. This can be done by turning a knob down to a lower setting or by spreading the charcoal thinner on one side of the grill, or perhaps by leaving one section in the middle of the grill completely turned off for indirect heat purposes.

A grill master analyzes the molecular structure and thickness of what they are grilling. In fact, these two elements combined are what helps outline the firing time of the dinner menu components. 

Clearly, size matters here and the bigger the food pieces, the longer it will take for them to cook. If you were grilling shrimp, wedges of acorn squash and peppers, you would start with the acorn squash wedges on low heat since they have a much denser texture than the rest of the components. Once you turn them on the second side then you would lay the peppers on medium heat. As soon as the peppers get turned on their second side it is time for the shrimp to hit the hottest spot and dinner will be served minutes later.

From the health perspective, your grill should always be clean. As grease build up on the grill grates can be harmful and so can excess fat drippings, which cause flare-ups from the grill. The best approach I use to grilling healthy is going by my motto, “a clean grill is healthy grill.”

Grilled Seafood, Baby Potatoes & Rainbow Veggie Kabobs


1 pound sea scallops
1 pound medium size shrimp
1 pound baby red potatoes
1 pound baby white potatoes
1 pound Cipollini onions
1/2 pound Crimini mushrooms
2 large green peppers
2 large red peppers
2 large yellow peppers
6 cloves garlic grated
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons of roughly chopped fresh rosemary


Note: If using bamboo skewers be sure to soak them in water for at least one hour before use so they won’t burn on the grill.

1. Pre-boil the Cipollini onions for 3 minutes. Cool down, peel then mount them on skewers.

2. Pre-boil the baby potatoes or microwave them for 10 minutes until they become somewhat soft to the touch. Mount them on skewers alternating between the red and white potatoes.

3. Skewer all the mushrooms through the stems and into the caps.

4. Cut all the peppers into 1-by-1-inch squares and mount them on skewers alternating the colors.

5. On a cutting board, line up the clean shrimp with the head part together into clusters of seven and skewer them. Using a second skewer, repeat this step toward the tail end. Using two skewers makes for an easy turning of the shrimp on the grill while preserving a good shape for the eye appeal.

6. Using the same method apply two skewers on the scallops in clusters of seven as well.

Aromatic Vinaigrette:

1. In a medium size bowl add the olive oil, fresh garlic, rosemary, salt, pepper flakes and ground black pepper.

2. Using a wire whisk, blend all ingredients together and set aside for the grill.


1. Fire up your outdoor grill into 3 sections: low, medium and high.

2. Brush the potato Kabobs with the aromatic vinaigrette and place on the low heat side. Grill for five minutes per side; a total time of 10 minutes

3. Brush the mushroom, Cipollini onions and the rainbow pepper Kabobs with the aromatic vinaigrette and place on the medium heat side. Grill for four minutes per side; a total of 8 minutes.

4. Brush the seafood Kabobs with the aromatic vinaigrette and place on the hot side. Grill for three minutes per side; a total of 6 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Herald News (Fall River, Mass.) contributor Chef Fehmi Khalifa is owner of Your Own Personal Chef and Caterer. Visit, e-mail or call 508-951-4901.