Monday, July 14, 2008


I know the weather has been beautiful and everyone’s breaking out their barbeque grill, be it gas or charcoal, but there are still cool April days ahead, so while I may grill a few items this week, I’m still planning on cooking inside most days until later in May.

A few words, however, on grilling. If you use gas, so be it. I have in the past used gas with satisfactory results, however, I am an aficionado of charcoal primarily because I think if you use the right charcoal, it imparts a more distinct flavor of the grill than gas does. The right charcoal to me is the lump charcoal made from hardwood. I don’t like charcoal briquets, and I absolutely reject the self-lighting type. They stink of petroleum and put a petroleum flavor on anything cooked over them. Similarly I reject charcoal lighter fluid because it does the same thing to food. Ugh!! I don’t want to eat petroleum, nor do I believe you do either.

Real hardwood charcoal is made by lighting a large fire of good hardwood, letting it get blazing hot and then covering it to eliminate the oxygen that causes it to burn. When the fire is completely extinguished by this oxygen deprivation, the results are lump charcoal with no additives to monkey with the flavor of your food.

To light this charcoal, get yourself a chimney fire starter. While they may cost you $20 or more, they will last you for years and years, and you won’t be using petroleum to start your fire. All you need with a chimney fire starter is a single piece of newspaper to get a mess of charcoal light. Crumble the newsprint and place in the bottom of the chimney. Add your lump charcoal above and light the paper. Walk away and in about 10 minutes the charcoal will be going. When it’s all tinged with white and glowing red, pour it into the grill and put the grate in place to preheat because you don’t want to grill on a cold grate.

We grill almost everything from meats to vegetables to breads and starches, even fruit. One of keys of good grilling it to have a range of temperatures on your grill top. You can accomplish this by having your coals pushed to one side instead of having them scattered all over the bottom of the grill. In this way, you can sear your food over the direct heat of the coals, and then let it finish more slowly over the indirect heat when the food is moved to that part of the grate that has only a couple of or no coals beneath the food. This would be particularly important for something like pork chops while will dry out if cooked over direct heat too long.

You should get the grill good and hot before smacking that pasture-raised beef hamburger, lightly brushed with olive oil and salt & pepper, down on the grill. Don’t touch it for 3 minutes minimum, then turn it 90 degrees with a pair of tongs or a spatula, but don’t turn it over. This will create a cross hatch on the presentation side, which will be the side that will be up when it is placed upon a plate or in a bun. After a few more minutes, turn it and repeat the process on the other side.

Beef cooked to 110-120 degrees will be rare, 120-130 is medium rare, and above that is medium and medium well. After any meat comes off the grill, let it rest at least 5 minutes before serving. This permits the meat’s juices to recede to the interior, making the meat juicier.

Its best to use an instant read thermometer (check out Everything But the Cook for cooking equipment) that has been calibrated by placing the probe in boiling water and adjusting the nut beneath the thermometer face to 212 degrees. Insert the thermometer through the side of the meat, not down from the top, and wait until the pointer stops moving, 30 seconds or so. Remember that the temperature of the item grilled will continue to rise for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat. This is known as “care over cooking,” and needs to be minded so things will turn our as you want them and not be over done.

Happy grilling and enjoy that sunshine!

No comments: