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.