Summer is upon us. Along with pool parties, fishing, softball and camping trips, we get to enjoy one of the best activities ever invented for a warm summer evening – firing up the grill.
Over the years I’ve tried gas and charcoal grills; each has advantages and disadvantages. We will not debate them here. If you are using a gas grill and love it, may the propane be with you. If you are a tried and true coal lover, more carbon to you.
Currently, I’m using a Weber Performer Deluxe, 22-inch Charcoal Grill because that is what my family bought for Fathers Day a few years ago. (Okay – full disclosure – It’s what I asked for because I really like charcoal grilling.) But it does exactly what I want it to do: It cooks food. What more do you really want in a grill?
My friend, Dave is a charcoal aficionado. He introduced me to the chimney method of starting the coals and I’ll never go back to lighter fluid. Although, pouring refined gasoline on the pile and burning the toxins does take me back to my youth. Our family would gather at the state park on Memorial Day each year and light up a bag of Kingsford Briquettes smothered in half a container of lighter fluid. Toss a lit match on the charcoal from a safe distance and you started the holidays with a bang…literally. Good times.
Today, however, I use charcoal lumps and a chimney starter. With a few sheets of newspaper and one match and in as little as 20-minutes, I have red-hot coals ready to cook any meat or vegetable.
Once the cooking starts, the smoke risking from the coals, combined with the cooking fat of the meat, combine to waft through the entire neighborhood with a rich, wonderful aroma that clearly announces that supper is ready.
For Americans, traditional grilling often involves Bar-B-Q’d pork, steak, pork chops, chicken wings, hot dogs, brats and hamburgers. And as Americans, we often try to eat one (or more, or all) of each during any given holiday event. Over the years, I’ve tried refining and expand my cooking menu to include things like Salmon on a cedar plank, garlic corn, sliced pineapple, endive, roasted peppers, Kebabs, and even whole, roasted chickens.
One of the things I enjoy most about the grill is the combination of high heat and slow cooking. To obtain the perfect grilled “char”, one simply has to place the food over the hottest part of the coals. The intense heat sears the meat, chars the skin, even leaving those traditional grill marks if done right. However, once seared, the food can be moved off the direct fire and allowed to slow cook, resulting in melt-in-your-mouth chops, chicken thighs that are moist and tender, steak that makes your mouth water just looking at it, or hot dogs that are, well, hot dogs.
In my grilling heyday, I often spent an entire Sunday afternoon at the Weber cooking enough food for the entire week. Fish, beef, chicken, short-ribs, asparagus…I have even been known to give Tofu a try from time to time, but at much duress.
If you haven’t found your grilling bliss, I would suggest that you give it a try this year. You don’t need a $1000 grill to enjoy cooking out. Some kettle grills can be purchased for as little as $22. Light up your briquettes and start practicing this summer. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.
Be Brave & Eat Well