Ten Grilling Tips from the Super Grill King
Okay, fine, it’s not officially Summer… but who gives a shit, am I right? When the weather gets sunny and relatively warm, there should be no reason why you shouldn’t be grilling your food! What’s that you say? You don’t have time to grill? And you say you can’t grill all those other foods that go with your meal? Well guess what? Shut up and quit complaining, because: a) yes you do, and b) yes you can! There is so little actual effort that goes into grilling that it’s borderline ridiculous! So, take these ten ideas (or rules that I tend to stick to) to heart and you, too, can have awesome grilled foods every day! Yes!
- Get a Chimney Starter
If you're decision is to use charcoal (and it damn well better be, if you know what's good for you), then your first, and only, real task is to get it lit and to have it stay lit. Now, there are myriad methods for getting your flames roaring, but all of them are stupid and make your food smell and taste like a tire fire. What I'm saying is: Lighter Fluid is not only a terrible idea, it's also a terrible idea. Don't use that shit. All it does is burn off, especially on windy days, and it takes an un-Godly amount to get any real work going. Instead, stick to chimney starters.
First off, they're cheap. Mine, one of the bigger models, was maybe ten bucks. Do the math: can upon can of lighter fluid= somewhere around 15-20 dollars, one highly effective starter: 10. Congrats, I just assisted you towards more days where you aren't actively being an idiot. And they're embarrassingly easy to use, too. Which is a nice plus for those out there who haven't quite mastered the eons-old art of creating fire. Basically, you fill the top with charcoal, jam a few wads of paper underneath (I just use bits of the bag itself as I tear it off), and you light it. Viola. There is literally nothing more to it. Well, except for maybe not wanting to light your chimney on a plastic kiddie pool or the hood of your car. I just do it right on the grill.
When it's a raging inferno -ten to fifteen minutes or so later- layer a small amount of charcoal directly on the bottom where you'd normally put it, and dump the searing chunks right on top. Instant oven. You are a master!
- Stop Using a Fork!
Let's say you spent some serious scratch on a bunch of amazing cuts of meat and you are just about ready to slap those bad boys right down on the grill. And you reach for a giant fork. Well, you might as well jam it hilt-deep into your skull because if you use it to grill, you're going to wish you had when you come away with wrung-out, arid hockey pucks. Forks are meats worst enemy, and I'm going to tell you why.
Imagine meat as big bags full of juice: sweet, sweet juicy tastiness that you want all up in your mouth. As you apply heat, that juice recedes to the middle of your cooking beast and just kind of hangs out there waiting until it's no longer being cooked to redistribute throughout. So now imagine that, as your beautiful beef hunks are cooking away, you reach for your Tines of Destruction and skewer your goodies right in their proverbial hearts. Where do you think that elixir of goodness is going to go? That's right, it's going to spew out all over the place, both upsetting your delicate heat source and turning your meat into mummified leather. Not smart, dumb ass! Instead, invest in a set of tongs. Head to your local restaurant supply outfit (we have G.F.S. here) and get a few. They run about 8 bucks each and they will seriously save your grilling from the dreaded destruction of worthless forks.
- Yes, You Can Grill Taters and Veggies
You have the cuts of beast you intend to grill. You have the grill going. Suddenly you realize that, "Damn, Gina! How am I gonna cook these taters and these... uh, onions and mushrooms so I don't have to keep going back and forth into the house, catching my wife in bed with the neighbor?" Well, buddy, I'm here to help.
First of all, let's get one thing straight: You can properly and quite easily grill potatoes as long as you don't ask your grill to do things it's not built to do. Sure, it might be able to boil water for a mash, but you'd need a pot and that's just not gonna fit under your lid. However, baking potatoes is ideal for your grill. Basically, after it's fully lit and the coals are burning down in preparation for your meat, toss a few potatoes on some sheets of aluminum foil, add a little salt and oil, and boom, baby! Baked 'tatoes with crispy skin, even!
As for veggies, a grill is perfect for them! Ever made Shish-Kebab? Well that's like 80% veggies and that stuff works out brilliantly! So, it only stands to reason that grilling things like sliced zucchini, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, leeks, fennel, peppers, and even slices of fruit work perfectly on the grill! Just make sure you either cut them so they don't fall into the fire, or else, foil 'em! Foods do cook at different rates, but under a foil dome, most veggies take about an hour if kept away from direct heat, this includes taters.
- Propane is For Chumps
As I said before, if you aren't using charcoal, then you may take your propane tank and leave my yard. Look, it's not that I don't like cooking with gas, all of my burners and oven operates on gas, so I do like it in many cases. But the fact is, gas does nothing to add any flavor to your food. Unless you like chicken a la propane. I do not. And one of the whole points in grilling is to make your food taste... grilled!
So, even if you own a propane grill, at lease invest in a little Weber or something and cook over coals every so often. Trust me, you'll be pining for a big boy wood-burner in no time. Oh, and for the love of all that's good and Holy, do NOT use briquettes! Unless they are specifically labeled 'Natural Wood'. You see, the issue with pressed briquettes is they often use less than edible ingredients in the process, such as waxes and probably ground up gerbils. So buy natural, and, if you can, get natural chunk charcoal which is literally just burned hunks of wood. Not only does it smell like a Boy Scout camp out from your youth, but it burns hotter and even longer. Much like those Boy Scouts from your youth...
- Rules For Treating Your Meat
Cooking meat is a lot like preparing to bang a chick. Seriously. It takes finesse, practice, and a towel for cleaning up any accidental messes.
First of all, buy your meat from a reputable source that has a butcher right on premises. I don't suggest getting a few rib eyes from the guy who operates out of van behind the bowling alley. And buy in the bulk-sized packages. Why? They're typically cheaper by the pound, and, you can always freeze half of the cuts for a second use. Economical, fella!
Don't leave your steaks hanging around under your kitchen window or in your garage, either. Unless you are literally cooking right then, either freeze it or refrigerate it and treat it like any other food you don't really want to get killed from eating. It is, after all, from something that was pretty recently walking around.
We've discussed already not jamming a fork into your joint, because geysering juices is never pretty when cooking, or when watching... movies. But it's also a good idea, once fully cooked, to let your meat rest. The swelling will go down and the fluids will spread back through the vessels allowing you to enjoy your mouthful of tender goodness. All of that paragraph was not about your dick, though I guess it could work both ways.
Finally, if your grilling some kind of meat concoction that's not a whole joint (like steaks, or loins), for instance, hamburgers, please don't cook them right over the hottest point of the grill lest you want a horrifically charred exterior and a bloody, mushy mess inside. Slow is better, on the 'cooler' parts of your grill. Then you won't have tartar.
- Foil is Your Friend
We've already talked about using foil to assist in cooking veggies and potatoes on the grill, but the aluminum sheets just happen to be perfect for other foods, too.
Specifically: water-going critters. Sometimes grilling up small shrimp, scallops, crabs, and cuts of fish is a particularly difficult task when they could either stick to the grates or just plain fall through. And that's the last thing you want to see: thirty bucks of fresh seafood living comfortably engulfed in flames right on top of your charcoal. Not cool, chunky. So, wrap them in foil, cut a few steam ports in the top, season like you read about, and bam! Grill that mess.
On some instances, if you have some really protein-rich meats or some especially sticky stuff, there's no reason not to just lay some heavy-duty foil directly on top of the grates saving the whole potential mess all together. Foil is your friend, and you can even make cool swords out of it!
- Clean Your Grates, Punk!
If your grill grates look like homes for meaty stalactites and crusty deposits of dead tissue, it might not be a bad idea to clean those rascals. If for no other reason than making your food no longer stick tighter than a nun's panties. But what's the best way? You might be asking yourself while tilting your head like a dog to a ringing phone. Well, I'll tell you.
First off, invest in a grill-specific wire brush. Typically they are attached to really long handles and the wire surface is supported by a reverse scrub pad of sorts. This is the kind of brush that is designed for dislodging stuck on grilled chunks of meat, so needless to say, the wires a really sharp and really hurt when used inappropriately like as a weapon or a tooth brush.
Secondly, clean after you've got the burning charcoal heating the grill. The intense heat will help in the removal process and make cleaning a little less of a chore and a little more of just a mild inconvenience. Just let the heat build for a half hour or so, lift the lid, and go to work on those nasty things like they owe you money. Remember, the cleaner they are, the far less likely it is that you'll leave sixty percent of your chicken breasts glued to your grates. Or, eighty percent of your victim's face.
Once they're clean as a whistle, roll up an old kitchen towel, coat it in a bit of oil, and rub it on the grates. More stick insurance and it adds just a bit of flavor. Unless your're grilling a pair of shoes, for some reason. Then I guess it wouldn't do anything for the flavor.
- Put Out That Fire!
Hey, guess what? Fire is hot! It burns... a lot! Not only does it make some seriously owwie scars on human flesh, it also turns an otherwise fine piece of meat into soot. Don't cook over it, then! When you have dispersed your hot coals into the bottom of the grill like a good little cook, you need to let them build up a nice layer of smoldering ash before bringing on the dead animals -or otherwise dead vegetation. If you just go ahead and flip a bunch of chicken or pork chops right over a flaming pile of burning wood, you're gonna have a grill-full of scarred shit in a matter of minutes. Tend to your hot zones, and maintain heat without causing a raging inferno.
The idea is to create one very hot area, where all the heat radiates, and a cooler spot where you can more slowly, and under far more controlled circumstances, get that meaty goodness to a level somewhere safely between scorched horror and still actively moving. If you keep your grilled goodies away from any gouting flames, you should be in good shape. This is why keeping a spray bottle of water around is not only handy, but refreshing! Hose those backdrafts when they get a little too frisky, and you and your meat will thank you for it come nom nom time. As Frankenstein's Monster once said (probably), "Fire BAD!"
- Please, Learn Your Temperature Zones
This goes hand in hand with avoiding embarrassing flare-ups that could render your meat useless and hopelessly ruined. Controlling your temperature zones in both the grilling process itself, and within the grilled meat is absolutely essential. Not so much with veggies and the like, because raw asparagus has never been the cause of salmonella and other such shit-inducing food-borne illnesses. At least that I know of.
Let's say for instance you have a few tasty looking chicken breasts chillin' like villains on your grill. You've wisely decided to have all of your hot coals all the way to your right in the grill, and are using this to your advantage as you smartly bring your poultry to temp without turning them into rubber dog toys on the left. That is definitely step one: Keep the heat to one side and use that as you move your meat around. This is really important when you're adding glazes like barbecue sauce which tends to be 75% sugar. If you cook those pieces right over any really hot spots, you're gonna have carmelization bordering on black, bitter, candy. So be careful, Willy Wonka, unless you like meat you have to cut through with a table saw.
Next, either get a meat thermometer, or learn what done feels like. Sure, some of us love beef when its kinda pink in the middle, but raw isn't too appetizing. When it comes to pork, a tiny bit of pink is now considered okay since pigs are typically far cleaner than years ago when they recommended grilling your swine into what resembled chunks of someone's old saddle. Chicken should always be done all the way through, and most fish is kinda up to you. I like red tuna, pink salmon, and slightly under-cooked shellfish... but that's just me. Meat will often feel like poking the inside of a loose fist near your thumb. No, not like that ya sick prick. A loose fist is rare. Slightly clenched is medium to medium rare, and tight is well. Well chews like a shoe, so be careful. If you are at all unsure, good thermometers are around 20 bucks or so. Far less expensive than several trips to the ER while you shit out your own innards.
- Quick Grilling Techniques For Luddites
Though I've given you some pretty handy nuggets of knowledge throughout this list, there are definitely a few more useful bits of info I can pass along that make me the Super Grill King that I am. I bestowed that moniker on myself, by the way.
1) Have delicious beer handy. Even if you don't drink, it makes a great flavor enhancer when sprayed on your goodies.
2) Do what the pros do and have a rag dangling from your waist. Nothing is more annoying than sticky or slimy hands after too vigorously handling your meat. In any circumstance, really.
3) Take it from one who's lost a bit of life in his grill, and invest in a grill cover. They'll set you back like 20 bucks, but not letting your precious baby corrode in the rain or over the winter is a much cheaper alternative.
4) Grill with friends, or, at the very least, impressionable children and a wife who really doesn't give a shit. Impressing people with your tong mastery and meat cooking prowess is half the fun of grilling in the first place!
5) Grill often. Unless you're smack in an active hurricane or standing in eight inches of snow, there is no bad time to grill. It doesn't take any more or less time to fire up your hot box than it does to throw together a vile casserole. Grill, dammit!