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A Treatise On Grilling, Part 1
Posted on November 7, 2005 by adam
Category: Grilling & Smoking
Man cook meat on fire like big hairy apes. Such a notion isnít so foreign to most men, nor is it entirely inaccurate. Have you ever been to a party or backyard barbeque where the menfolk gather around the grill and open the lid just like we do opening the hood of a car? ďSo Fred, I see you got a New Braunfels style smoker there. So you plan on stackiní them coals in a pyramid or you gonna use a chimney lighter?Ē
Ever since Grok, the Neanderthal, accidentally dropped a wolly mammoth drumstick on to the campfire and brought up a hunk of meat so succulent and delicious, we men have been throwing meat on fire and feeding our families and brethren. However, for some guys, cooking meat over a fire is not something that comes as natural as the books and television show would have you believe.
Standing over the grill can be the closest to heaven on earth for some men out there. But if you've ever stood over those coals worried about what is happening to those slabs of meat sizzling there, you'd not be alone. And if you've ever pulled steaks off the grill nice and hot only to cut into a bloody mess, you'd also not be alone.
There are times now that I become slightly edgy when I'm grilling those thick filet mignons from Kansas City Steak Company, but much of the nervousness has all but gone away. With a little experience, some trial and error, and some physics know-how, you too can get rid of your nervousness over the fire and become the confident grilling machine that your family wants you to be.
Warm it up, Kris
As I have mentioned before, I use only charcoal grills. You just never hear anyone waxing poetic about "that great gas flavor.*" For an average size meal for four people, I will stack about 30-40 charcoal briquettes in a pyramid on one side of the grill. This area will be for direct heat cooking, leaving the other side for indirect.
There are three basic methods for lighting a stack of charcoal: chimney starter, lighter fluid, and electric starter. When I grill at my fatherís house, I use his electric starter because thatís all there is. At home, I use lighter fluid. Most purists, however, will tell you that you should only use a chimney starter because the lighter fluid taste will get in the food.
This is only true if you use the match light charcoal that most brands offer. When I use lighter fluid at home, I only douse the pyramid with as little fluid as I need. All the excess lighter fluid burns off in the first couple of minutes after the match hits the stack, anyway. My procedure for lighting the stack is this. a.) a couple of good long squirts of lighter fluid to coat the pyramid, b.) Let soak for 3 minutes, c.) Light with a long match or quickstart lighter.
Easy as pie. Now, let the coals burn until they are completely covered in gray ash. I like to wait until they are three-quarters covered, then spread out the coals to let the grill grate heat up before I put the meat on. This will give ample time for the coals to complete their journey of fire as well as get that grate nice and toasty. You want grill marks, right?
* Alton Brown
This is my five-part series on grilling, the things that we do wrong and how to fix them. Stick around for the next part, Grill Marks.
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