Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Secrets to Grilling

All of you who feel like they've mastered the art of grilling, there is no need to read any further. But for the rest of you, mere admirers of Gordon Ramsay and other celebrity chefs - I strongly advise you to keep reading because I am about to share with you the secrets to grilling the right way. And every amateur cook has to know at least the basics of grilling - otherwise all that meat will go to waste. Well, not to waste as long as you don't burn it but you can't really reveal the full potential of the protein if you lack the necessary skills and technique. Without further ado, let us dive right into the delicious world of cooking!

I will share with you plenty of useful tips but if I was limited to only giving you one advice then I'd tell you this: practice! The right way to grill is what really works best for you, and the only way to completely master grilling is to practice a lot. What is the key difference between a professional chef and a home cook? Chefs spend a good eight hours on their feet preparing one dish after another, while a home cook prepares meals one or two times per day. If mastering cooking techniques is one of your priorities then you have to be prepared to fail a few times and even possibly throw out some fine cuts of meat. Eventually, you will feel more comfortable experimenting and you'll reach a point when you know exactly what is going on in front of you. Practice really does make perfect!

By getting into the more technical details, I'd like to point out that there is a difference between grilling and barbecuing. People often think that they are both the same thing but the difference is huge. While traditional barbecue relies on a lot of smoke and low cooking temperature, grilling depends on a higher temperature in order to sear what you are cooking and preserving the juices.

Grilling is similar to broiling. Both methods use direct heat but the main difference is that broiling uses heat coming from above, while in grilling the heat comes from below. Both methods are suitable for cooking tender cuts of fish, chicken, and beef. When it comes to cutting meat, there are hundreds if not thousands of ways to do it but you have to be sure that you're not cooking a piece that is too thick. If you do, the exterior will be overcooked by the time the middle is done. One of the good sides of grilling is that it is a relatively healthy way of preparing meat since most of the fat will drip into the fire but you have to be careful and avoid flare-ups from fat - there is a chance to burn what you're cooking.

By now, you are probably asking yourself what is the best fuel source for grilling. A lot of people use charcoal and make the common mistake of not using enough at the start or adding more when it burns down. As a result, they get food that wasn't seared properly so it overcooks. And what do I mean by overcooking? As soon as you lose the juices, you're done - game over. If the meat is dry then you know you've failed. Using self-starting charcoal briquettes can give food an awful chemical taste - use them as a last resort. You can buy real lump charcoal without any additives - the difference is from here to the moon.

Cleaning your grill is also very important. You always have to start with perfectly clean grill. Can you imagine cooking a fine cut of salmon on a grill that hasn't been cleaned for two or three sessions? If cleaning is a nuisance to you, then you can order grill cleaning for your home. If you think you can live through one grill cleaning then remember to remove all food residue with a wire brush while the grate is still hot at the end of the cooking session. It is clever to always spray some vegetable oil on the grill in order to avoid sticking.

Now, let's start cooking. It is vital to have your grill on the right temperature before you start cooking. Many home cooks, especially those using gas grills, wait until right before they start cooking but this is a common mistake. The grill has to be preheated 15 to 30 minutes before the first cut of meats "steps on the dance floor". Have all your cooking tools on standby including sauces and seasoning. It is always useful to have a spray bottle with water for accidental flare-ups. Also, you have to be very familiar with your grill. Knowing where the hot and cooler spots are can sometimes make or break your performance.

The preparation of ingredients is something you're probably familiar with but we can't really skip it. If you're cooking a steak it is best to remove most of the excess fat and season with some salt before you start. With fish, I prefer to place it in a zip lock bag with some olive oil and herbs. In most cases, you'd want to precook chicken in the oven to lessen cooking time which will give you control over browning. No matter what ingredients you're cooking with, always bring them to room temperature before you start! This is a law!

Marinades can make a huge difference in adding taste. Personally, I never cook without marinade. There thousands of recipes for marinades so you better check your cookbooks and find out what sounds tasty to you. Just remember to pat dry the meat when cooking with marinade in order to avoid flare-ups. Barbecue sauces are often used in grilling and people often prefer the commercial products but it is best to always cook with fresh ingredients. The most basic barbecue sauce includes tomatoes, onion, vinegar, mustard, and brown sugar. You can create your own versions of this by adding ingredients. Personally, I love using red wine instead of vinegar.

The most frequent question when it comes to grilling is "how often you cook the meat?" and I will address this as well. So, how can I tell when my meat is done? You will find thousands of guides but it comes down to experience. Follow the guides in your cookbooks, but always touch the meat at difference intervals so you can become familiar with texture and firmness. Master cooks are often able to determine the condition of a cut just by seeing its colour and touching it. Cool, huh?

This is only the just of grilling and there is a lot more to learn, but if you are a newbie you can't get any better if you don't roll up your sleeves and light up the grill. Grilling is always a good alternative to cooking indoors during the summer. With time and a lot of practice you will surely master this cooking method.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What's The Best Fuel for Your Charcoal Grill?

Every barbecue enthusiast has an opinion about the best fuel to use on a charcoal grill. If you've not thought much about your fuel options, you should, because the fuel you use can make a big difference to the quality of your barbecued meals.

The three fuel options are charcoal, briquettes and wood.

In this article we'll look at each of these in turn and then make some suggestions about the best ways to use each of them on your charcoal grill.


Mankind has been making charcoal for thousands of years, and probably been using it for cooking for almost as long.

Charcoal is made by burning wood in an atmosphere starved of oxygen, and while it's burning, water and other volatile components in the wood are vaporized. The charcoal produced is used as a fuel instead of wood. It's good for cooking food over because it burns more consistently than wood and it doesn't impart any particular flavors (good or bad) to the food cooked. Flavors can be produced by adding wood chips to the burning charcoal (we'll discuss this later).

Generally speaking, the best woods for burning on an open fire are also the best ones for producing charcoal. But very often when you buy lump charcoal for a BBQ grill you're not told what type of wood was used to make it, but if you do get a choice choose charcoal made from hardwoods such as oak, hickory or mesquite.

Avoid the inferior charcoal produced from timber off-cuts.

Charcoal Briquettes

Charcoal briquettes appeared on the marketplace after Henry Ford spotted an opportunity to use the wood waste produced from car manufacturing to make charcoal briquettes. He did this by making use of a previously patented technique for producing "fuel briquettes". This technique involved a special process for combining and compressing granulated charcoal (produced form his waste wood) with a mixture of borax (used to aid the manufacturing process) and petroleum products (used to bind the wood-chips together and help ignition).

Henry Ford was definitely onto a good thing. He made lots of money selling his briquettes for the nations charcoal grills. Today there are lots of different varieties and brands of briquettes on the marketplace, some of which don't contain the unpleasant-smelling petroleum products. However, even if you can avoid buying briquettes containing petroleum products, it's still best to let them burn for a while on your charcoal grill before you start grilling food to make sure that you get rid of any other substances that might affect the taste and smell of your food.

Lots of people use a Charcoal Grill Chimney Starter to prepare the briquettes for their grills. This method avoids putting burning coals onto your grill until the unpleasant substances in them have burned off. Using a chimney starter you can also replenish your grill with fresh batches of hot briquettes when you are barbecuing for long periods of time.


Many barbecue veterans prefer to use wood for their barbecue grills. The reason isn't hard to understand. Burning wood gives off natural substances which can impart the most wonderful tastes to food. These substances are lost if the same wood is converted to charcoal.

The really interesting fact about these flavoring substances is that they differ from one type of wood to another. So if you barbecue the same food with hardwoods such as oak, beech and hickory the chances are that you'll notice a very different taste with each variety of wood.

What's the Best Fuel for a Charcoal Grill?

There are advantages and disadvantages for each of the three types of barbecue grill fuel.

Briquettes are extremely popular and widely available. We've pointed out some of their limitations, but one of the big advantages of briquettes is that they're easy to handle and transport, and when they burn they maintain a consistent high temperature (600 degrees F and higher) for long periods. Some types of hardwood Charcoal lumpswill also provide high temperatures, but natural charcoal will frequently not maintain a particular temperature for longer periods.

Wood can reach even higher temperatures than either briquettes or natural charcoal but it's not easy to maintain these temperatures. If it's important to maintain a consistent high temperature with wood you'll probably need to replenish your grill with fresh wood during the cooking period.

One very important point to make is that if you are using wood on your charcoal grill, remember to keep the grill open. If you don't do this your food will end up tasting far too smoky - perhaps even inedible.

Getting the Best Results on Your Charcoal Grill

Wood will give you superb results on a charcoal grill providing you bear in mind the tips and guidance we've provided above. But if you don't want to be involved with the extra effort and skill that's involved if you barbecue with wood you can compensate for the lost flavors by burning wood chips with your briquettes or charcoal lumps.

If you want to use wood chips soak them thoroughly in water first and then scatter them on the glowing coals before and (if necessary) during cooking. They will smolder and eventually burn up, but whilst they are doing this they will introduce the magic flavors into your cooking which you won't get by burning charcoal or briquettes on their own.

The big benefit of adopting this approach to barbecuing is that you can experiment with a wide variety of different types of wood chip to produce varied and interesting flavors into your barbecue food.

Here's a list of the different types of wood chip and the foods they are reckoned to go well with:

· Oak chips are good for all types of barbecue food, especially beef and lamb

· Pecan & Hickory produce a rich, dense smoke which is reckoned to be good for pork

· Mesquite is excellent for beef

· Maple produces a much milder smoke which is good for poultry, seafood and pork

· Alder produces a light flavor particularly suited to salmon, turkey and chicken

· Apple produces a very tangy smoke. It's good for chicken pork and game

· Cherry produces a sweet and tangy smoke and is good for salmon and duck.

There are lots more different types of wood chips. If you want to experiment with a few types purchase several small size bags of chips from your local BBQ Shop or from a good online store .