Fire up the Grill! Tips and Ideas for Summer Eats!
Summer is in full swing, and, it’s one of my favorite times of the year! I recently polished up the old Weber to get ready for a season of Grillin’ and Chillin’.
Grilling food over an open fire is one of life’s great pleasures, at least, if you’ve set yourself up for success. Here’s our guide to the fundamentals, and, a handful of techniques to master, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced cook, using either a gas or charcoal grill. We’ll give you a few tips in the coming editions to help you achieve the perfect grilled steak or tender barbecued chicken. Get ready to get cookin’ with fire!
There are myriad folktales out there about how to tell when meats are done, but the sure-fire way to do it is with a digital instant-read thermometer, an invaluable tool for grilling.
Have a pair of tongs, a big spatula and a fork on hand to move things around over the heat. Cheap kitchen towels or washable oven mitts also come in handy. I also keep a water spray bottle handy for flare ups.
If you don’t have a side table on your grill, it’s a good idea to set one up, so you can have everything you need to cook close at hand, especially if you’re grilling pizza or a dish with toppings.
The best time to clean your grill is when you’re done cooking and the grates are still warm. The best tool for the job is a simple wire brush. Use the back of your spatula to scrape the bulk of the crud into the fire, then use the brush to scrub the grates clean.
The Charcoal Grill
Charcoal grills are available in all shapes and sizes and at nearly any price point, and you can even find them at the grocery store in high grilling season. They take a little more time to clean than a gas grill, and lighting them, either with lump charcoal or briquettes, can take practice. But the rewards are deeply flavorful.
The basic premise of a charcoal grill is always the same. You build a charcoal fire in the bottom of the grill, put a grate on top of it, and then get to work. Make sure to leave a portion of your grill free of coals so there’s a resting zone for the food that’s cooking too fast.
Handy Tool: Chimney Starter
The best way to build a fire in your grill is to use a chimney starter: a steel cylinder with a grate built into its bottom, and a stout handle on its side. Put two sheets of wadded up newspaper under the grate, and then fill the top of the cylinder with charcoal. Place the starter in your grill and light the newspaper. When flames are licking out of the top you are ready to get after it.
Don’t have a chimney starter? Use lighter fluid. Build a mound of charcoal about the size of a shoe box in the bottom of your grill, apply lighter fluid and flame. Use your grill brush or a spatula to rake the pile into position once charcoal has 30-40% white edges and tips.
Adding a handful or two of water-soaked wood chips to a fire of charcoal briquettes is an excellent way to add smoke to a recipe that calls for indirect cooking. “Quick lighting” charcoal briquettes include a wax or accelerant that allows easy egnition without a chimney or lighter fluid. I personally feel that they add a funky flavor to the food.
What To Cook On A Charcoal Grill
Cooking on a charcoal grill imparts an impossibly rich, smoky flavor. Nothing beats a good steak cooked into a deep sear on a charcoal grill. Bone-in meats fare best over the coals, but do not shy away from a whole fish or sliced zucchini, in a grill basket if you prefer. And don’t forget the joy of a fire-licked summer burger.
The Gas Grill
For ease of use, the gas grill is unparalleled. It is powered by propane or natural gas, and to light it, you simply turn a knob. But maintenance of a gas grill is a little more time-consuming than for a charcoal grill. You may need to repair or replace the gas supply lines, ignition and grate at some point to extend the life of the grill.
Grill snobs sneer at gas grills because they don’t deliver smoky charcoal flavor. And perhaps gas grills are not the best grill on which to sear a steak, or smoke-roast a turkey. But they offer excellent temperature control and are extremely convenient. Heat the grill with all burners set to high, then dial one back entirely to create a resting zone for the food that’s grilling too fast or is done to keep it warm.
What To Cook On A Gas Grill
Everything fares well on a gas grill, but it’s particularly good for when you want the deep sear and flavor of the grill but want to avoid intense smokiness. Try it with seafood, fruit and vegetables. You can also roast a chicken or grill a pizza with some practice.