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Monday, February 27, 2012

No gas and fast

With spring in full bloom and summer just around the corner, grilling and BBQ comes to mind (and no I wasn't being repetitive, they are very different things). I tend to cook outside all year round, but living in Arizona makes that much easier.
Cooking outside over the grill or pit, classically, has been the domain of the man (beat hairy chest and roar like king kong).  But times are changing and more and more women are mastering the flame. I see more and more women not only grilling but BBQing and smoking with great finesse. So get out there ladies and take back the tongs and show the boys it is not only a man's world out there.
Now back to the subject at hand and that is Grilling and BBQing, and mastering the flames.
Any food can be grilled, most can be BBQed. Anything you cook in your kitchen can be done outside. That being said there are just as many ways to cook outside as there are in the kitchen. To secret to both is mastering the flame. Most that grill do it over a gas grill. Grilling over gas is as easy as it gets, you turn the gas on and push the button and voila! the flame is made, with a turn of the gas knob it is controlled. This is a great way to start with your cooking adventures outside. But once you have a steak or a burger or veggies cooked over wood, or charcoal with its smokey loveliness, you will be spoiled forever. There is a saying in the culinary world that says, "Fat is flavor!", But I must say that smoke is its twin sister.
As you can see I am a little partial to cooking with charcoal and wood, but even here thing can go horribly wrong.
Those who have been spoiled by charcoal cooked smoky foods tend to dive right in and try and recreate it by the ideals of our past and that is buying a bag of briquette charcoal dousing it with lighter fluid and kaboom!!! Then they think if there is a flame it is time to cook, right? WRONG! One lighter fluid is the enemy when cooking. Most lighter fluid is made of petroleum products which in turn made your food taste like petroleum smoke (think what comes out of your car's tail pipe). Being an advocate of less and more natural food, this is the not ideal. You would be better grilling with gas.  Briquette charcoal has a lot of these same petroleum products in them too so they either need to be burned off or you should use natural wood charcoal, each has their own fallowing, for different reasons. Next how do you get them started and to the proper state in which to cook on.
When the charcoal is ready to cook on it, it is not the flaming grill but one with glowing red and grayed over charcoals. The best and easiest way to get your coals to that state without using chemicals is a chimney starter. The chimney starter is a short metal cylinder with a handle and a cone shaped grate at the bottom to hold the charcoal. This method of starting your coals maximizes the heat by funneling it into a confined and upward manner, the same way turbines do in jet engines.
Start by placing some crumpled paper in the bottom under the grate and placing it standing up on the bottom of your grill (take the top cooking grate off to access) fill the chimney with your charcoal of choice. Works for both briquettes and natural wood charcoal, (do not use self-lighting charcoal, they are pre-saturated in lighter fluid). Once most of the coals have grayed over (top coals may be a little dark still, this is ok), using caution because of the extreme heat, pour the charcoals into grill. Your coals are now ready to use, rake to cover the area needed to cook on.
You may now add water soaked wood chip or chunks for that great smoke flavor. If you don't have a charcoal grill you can add that smoke flavor to a gas grill by making your self a smoke pouch made of aluminum foil and water soaked wood chips and place directly on your gas burner under the cooking grate or you can do the same with a metal or iron smokebox purchased at your grilling accessory store.
Now get out there and get cooking, and stay away from that nasty lighter fluid.


  1. Thanks for the tasty grilled burgers and dogs this weekend!

  2. It was good to keep it simple and quick. ALthough I love the 8-12 smoking sessions and haute cuisine, just some good old standards is fun=)

  3. TARL: I think your blog is great advice! I've kept up since day one. I wanted to ask though if you had any suggestions for jerky making, especially with the weather outside.

    ASK CHEF DAVE: Depends on your method, the easiest way is to use an indoor dehydrator or your oven. Keep at 200F or less until dry But with the dehydrator and oven you really have to lean on the strength of your marinade.They are relatively cheap and are usually expandable. my method of choice is an indirect smoking method. If you do not have a offset smoker or a box smoker like a Bradley, you can do it on a charcoal grill with your charcoal to one side (only 1/3 of total area) run low and slow adding soaked wood chips every hour (keep temp under 210F). keep covered and make sure your meat is thin, cut into thin strips and pound it out between two pieces of plastic. Remember when smoking the wood's smoke is a flavorant so you can marinate for less time.

  4. KeriAnne: I have one for you.... I got some Jerusalem artichokes over the weekend, and have never had or prepared them before. Any suggestions?

    ASK CHEF DAVE:You can shorten the name of Jerusalem artichokes to what we call in the business as sunchokes. Sunchokes can be used just like any tuber like potato, they are just a little sensitive and oxidize and buise a lot easier. Because of this wash them gently and cook them by steaming or boiling them in the skin. it prevents them from turning dark and nasty. I have used them peeled and mashed to thicken soups and chowders, they are full of thickening starches. Another idea is to use your favorite latkes (potato pancakes) and substitute sunchokes drizzle with a vinagertte, yum!