If you are arriving late to this series- we are embarking upon grilling. This is the second post, the first was The Yet to be Discovered Art of Grilling- Tres Clever. So, check it out and then get ready to get your hands dirty- if you have a charcoal grill it’s almost an inevitability.
Preparing the Gas Grill
Gas grills use natural gas or propane, which can be purchased in tanks from most large grocery stores. Most grills have a low fuel indicator so you are less likely to run out mid-meal- which, in addition to being massively inconvenient pegs you as a novice griller. Gas grills generally use lava rocks and it’s a good policy to allow your grill to burn for 10 minutes or so after removing the food to burn off excess fat or food particles. This makes for fresher grilling next time. Rocks do need to be replaced over time and that should be before they turn into ash.
Preparing the Charcoal Grill
Remove the grates and spray them with oven cleaner (yes, I’m serious- oven cleaner is available at most super markets). Allow them to sit while you remove the ashes and old coals from the base of the grill (a shop vac comes in handy here). These ashes are not to be flushed down the toilet, rinsed in the sink or left in the yard. Instead, shovel (yes, shovel) them into a plastic grocery bag, double knot it and double bag it before you discard it (sold on gas yet?)
Use a thick rag or durable sponge and water or a cleaning solution to wipe out the grime and residue from the inside of the grill. Buildup can cause food to taste bad (be sure to blame reluctant grill maintenance for any poor tasting recipe). Once you finish cleaning the grates, replace them, spray with non-stick cooking spray to prevent food from sticking and build a fire.
The Big Green Egg
The preparation of this fantastic smoker-style grill is similar to the charcoal grill, as it uses charcoal. Unlike a traditional charcoal grill, the Big Green Egg boasts porcelain glazed ceramic construction designed to help retain heat and moisture for more precise cooking temperatures. This grill stays cooler on the outside- making it safer for grilling near children and drunkards. The two fire dampers, one at the top and one at the bottom, allow for superior control of temperature, and unlike some grills- this translates to excellent low temperature cooking (150 degrees). Once you are finished cooking- closing the lid and the fire dampers extinguishes the coals so you can shake the ash from them and reuse part of the coals.
Infrared grilling has some definite pros and cons (I feel the cons are vastly outweighed by the pros). It tends to be quite pricey and not portable at all- once installed, you are firmly fixed- but how many people actually drag around a gas grill? Few, if any. This is a ceramic cooktop that provides even cooking surfaces and an option for very high cooking temperatures for searing. I have an infrared grill and find it to be the best option in grilling, though I have not personally tried the Big Green Egg. I have to be honest in that I don’t enjoy smelling like a smokehouse before entertaining. HOWEVER, if I did endeavor to grill at say, a pool party, the Big Green Egg sounds like a fantastic option for fajitas- the smoky flavor and an almost guarantee of juicier meat is compelling- and then I could jump in the pool and let the chlorine cut the smoke.
Safe Cooking Temperatures
While beef, lamb and veal follow similar temperatures – 145 for medium rare to 160 for medium – chicken, duck or turkey should be cooked to 180 for serving. Until you are So Very Clever on the grill, there is nothing wrong with using a meat thermometer in the thickest portion of the meat. I like to make a small cut into the center of the meat to check. By adulthood, most of us can tell by sight how we enjoy our meat.
TIP: Serve grilled meat immediately, as it can continue to cook after it is taken off the grill, turning a perfect rare plus into medium in no time. BARF.
Tomorrow we need to talk about lighting the grill and beyond. I am not sure how I like these shorter posts and dragging out a thought for an entire week, but if it’s easier for you- then this is how it is going to be.
Many thanks to all of you for reading. I very much enjoy the feedback- except when it’s mean- but even then, I learn something from it. Usually it’s that the person in question is an ass. Kidding. OK- NO. I’M. NOT.