So the long weekend in May is coming up. This means different things to different people. To some, it means getting the garden in or ready. To others, it's buying flower for around the yard. Still others use it to open up the camp/cottage. But, to a lot of us, it's digging out the old barbecue. Let's talk about that for a minute. There are three things we can do when we cook outside.
1. GRILLING: This is done by cooking food directly over the heat. (usually between 350 degrees to 550 degrees).
2. BARBECUING: This is done by cooking food with an indirect heat. (at temperature of 225 degrees to 350 degrees). Another way is to bury wrapped food in leaves, and place in a fire pit.
3. SLOW SMOKING: This is done again with indirect heat (but at temperatures of 140 degrees to 225 degrees.) Some sources credit the Australians for coming up with this type of cooking, but that's up for debate. My vote goes to our caveman ancestor. Now we could spend the next several columns discussing the best brands of grills, suffice to say they all have their good points and bad. Some things people have pointed out me to look for or do without: non-stick grilling surfaces, the top shelf to toast buns, and a side burner (not real useful.) For now I would like to talk about gas (propane) and charcoal.
1. Gas barbecues are the most common and maybe the most convenient (but I suggest you have two tanks, they always run out at the worst time.) I find that if I turn the heat up to high right after I take the food off and let it run for about five minutes and turn it off, it burns off any food waste and make it that much easier to clean up. What this also does is dry out the inside making it less likely to rust. I will also always heat up the grill to high before using the next time (kill all those nasty germs.) After it's cooled, cover until next time. It is a good practice to change the briquettes every two to three years (they will loss their ability to hold heat after a while.) It is always a good practice to use soapy water to check when changing tanks.
2. Charcoal type barbeques may take a little more work, but they are my favourite. The style of grill you use is up to you, but the charcoal I always try to buy is pure charcoal (not briquettes and especially not self-lighting.) Most briquettes are formed with flour or other binder to hold their shape and self-lighting briquettes contain lighter fluid - not what I want to taste in my food. I even found a device that allows me to light the charcoal using old newspapers instead of lighter fluid.
Now, whatever type of grill you use, here are some tricks I use to cook on the grill.
1. When cooking meat, bring it out of the fridge early enough for it to come up to room temperature before it goes on a hot grill. I like using a dry rub as opposed to sauces (we will cover dry rubs in an upcoming column. After you have cooked your food the way you like it, always allow the meat to rest for at least five minutes, covered with tinfoil (shiny side toward the meat) off the heat. This will not only help with tenderness, but stop all those good juice from being lost. I will put a few drops of a good oil and rub into the meat before putting on grill. As I was taught, you should only turn your steak or burger ONCE. You can move your steak a quarter turn to get those nice grill marks on each side, but only turn them over once.
I hope you enjoy your weekend. and we will cover in two weeks more about outdoor cooking, and some different salads.