Great gills of fire
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2000
With the worst heat of summer upon us families all over the Miss-Lou are abandoning their kitchens and turning to their grills. Cooking out has come a long way from Dad throwing a few burgers and steaks on the grill: lamb kabobs, pork tenderloin, shrimp with fruit salsas and the list goes on. And grilling is no longer restricted to meat: vegetables are cooked on the grill and so are many fruits.
And while we love them all, very few methods of cooking cause as much debate as barbecuing or grilling. It doesn’t help that we use the same names for the equipment – the grill, the barbecue grill, as we use for the method, &uot;let’s grill out,&uot; &uot;we are having a barbecue.&uot;
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Grilling is cooking with high heat (400 to 700 degrees) directly over flames. It is a relatively quick method of cooking, requiring 2 to 12 minutes per side of the items you are grilling. This high heat and quickness sears the surface of the food giving you a delicious crust and locked in flavor. Because of the quickness of cooking time this method is best reserved for relatively small or thin pieces of tender meats such as steaks, burgers, sausages, chicken breast, fish steaks or fillet, kebabs, vegetables and breads.
Barbecuing in an indirect method of cooking over lower heat, 200 to 300 degrees. In this method the food is cooked in a closed chamber next to the fire. Because your meat is located away from the fire, you can cook larger, tougher pieces of meat to tenderness without burning them. Traditional meats for barbecuing are briskets, ribs and pork shoulders. According to &uot;Barbecue Bible, Sauces and Marinades&uot; by Steven Raichlen, &uot;when barbecuing the fuel can be charcoal, gas or wood embers but whatever you use there’s always the presence of wood smoke. Indeed, this smoke is the defining flavor – and very essence of barbecue.&uot;
Last but certainly not least is the method of indirect grilling. This hybrid method combines some of the heat, speed and searing of grilling with the leisurely smoking of barbecue. Indirect grilling involves cooking the meat next to, not over, the fire, but directly in the fire box and at a higher temperature than you would for true barbecue. This method is great for cooking whole chicken, turkeys, rib roasts, and other large pieces of meat that would burn if you tried to direct grill them.
Gas vs. charcoal
There are as many valid arguments for either of these cooking methods as there are types of sauce, marinade or rub for you meat. Charcoal is readily available and relatively inexpensive. And when tended properly you can achieved a cleaner, higher heat that you can not achieve with propane because charcoal burns hotter. If you are using wood or charcoal I recommend that you use a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid. Lighter fluid can give your food a petroleum taste. Also with an chimney starter the coals light evenly all at once and they light quickly.
Then there are those people who love cooking on gas. With the starters that are on most of today’s gas grills you can simply turn a knob, push a button and voila, you’re cooking. Also, temperature control is easier with a gas grill. You can add a smoke box to burn wood chips in for a more authentic wood flavor or you can simply put them in a foil packet.
Spice it up
Now that you have decided what type of grill you are going to use and which cut of meat you want to cook there is only one more thing to decide. What flavor component would you like? Rubs, wet or dry; marinades, bastes, glazes or dipping sauce. Something to consider as you pick is the there can be some overlap between the categories, for example all wet rubs are marinades but not all marinade are wet rubs.
Seasonings are mixtures of salt and spices that are used to season the meat before and during grilling. One thing to remember is that the primary ingredient of most seasoning mixes is salt.
Closely related to seasoning mixes is the dry rub. These are mixes of spices, herbs, seasonings and often sugar. They are used to give meat a base flavor, and are usually applied to the meat several hours before cooking so that there is a marinating effect. And most deliciously of all they foster the formation of a crust on the meat as it cooks. There are dry rubs, which contain only dry ingredients and are sprinkled over the meat like powder. And then there are wet rubs, also known as spice pastes, which start as dry rubs and then a liquid such as oil, water or yogurt is added to create a thick paste.
There are liquid ways to season your meat also. The most common is probably the marinade. This is a liquid seasoning, a mixture of herbs, spices and flavorful liquid such as olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and yogurt. The meat acquires its flavor by means of soaking. Also besides adding flavor marinades are also used for tenderizing. Most marinade contain some type of acid, such as wine, lime juice, or vinegar. The acid works by breaking down muscle fibers which makes them perfect for lean, dry meats such as chicken breasts and game.
Bastes are liquids that are applied to meats as they cook. Basting serves a twofold purpose:, it keeps meats moist and promotes the formation of a flavorful crust during grilling.
Similar to a basting liquid is a glaze. The major difference is that glazes contain sugar. They have to be applied toward the end of cooking or the sugar will burn. If done correctly the sugar will caramelize during the cooking process and create a sweet flavorful crust.
Then there is the whole category of barbecue sauces. There are the thick, sweet, tomatoey sauces of Kansas City; the thin, vinegary sauces of the Carolinas; the barbecues of Memphis are smoke-cooked and thickly-crusted with dry rubs; and then there is Texas with its tomato-based sauces laced with chile powder that is thin and tart but without sugar.
1/4 cup paprika
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons Accent (optional)
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper,
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients in a jar, close and shake well to mix.
Store away from heat and light for up to six months. Apply to your meat several hours before cooking so the meat can absorb the flavor.
The Barbecue Bible
Tex-Mex Tequila-Jalapeno Rub
1 cup loosely packed cup of
5 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely
1/2 small onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, coarsely
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tequila
1 teaspoon coarse salt,
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Combine the cilantro, jalapenos, onion and garlic in a food processor and finely chop. Gradually add the remaining ingredients and puree to a paste. Smear this paste on pork loin or tenderloin, sirloin or beef tenderloin. Marinate, covered in the refrigerator for 2 hours and then grill.
The Barbecue Bible
Of course no matter how good your meat is you will still need something to serve with it and with the heat outside you might as well keep your kitchen completely cool by cooking your side dishes on the grill outside. Try these veggie tips to accompany your main dish.
Most vegetables, such as mushrooms, onions, peppers, radicchio, tomatoes, and zucchini benefit from a quick dash of olive oil and a few herbs. If you do not have a grill basket for your vegetables be sure you cut them large enough that they don’t fall through the grates.
Grilled Sweet Corn
8 ears of fresh corn, husks on
Salt and ground black pepper
Prepare your grill. Whether you use charcoal or gas you want to heat your grill to medium-high heat. This means you can hold your hand five inches above grill surface for three seconds. Meanwhile, remove all but the innermost layer of husk form each ear of corn. The kernels will be covered by, but visible through, the last husk layer. Use scissors to snip off the long silk ends at tips of the ears of corn. Grill corn, turning ears every 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until kernels have left dark outlines in the husk and husks are charred and beginning to peel away to tip to expose some kernels. This will take about 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer ears to platter, remove and discard charred husks and silk. Season corn with salt and pepper and butter to taste and serve immediately.
Grilled Asparagus and New Potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon-pepper
6 small new red potatoes,
1 pound fresh asparagus spears,
Heat grill. In a large shallow bowl, combine one tablespoon of the oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the lemon-pepper seasoning. Add potatoes and toss to coat. Place in grill basket. If you don’t have a grill basket use a sheet of foil with a few holes poked in it. When ready to grill, place grill basket on grill. Cook 15 minutes, shaking basket occasionally to turn and mix potatoes. While the potatoes are cooking, place asparagus spears in same shallow bowl. Add remaining oil, salt and lemon-pepper seasonings. Toss well to coat. Add asparagus to grill basket. Cook about 10 minutes or until potatoes and asparagus are tender, shaking basket occasionally to turn and mix vegetables.