When the weather begins to turn from warm to downright hot in Defiance, an annual phenomenon begins to take place as the man of the house, who rarely sets foot in a kitchen other than to sneak a forbidden drink from the milk carton, suddenly becomes champion of the backyard barbecue.
Usually donning an apron with questionably clever sayings like, “Quest for Fire” and “Kiss me, I’m the Chef,” and armed with his trusty set of 2-foot long grilling utensils, he ceremoniously fires up his coveted Weber in preparation for the charred masterpiece he is about to create, all the while aspiring to please his family and friends who will surely be in awe of a true BBQ King. These grill masters experience a certain satisfaction from cooking a meal over a blazing fire and receiving high praise for a feat that surely no one else could have accomplished, certainly not anyone within the realm of his own backyard.
Over the years, various barbecue cooking methods have evolved regionally in this county. Notably, charcoal grilling is preferred two to one over gas grilling, according to a national blind taste test conducted by Alliance Research for Kingsford Products Co.
Preferences for the type of meat barbecued vary from region to region, too. Texas and Oklahoma prefer beef, while in the Deep South pork is tops. In western Kentucky, mutton shares the honors with pork. Chicken enjoys top billing in eastern Tennessee; however pork comes in a close second. In recent years, with the focus on healthier eating, fish, seafood and even fresh fruit and vegetables have gained popularity. Whatever your preference, if it makes your mouth water, it’s the right barbecue choice.
But you can’t have a BBQ feature without learning and perfecting some basic cooking steps, such as building the perfect charcoal fire and learning the techniques of direct and indirect methods for grilling assorted cuts of meats properly.
BUILDING A CHARCOAL FIRE. Use quality hardwood charcoal to make the hottest, longest-lasting fire. To extend the life of your barbecue, be sure to line the bottom of the fire bowl with heavy-duty aluminum foil.
For grills not equipped with an elevated charcoal pan or grate, spread a 1-inch layer of sand or small gravel over the grill bottom to allow the charcoal to burn better and protect the grill bottom. Place enough charcoal in the grill to extend about 1-inch beyond the food to be cooked. Place the charcoal in a pyramid-shaped stack in the grill center.
Pour charcoal lighter fluid evenly over the charcoal and allow it to soak in for one minute. Carefully light the charcoal and let it burn 30 to 45 minutes or until the coals are mostly covered with white ash.
Wood chips can add a hint of smoky flavor. Hickory, mesquite and fruitwoods also impart a wonderful flavor to grilled food. Depending on your grill manufacturer’s instructions, soak the wood chips in water for at least one hour. Drain the chips thoroughly and either scatter them directly onto the heat source, place them in a partially sealed packet made of heavy-duty aluminum foil and set them directly onto the heat source or place them directly in your grill’s smoker compartment.
Other aromatic and flavorful additions to add to the fire include bunches of fresh herbs, fresh or dried citrus peels, and assorted types of nutshells.
When it comes to temperature ranges for coals, low coals are usually at 300 degrees Fahrenheit, medium coals are at 300 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, medium to hot coals are at 350 to 400 degress Fahrenheit, and hot coals are at 400 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
DIRECT BBQ COOKING METHOD. This method is best for grilling hamburgers, hot dogs, steaks, chops and chicken pieces. When the coals are ready, spread them evenly in a single layer. For the hottest fire, arrange the coals so all are touching. For less heat, spread them apart. For grills with adjustable cooking grid levels, arrange the coals with about 1-inch of space between them for even heat distribution. Then adjust the grid level closer or further away from the coals to get the desired heat for the food you are cooking.
INDIRECT BBQ COOKING METHOD. This method is best for foods that require more than 25 minutes of cooking time, such as roasts, whole poultry and hams. It should be done in a covered grill with the hood closed for uniform heat. Use a drip pan under the meat that extends about 1 inch beyond the meat. This drip pan may be purchased or made from a double thickness of aluminum foil.
To begin, build a fire with about 40 charcoal briquettes. When ready, pile half the coals along the front if the fire bowl and half along the back, leaving space in the center of the bowl for the drip pan. Place the drip pan in the center. Now place the meat on the cooking grid over the drip pan and close the hood. If your grill has adjustable air vents, you can better control the cooking temperature inside. With the vents fully open, the grill will cook food faster because the temperature of the coals will be hotter. The more the grill is closed, the slower it will cook the food, providing a smokier flavor. With the vents full closed, the coals will go out
By Hope Pryor
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