Ready to Play With Fire?

Cooking with fire appears to be a primal instinct for many of us, particularly of the male of the species. Al fresco cooking has always been my favorite. From the rituals of lighting and tending to the optimal fire, the intoxicating smell of smoke and food, and of course, and enjoying the results, there is nothing else quite like it, drawing us back to the very early days of the tribe.


I have found that there are two types of people when it comes to the outdoor kitchen.  On one hand, we have the occasional outdoor chef who enjoy the experience seasonally, rarely venturing out in the off season or inclement weather.  On the other hand, there are people like me.  There is a season for cooking outdoors?  Sure, but it lasts twelve months.  The first thing I clear after a heavy snow is a path to one of the outdoor appliances.  I’ll get to the car later.  Couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been out back with a parka in the snow or freezing weather or with an umbrella in the rain. I even used order my charcoal to get a suitable brand until I convinced the local hardware store to carry it.


As time goes by, we’ll have a mini-course or e-books for both grilling and BBQ.  Until then, let’s get the two sorted out.  Grilling is a high temperature process using direct heat (the coals or gas burner are beneath the food).  Heat radiation from the coals/burner to the food is the primary mechanism for cooking.  Ironically, you don’t want to be using any flames when grilling, but we’ll save that thought for the Grilling mini-course.  BBQ on the other hand, is a low temperature (140F – 220F) indirect heat process.  Convection from the air/smoke surrounds the heat and does the work.  BBQ is great to taking very tough cuts of meat and breaking down the collagen into fall of the bone goodness.  The two techniques are designe for vastly different purposes but get get lumped together regularly. Your grill is not a BBQ and your BBQ could be a smoker or it could just be a BBQ.  A smokehouse doesn’t cook at all, it cold cures meat.


I don’t expect all of you to share the same passion but even the most casual outdoor chef needs to get ready for the season, no matter your hardware. First things first, let’s open the thing up and remove the grates.  For grills, remove the heat shield/lava rocks or equivalent such that you can see the burners.  Vacuum out all of the debris that has accumulated in the bottom of the grill.  Watch out for little critters that may have set up house (chipmunks and mice love your condo d’grill). Light the burners and ensure you have nice even flames all the way around or get them replaced. The grate that holds the lava rocks and the rocks themselves take a beating so inspect and replace if necessary. Once done, put the grates back in, light the flame, and close the lid.  Let the heat burn off the crud on the grates for 30 – 60 minutes. Kill the heat and once they cool, use your wire brush on the things to remove any remaining stuck on crud.


If you’ve got a charcoal grill/BBQ (if I have my way, you all will have at least one before it’s done), your process is about the same, except you remove the fire grate that holds the coals and get out the mounds of ash that have accumulated.  Replace anything that doesn’t look up to spec and reinstall.


There are over a dozen grill/BBQ types we’ll cover later but with a little imagination, these instructions will work for you.  Buying a new grill?  E-mail and we’ll get you started it the right direction.


Anyway, now that you are done, don’t you feel better?  Go get your favorite charcoal or a new tank a propane and big hunk of protein and embrace your inner caveman (embrace your cavewoman while you’re at it). It doesn’t matter what you cook as long as you do it right.

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