June 6th, 2014
It’s the call of the Great Outdoors! After months of being cooped up indoors and not being able to fire up the grill, hibachi or barbecue, the time is now to get those grill marks going.
Whether you’re pro-gas or pro-charcoal, there are some basics that are the same: cooking with direct heat or cooking with indirect heat. Additionally, we’ll delve into some advanced areas that you may be nervous about like fish, shellfish and vegetables.
In prior posts, we talked about preparing your grill for Winter and touched on cleaning it up for Spring. For gas grills, it’s important to ensure there is nothing blocking the gas lines or the jets. For charcoal grills, it’s important to have a completely clean grill, and to use a chimney to start the coals rather than starter fluid. The food tastes better without the hint of chemicals from the starter fluid, and it’s better for the environment not to use them.
Cooking with direct heat is simply cooking directly over the flame or coals. A rule of thumb is anything that is less than 2 inches in thickness should be cooked by direct grilling. This is the classic hibachi style for fast searing with dark grill marks.
Best things to cook this way:
And you should keep the lid on or down while cooking unless what you’re preparing requires a lot of basting or that it will cook too quickly, like the fish.
Indirect heat has the heat source around the outside, or just on one side, and you cook on the other. Use a cup or pan with fluids like water or wine to add additional flavor and moistness. It also slows down the cooking so you can render out more of the fat. This style of cooking uses radient heat and convection air flow.
Best things to cook this way:
It’s essential to leave the lid on and not peak constantly so you can maintain a good temperature and air flow.
It is possible, and a good technique, to sear the meat over the heated part of the grill, and then move to the non-heated to complete the cooking. This is the best way to make a pizza and ensure you have a crispy crust.
Simple is the best. People often overthink cooking fish on their grill. Fish was practically designed for cooking over a flame. The most difficult part for most cooks is knowing when the fish is done. The key is to pull off the fish right before it looks done and let the carry over heat finish the cooking.
If the fish is very uneven in thickness, cut it into parts and cook each thickness to doneness. Flip your fish only once.
Ideas for Fish and Shellfish:
Cooking vegetables on the grill over direct heat will allow you to get the nice char and bring out the natural sweetness in the vegetable.
Best Vegetables for the Grill:
If you’re cooking for vegetarians or vegans, it’s polite to have a separate grill where no meat has touched. Or use a separate pan that is only for vegetables.
And don’t forget to grill fruit like pineapple or peaches to round out the meal.