The Art of Summer Grilling

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When it comes to grilling, you will probably hear different recommendations from each person you talk to. Some will tell you to use a gas grill only; others will tell you that the briquette is the only way to go. Some grill with wood chips; others use smokers. One thing we tend to agree on though, is that fire makes a piece of meat taste so much better than an oven or microwave can.

Grilling takes a lot of finesse. You usually won’t get it right the first time you try. It is a process, one you will always be trying to perfect. Two main types comprise the “right way” of grilling. Charcoal (bricks or briquettes) and wood (hickory or other choice wood). I am not covering gas grilling, as I am of the school of thought that frowns upon gas grills. I am most experienced with briquettes, so this will be the method discussed here. Below are some tips on how to use briquettes and on grilling artistry in general.

Clean the grill. If the grill has been used recently, the process begins with clearing excess ash from the bottom of the grill. This will allow better air flow. Also, if the grills themselves look like they have a bunch of gunk on them from previous cooking, run them under some hot water and scrub them down with some steel wool.

Stack the briquettes. The next step is to put the briquettes on the grill. Note that there are two racks. The smaller one is at the bottom of the grill, and holds the coals. The top one holds the food. Some grills, like mine, have a smaller veggie rack that connects to the lid and sits above the main grill. The various grill racks should be apparent. The ideal amount of briquettes will cover the entire surface of the bottom grill in one layer. Some overlap is okay. Once you have enough coals on the grill, you need to stack more on top of this foundation. Make sure the vents are open on the bottom of the grill.

Stacking the coals is an art. One wants to maximize the heat channeling through the stack in order to get an even light. You want to build a tall pyramid in the center of the grill. This will maximize efficiency. Next, you douse the coals with lighter fluid. Some men, myself included, enjoy watching the initial burst of fire upon lighting the coals, so we coat them especially well with the lighter fluid. The idea of the fluid is to encourage an even light around the base of your pyramid. Make sure you squirt some of the fluid inside the pyramid. This helps get the most flame onto the coals.

Light ‘er up! Once you have put in the desired amount of lighter fluid, it is time to light it. Keep in mind you are building a fire, so you want to start from the bottom on the opposite side from where you are standing. This keeps you from burning your arm. Light around the base of the pyramid, stand back, and enjoy the fire.

Back in the day, coals took 45 minutes or longer to light. Kingsford, among others, has come up with new ways of making the coals so they light faster and heat more evenly. 25-35 minutes is a reasonable wait for the coals to light. Keep in mind that the flame will burn itself out in moments. This does not mean the coals did not light. The idea of charcoal is to let the embers smolder. If you look at the coals, you should see them turn white as they burn. You may even see a red glow from inside your pyramid. This is good. Once most of the coals are white, it is time to spread them out.

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