Saturday, August 27, 2011

License to Grill

I found this picture on the chive and think it is a good reference for cooking temperatures.  Although it doesn't have the proper temperature to get to the desired doneness it is still a good visual aid.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Grilling Basics:

Grilling is one of the best ways to cook. It's a simple and easy way to cook that adds another layer of flavor and texture to food.

A few basic things you need to get started:

  • First, a grill. Charcoal or gas?  The fuel medium is completely up to you. I prefer natural charcoal for its smoky flavor and the high heat it produces.  As I've already mentioned (and will over and over...) the high heat charcoal produces is great for getting a good char on the outside of food. Propane or gas is good, however, because it is quick and easy to use. If you're cooking for a small group of people or only have a one or two things to grill, gas is the way to go. Using natural wood is good too, especially if you plan on cooking a lot of food over a long period of time.  A friend owns a restaurant with a wood burning grill, and I had a lot of fun working that station*.  There's something even more primal about food cooked over an open wood flame. I had the opportunity to cook with wood at home in late April, and enjoyed it a lot: more on that later.
  • Grill brush - Preferably one with long handle wire brushes.  The Brillo pad topper that some brushes come with is good for a more detailed cleaning, but a good stiff wire brush is best for heavy duty grill scraping.
  • Spatula - I prefer using a restaurant-grade spatula that is long and flat.  The spatula I'm referring to is probably the same style of spatula you saw the grill guy using last time you visited Waffle House.  If you feel like getting fancy, an additional fish spatula is great for grilling seafood.
  • Tongs - Edlund is a company that makes industrial grade kitchen equipment. I think they make the best tongs ever. My chosen pair is a set of 18 inch tongs with clam shell/scalloped tips. These tips make it incredibly easy to pick anything up with out fear of dropping or mangling the product.
  • Chimney starter - If you are using a charcoal grill, a chimney starter is essential.   My mother-in-law gave me one and it is one of the best things ever! (Notice I have select group of best grilling tools ever!!!)  With just a wad of newspaper and a match you can get a grill full of charcoal primed and ready to go.  I like to get the charcoal started like this before adding a few wood chips or chunks to the coals.
The grill set up that I am currently using is a Weber Performer (this super sweet grill was a wedding present... thanks Norman and Marcia), with a cast iron grate (thanks Mel), and I love them both. 
I have never had problems with any Weber grill.  We found our first one on the side of the road the day after Christmas the first year we lived together in Huntsville.  I used that same grill for almost three years.  The Performer has an option for a gas starter and comes with charcoal grates for indirect grilling. The cast iron grates I received separately get hot enough to get a good sear on the outside of a piece of meat. The company that makes the grates I am currently using offer several different options to maximize outdoor cooking opportunities.

* In a professional kitchen the primary cooking areas are divided into stations.  Some stations are saute, grill, garde manger, pizza oven, dessert, etc.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

This conversation has to get started somewhere:

The idea for this blog came about as I was showing my brother how to smoke a beer can chicken in his bullet smoker.  Because I was about to move a long way from home, I thought a food and cooking blog would be a great way to keep in touch with my family while imparting useful information.  This is kind of a resource for home cooks to improve their skills, focusing on varying cooking processes, methods and tips.

Grillenium Falcon will be an outlet for sharing tips and methods to improve your success in the kitchen that I learned over the past eight years cooking in a fine dining environment.  I'll also post about what I eat and drink and my successes and failures in the kitchen.  Really, this blog will be my repository for all things food - I am interested to see what winds up here.

One on the best chefs I ever had the pleasure to work with often said, "There are a million ways to Florida," and I agree.

His words may be vague, but I always understood his point: there is no right or wrong way to cook.  Some methods are easier than others.  There are inefficient ways and smart efficient ways to complete a given task.  I wouldn't want to brunoise* a pound of shallots with a 14" scimitar**.  It can be done; it's not impossible, but are much easier ways to achieve the same results.  Using a chef's knife or a paring knife, for example.
This blog will be a platform for different techniques and tips that can be used to make life a little easier in the kitchen.  My goal is to help reduce the fear the uninitiated feel when attempting anything in the kitchen. 
The first person to ever cook wasn't a classically trained chef or a restaurateur; he or she was hungry.  Cooking was simply an adaptation learned to improve survival chances.  Cooking meat killed harmful pathogens.  Heating raw ingredients often making them more edible and palatable. 

Keep this in mind when you feel intimidated while walking through the "heart" of your home.  Cooking a meal over an open flame is gratifying.  There's something primitive about it, I think - keeping your survivor's instincts sharp. I hope I can share here with my family and friends not only how to cook to live, but also how to cook to enjoy life.  I'll be in touch!
*a culinary knife cut in which the food item is first julienned and then turned a quarter turn and diced again, producing cubes of a side length of about 3 mm or less on each side. In France a "brunoise" cut is smaller, 1 to 2 mm on each side. A common dish which often uses a brunoise as a garnish is a consommé. A brunoise should be consistent in size and shape, as this helps to create a pleasing presentation.
**is a backsword or sabre with a curved blade, originating in Southwest Asia