With summer about to arrive, we decided it was time to consult some grilling experts for tips on cooking over live fire.
We got on the phone and dug into the cookbooks of some of our favorite grilling gurus: Steven Raichlen’s Barbecue! Bible (Workman Publishing Co., 2008); Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby’s License to Grill (William Morrow and Co., 1997); and John Ash’s John Ash Cooking One on One (Clarkson Potter, 2005).
Here’s our Top 10 grilling checklist:
- Be organized. Get all your equipment, food, marinade/basting sauce/seasonings/etc. beside the grill before you begin grilling.
- Start with a clean grill. “There’s nothing less appetizing than grilling on dirty old burnt bits of food stuck to the grate,” Raichlen writes.
- Oil the grill after it’s hot and right before you place the food on the grate to prevent food from sticking.
- Build a two-level fire with two temperatures: a hotter area and a colder area. That allows you to sear and caramelize your food or slowly finish cooking. “It gives you flexibility,” Ash told us. He noted a two-level fire was particularly important for foods that take longer versus, say, shrimp.
- Check frequently to see if your food is done. “Start checking several minutes before you think the food is going to be done so that you don’t overshoot,” Schlesinger and Willoughby write.
- Preheat the grill to the correct temperature. If using charcoal you want the coals a uniform gray. Schlesinger and Willoughby use the following method. Place your hand 5 to 6 inches above the grill. If you can keep it there for six seconds, or a count of six one-thousand, you’ve got a low fire; five seconds equals medium-low; three to four seconds is medium; two seconds equals medium-hot; and one second equals “truly hot.”
- Keep a spray bottle of water next to the grill “to put out any grease fires and also to cool things down” if necessary, Ash notes.
- Don’t stab your food with a fork. You’ll lose the precious juices. Instead, use tongs or a spatula to turn your food.
- If using charcoal briquettes or hardwood lump charcoal, don’t be stingy with your fuel. Schlesinger and Willoughby point out grilling is “a high-heat cooking method” which delivers “that awesome grilled flavor” you can’t achieve with a stove-top grill.
- Let your food rest a few minutes after you take it off the grill. This is particularly true with beef, steak, pork and chicken. That time allows the meat to “relax,” Raichlen writes, and to become juicier and more flavorful.
Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch