Lately, we’ve been sharing all sorts of tricks on how to throw a barbecue without spending big bucks. But the problem is you don’t really know how to grill – much less have the resources for it. The solution? Buy a few basic tools like the grill itself (if you’re really beginning from scratch), chimney starter, charcoal and long-handled tongs. Take some advice from BBQ experts and start making your own urban grilling memories this season.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay says on his Web site, “Grilling is the simplest, most basic cooking method there is out there. All you really need is food and fire.”
Here are nine slightly more specific ways to channel your inner grill-master this summer, of course while staying on the cheap.
1. Say no to lighter fluid.
Numerous celebrity chefs – from Alton Brown to Billy Joel’s most recent ex – advise using a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid. All you need to do is put your charcoal in the top and a wad of rolled-up newspaper in the bottom. Light the newspaper – you’ll see smoke coming out of the top immediately. After about five or ten minutes, you should see flames in the chimney starter itself as well the charcoal starting to ash over. That’s when you know it’s ready. Be careful – the handle may be hot – and pour your coals into the barbecue. Now you’re ready to cook!
2. Give skirt steak a chance.
Todd Miller, executive chef at the New York steakhouse STK, recommends skirt steak for anybody on a budget. Both professional and amateur grillers agree it cooks fast and holds a marinade well – even if you’re using an inexpensive wine.
3. Think vegetarian.
Meat isn’t the only barbecue-friendly entree -- many vegetables also take well to grilling. You’ll have to find some sort of contraption or chopping measures to ensure they don’t fall through, but – rest assured – that’s the most complicated part. Just coat your vegetables in a little oil (Flay recommends a light oil – like canola or peanut – for grilling) and season if desired. (Butternut squash works well – as does zucchini. But the sky’s the limit). Then place them in a vegetable basket or even a simple container made of foil. Grill until tender.
4. Most Valuable Tool.
Clint Cantwell of the Smoke in Da Eye Competition BBQ Team says long-handled tongs are a must-have because you can use them to flip whatever you’re grilling (Flay advises you only flip once!) as well as to clean the grill when you’re done.
5. Be one with the grill.
Cantwell says the more you use your grill, the more comfortable you'll be trying items other than hamburgers and hot dogs. That’s because you’ll learn nuances about the grill like its hot spots and how temperatures react when you open and close the lid.
6. Add depth.
Cantwell also recommends that if you use a gas grill, you can add depth of flavor by wrapping a handful of wood chips in a double layer of foil with a few holes poked in it and placing it under the grates. The chips will slowly smolder, releasing flavorful smoke.
7. Timing is everything.
Just because your steak or pork chop is done grilling doesn't mean it is finished cooking. Due to carryover heat, internal temperatures will increase roughly ten degrees after being removed from the heat, meaning a medium-rare steak should be pulled at 125-130 degrees rather than the desired 135-140 degrees. Resting time also allows the internal juices time to reabsorb rather then flowing all over your cutting board. The added bonus is a more tender and juicy meal.
Flay agrees. He says it’s better to undercook than to overcook.
8. Go against the grain.
Cantwell says no matter what cut of meat you choose, you have to slice it across the fibrous grains that run through the meat or it will “taste like a dry, chewy shoe.”
9. Keep it simple.
Next time you’re at a restaurant or bodega, pick up some matches. There are a lot of fancy lighting contraptions on the market, but do you really need them? Probably not…
You don’t have to be a member of a championship barbecue team – or even have a fancy gas grill – to enjoy lots of outdoor cooking this summer.
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