Cooking with Charcoal
Now that you have one recipe to tantalize your taste buds, how about a quick lesson on using a charcoal grill? I know some of you out there have probably never used a charcoal grill or even cooked anything over a fire (well, maybe a marshmallow or hotdog). I have to admit, when I first started using a charcoal grill as a means to cook food, I was intimidated. My Dad did all of the outdoor cooking when I was growing up and in the early part of my marriage, it was my husband. Now, after 18 years of married life, it is a complete turn-around. Very rarely does my husband grill. I’m not exactly sure when I kicked him off the grill, but it is to the point where he prefers I do the grilling. On Mother’s Day this year, he asked me to grill the burgers since my burgers taste so much better. I wasn’t sure if it was truly a compliment, or he just didn’t feel like cooking!
Today, I’ll just talk about a simple set-up. Subsequent posts will go in more detail about the different types of fires you can set up for a variety of cooking methods.
This is my grill. It is a Weber 22″ round kettle. It is about 18 years old and has had hundreds of fires and pounds of meat and veggies and other delectables cooked in it. So that makes it just about right as far as seasoning!
The cooking grate I use (thanks to Santa Claus) is hinged on 2 sides (opposite each other). This is extremely useful when needing to add more coals for long cooking times or to access foods that are being cooked on the lower level next to the coals.
These are the tools I use to move the grates, the coals and clean out ash. As you can see, nothing fancy. Old gardening tools work well. I can’t use them in the garden anymore, so I just found another use for them. The grill brush is the only actual “grill” tool I have.
My preferred charcoal brands. Kingsford is briquets, which put out heat longer, so excellent for slow-cooking. The hardwood lump charcoal is great for high-heat, fast cooking, i.e., searing meat or the veggies in the Sizzlin’ Chicken Fajitas.
The tools I use for turning meats, veggies, etc. Nice big spatula, long handle. And yes, there are 3 different tongs. One pair has sharp edges, the other 2 are not sharp. I do not use the sharp edges on meat. Piercing meat releases its natural juices and results in dry meat. The tongs with the sharp edges are good for stirring veggies and other things. I also have a silicone brush. The silicone can stand up to the high temperatures of a charcoal fire.
And now, a pile of charcoal. This is only briquets (with a few leftovers from a previous foray into grilling). There are about 20 briquets there. Piled into a pyramid, they will light and burn better. Once they have achieved the gray, ashy appearance desired, they are spread out in an even layer. You want to have enough charcoal to extend a bit beyond the food you will be cooking. Too little, and you will have to rotate your food in order to get even cooking when using the direct method. So, having a bit too much isn’t going to hurt. For this fire set-up, I have “baskets” on the sides. I would be cooking only in the center of the grill. You don’t need to have the baskets, I just didn’t take them out for this picture. Usually, the baskets are for when I am in need of an indirect method of cooking, searing the meat on the sides and moving it later to the middle. More on that another time.
Here are the coals, ready to be spread. The darker piece is the hardwood lump charcoal. It rapidly heated up after the coals were spread. Replace the great and happy grilling! Until next time, Grill, Baby Grill!