Our very own Jason G. AKA “BBQ” shares some tips on getting the most out of your summer grilling.
Barbecuing and grilling are two different techniques. Barbecued meats require a low-and-slow approach over indirect heat. Grilling is much faster, with the meats flash-cooked over direct heat. Here are some tips that will stand you in good stead.
Time is of the essence. The longer the meat stays on the grill, the better it will be, provided you keep it moist.
“Low and slow is the way to go,” says William “Onpurpose” Parson, who runs My GOD That’s Good BBQ, a catering business in his North Park Hill neighborhood. “My meats spend hours on the grill. This is a process.”
Parson keeps his temperature gauge at 235-250 degrees. While some people use gas grills, the pros swear that the best results come from live fire on a charcoal grill. Nothing fancy is needed. A basic Weber grill, the kind found on millions of home patios, turns out superior fare, used correctly (hardwood charcoal, with no chemical starters).
Parson uses a drum-style grill, which is basically a barrel turned on its side. A separate firebox holds the wood; the fire’s heat and smoke heat is drawn into the barrel chamber that houses the grate. For a standard Weber grill, light the briquets, let them burn until they have a coating of white ash, then use a garden hoe to shove them to one side of the grill. “I like a mix of oak and hickory,” he says. “They burn out and the coals last a long time. For flavoring I like fruitwoods. Apple is great with pork. Cherry is fun. I don’t use mesquite. It overpowers the meat. • Avoid opening and closing the grill lid. This lets heat escape and creates uneven cooking conditions. “You really just want to close the lid and let it do its thing,” Parson says. Placing a heavy-duty foil tray filled with water, apple juice or a mix of the two inside the grill will create steam that will keep meat moist.
Invest in a meat thermometer and follow the temperature instructions on the package. Insert the thermometer into the heaviest section of the cut, avoiding bone. (You won’t need this for ribs or brats, but it’s key for brisket and birds.)
“I think a lot of people get too caught up in flavors and sauces,” says Jason Ganahl of Superior, whose GQue team has qualified to compete this autumn in the national barbecue championship in Bentonville, Ark. (GQue was named the 2014 Team of the Year by the Rocky Mountain BBQ Association.) “The important thing is to learn how to cook meat. Oversaucing is a mistake. Meat should have some chew to it.”
When it comes to grilling, Ganahl offers these tips.
– Always keep your grill grates clean. Work them over with a firm wire brush and then rub some canola oil on them between uses. Every 10 uses or so, hose them down at a car wash. Dirty grates impart bad flavors to meat.
– Use an instant-read thermometer to ensure precision cooking. Ganahl favors the Thermapen by Thermoworks.
– To make sure your burgers don’t plump, press your thumb in the middle of the patty to indent it. Ganahl also bastes his burgers with beer as they cook.
– Dry-brine steaks by sprinkling them with kosher salt about 90 minutes before cooking. This will start denaturing the proteins and gives the meat a nice natural flavor.
– Ganahl uses a “reverse sear” on his steak. He cooks it at 250 degrees until the steak is 15 degrees away from desired doneness, then cranks the heat to maximum to sear the outside. This will give you a “bumper-to-bumper” degree of doneness and a flavorful crust.
– For brats, cook directly on the grill for good color and char, then place in a foil pan with beer and onions. Cover with foil and steam on the grill 30 minutes. Other general advice: •
– Preparation is key. Have all your ingredients and tools within easy reach. • Use quality meats. Whether cooking beef, pork or poultry, invest in the good stuff.
– Don’t use too much sauce or salt. Let the meat speak for itself.
– Use a good lump hardwood charcoal. Don’t use instant-lighting brands.
– Do not use lighter fluid, which will take 45 minutes for the chemicals to burn off. Use a blowtorch or grill chimney to get the coals started.
– Keep a spray bottle filled with water handy to knock down flare-ups.