Question: Do you know the difference between the barbecue and grilling?
Second Question: Do you care?
I was getting ready to grill a few burgers when my neighbor walked over. We struck up a conversation about yard work, planting and my grill. You would never guess that an innocent conversation would turn into an outdoor cooking learning experience. It started when he asked a very innocent question. “Getting ready for a barbecue?”
“Nope,” I responded. “I’m firing up the grill for some burgers.”
“That’s what I said; you’re getting the barbecue going.”
Whatever your level of experience on the grill may be no one is immune from making mistakes. There are countless little nuances to cooking, and if even a few of them are overlooked your results can be dramatically different from what you were expecting. Most errors made on the grill result from overlooking a small part of a simple technique or process. Below are some of the most common mistakes people tend to make when grilling, and some easy ways to avoid them.
Not bringing your meats to temperature before they go on the grill: That’s right, the pre-cooking temperature of your meat can be just as important as the temperature when you take it off the grill. If you are using previously frozen meat products, make sure that they are completely defrosted before attempting to season or cook them. Also, unless you are trying to sear the outside of a very rare steak, it is a good idea to allow your meat to rest at room temperature for a half an hour or so before placing it on the grill. Allowing your meat to come closer to room temperature will promote even cooking, and reduce the chances of your meat drying out the grill.
Not cleaning your grill properly: Your grill should be cleaned with a wire brush and other grill cleaning supplies every time you use it either before or after each use. Your grill grate should be cleaned while it is hot with a wire brush or other cleaning utensil. Having a properly cleaned grill will prevent sticking, help produce those nice grill lines that we are always looking to create, and insure that no remnants from your last grilling adventure make a cameo on your current one.
A couple of years ago I had a whole chicken in my refrigerator and wanted to grill it. I did not want to deal with the hassle or mess of cutting and disjointing my chicken but I also knew that if I tried to just grill it normally the outside would burn long before the proper internal temperature would be reached. So I began asking some of my most respected chef friends what would be the best way to grill a whole chicken, and consequentially discovered a great method to add to my grilling repertoire called Indirect Grilling.
The basic concept of indirect grilling is similar to roasting in a conventional oven while maintaining those great grill flavors, textures, and appearances that comes with grilled foods. Instead of placing your food directly over the flame or heat, you would heat only a portion of your grill and then place your meat away from the direct heat. Indirect grilling does require a grill with a cover as you are relying on reflexive radiant heat similar to that of a convection oven to prepare your meal.
Indirect grilling is ideal when you are preparing cuts of meat that are greater than 2 inches thick, whole chickens and turkeys, roasts, briskets, and other foods that typically burn or dry out on the outside before the inside if fully done to your liking. Indirect grilling is a pretty simple method to utilize and can be done on either a gas grill or charcoal smoker.
One of the great joys of barbecued food is that it is cooked low and slow, the long cooking process providing deep layers of flavor which can fully penetrate your food. For those of us who truly love the act of barbecuing, there is also something deeply satisfying about sitting outside overseeing the process, inhaling deeply for a prolonged time the wonderful smells which come out of your smoker. But there is a potential down side to this, the fact that the long cooking process can, under the right (or should I say “wrong”) circumstances, the long cooking process has the potential for drying your food. If you are using meat, the selection of a proper cut, one which has sufficient fat to withstand this process, and sufficient fat to provide a self-basting process, helps to alleviate this. But there is one other way to prevent this, and that is, through the use of liquids. Many people will place a pan or skillet of liquid inside their smoker to prevent this, and will check the container for liquid when replenishing the wood supply. But, for some reason, many, if not most people seem to think only of water when placing liquid in their smoker, and there is no reason for limiting yourself in this way. The use of your liquid can serve not just to moisten your meat, but to flavor it, or even tenderize it. Let’s talk about the selection of other liquids in your smoker.