Method Cooking on a Grill
If you are new to grilling, you might think there is only one way to cook with charcoal: right over the coals. However, that is only one way to grill your food. Read further to learn how your grill will become your multi-purpose cooking source.
Grilling food directly over the coals is called just that. Direct cooking. This method really needs no explanation. Prepare your coals, spread them out, put the food on the cooking grate. Easy peasey, simple as pie (who made up that one? I’m horrible at making pie crusts and my fresh fruit pies are almost always runny!), nothing to it.
The method I use the most is indirect cooking. When using this method, I basically turn my grill into an outdoor oven. The coals are off to one side, two sides or distributed along the outside edge all the way around the grill. This picture shows the coals along two sides, using “baskets” to contain them. Indirect cooking allows for longer cooking times.
As you read through the recipes on this blog, I indicate how hot the coals need to be in order to properly grill the food. High heat, medium heat and low heat are the words I use for temperature. They do correlate to actual cooking temperatures, just as if you were to pop the food into the oven. High heat is around 450 degrees Farenheit up to around 500, 525. Medium is around 350 to 450 degrees F, while low will be 250 to 350. So, you are looking at fast cooking down to slow cooking, searing to “I don’t need a lot of heat to get this done” or “I want to slow cook this meat” types of cooking. To test for temperature, place your hand above the coals, somewhere between 5″ and 8″ inches or so. Count seconds: High 2-4 seconds, Med. 5-7, Low 8-10. Of course, you could use a thermometer that might be in the lid of your grill, but I consider that cheating! I have more fun not using some of our modern conveniences. I will admit to using a thermometer when I am smoking, though. I use a meat probe style thermometer and I stick it in the top vent to get a reading. I usually just place my hand above the vent in the lid to feel the temperature. Smoking requires a closed lid and I don’t want to take the lid off until I absolutely must. I don’t use a thermometer every time I smoke, but it does come in handy.
Now that you know the basics and the temperatures, how about trying this: a zone fire. In this method, you will have different temperatures. This is great for cooking an entire meal on the grill. Your coals will be piled up on one side. Once they are ready, you will slope the coals, leaving a stack against the side and sloping away until you have a single layer. Foods that need the high heat will cook over the coals closest to the cooking grate while the foods needing less heat will be placed accordingly over the coals. It is a good idea to also leave some room opposite the high heat side for indirect cooking. With this method, you can have everything done at the same time without having to cook one or two things and set them aside while you cook the rest.
Earlier, I mentioned placing coals all the way around the grill. I don’t use this method often, maybe once or twice a cooking season. I use this method when cooking a whole chicken or a tenderloin. Heat surrounds the food, providing even cooking all the way around. There is less rotation of the meat, therefore, less opening of the lid. I don’t want the heat to escape!
In the picture above, you see a foil packet sitting between the coals. This is another way to use zone heat. Placing food below the cooking grate gives you high heat below, a little lower temperature above. In the packet are potatoes, cubed and seasoned. I also cook corn on the cob this way.
The vents in the grill are used to control the heat. All fire needs to consume oxygen. The vents below should be open all the way, the whole time you are grilling. The vent in the lid is the one to adjust to increase or decrease the temperature. The more air circulating in the grill, the higher the heat and the faster the coals will be consumed, so adjust the vent accordingly. When cooking for longer periods of time, you will need to add charcoal to maintain the fire. When done grilling, close all grates, suffocating the fire.
There you have it. As I post recipes, I will provide other details unique to the recipe cooking method. Until then, Grill Baby, Grill!