Tagged With: summer grilling

Summer Grilling: Charcoal Tips


The smell of charcoal always brings me back to camping trips with my dad, specifically watching him struggle to light briquettes without the benefit of lighter fluid. I would eye campers in adjacent sites jealously, sending up enormous spouts of flame as they liberally applied lighter fluid to just about anything that could burn. I’d get impatient and tell dad that I was just going to head over and ask to borrow a bit of lighter fluid.

My father, being the food snob he is, forbade it. His method, he assured me, was superior. There are lots of fancy chimney starters on the market, but pops used a simple coffee can with holes punched in the bottom.

“No lighter fluid stinking up my grill, son,” he’d say, attempting to light the charcoal for the fourth time.

I’d roll my eyes at that, but soon enough he’d have the coals glowing and ready to use.

You could call him a purist, I suppose. For all you charcoal purists out there, we’ve got some ideas that you might enjoy.

Aside from avoiding lighter fluid, you can enhance the flavor from your charcoal grill by making your own charcoal.

Different types of wood will yield different flavor, so do a bit of research to find the right type of wood for you. Apple wood and mesquite are popular choices. There are a few methods out there to turn your chosen wood into charcoal- they all involve burning the wood in a low oxygen environment. You can even use your grill if you can make it airtight.

Now that you’ve gotten your charcoal and chimney starter together, you can start grilling. There’s a lot of conventional grilling wisdom out there, and it’s good stuff to know. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Create hot and cool sides of the grill for temperature control – You can accomplish this simply by piling your coals a little higher on one side of the grill.
  • Don’t overcook it – Cuts of meat shouldn’t be gray inside.
  • Turn once and flip once – For steaks and burgers, turning once gives you an attractive cross hatch pattern on your meat and helps it cook more evenly. No need to turn after the flip, however, or even touch the meat at all until it’s done.

That’s the conventional wisdom, anyhow. Nothing wrong with it. Here with a rebuttal, however, is Adam Perry Lang, author of Charred & Scruffed, who takes a distinctively more active approach to grilling:


Looks tasty, Adam!  Pick up his book, Charred & Scruffed, right here to learn more about his insanely delicious techniques.

photo credit: ewen and donabel via photopin cc

Categories: Grilling Season, Notes from the Field, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Grilling Aside: Planning the Perfect Summer Cookout


In the last few weeks, we’ve shown you a host of delicious recipes and grilling tips for your summer cookout. We’ll continue to roll those out as summer grilling season progresses, but with the hottest grilling day of the year coming up (solstice, 4th of July, take your pick), we want to take a moment to address all those pesky little details that go into planning an awesome cookout.

#1 Location, location, location

Whether you choose to host a cookout in your own backyard, park, or camp site, you’ll need to consider the logistics. Choosing your backyard will make things easier for you, but the mess left behind is yours to deal with and yours alone. Make sure if you’re having your grilling party elsewhere that you have plenty of supplies for food and drink, and that you get the tough prep work out of the way early.

planked shrimp, grilled shrimp

#2 Appetizers

Waiting for the first batch of goods from the grill can seem like an eternity. Help your guests get through the wait by grilling up some appetizers, like these shrimp:

Looks good, doesn’t it?

They’ll cook fast and give your guest something to talk about before the main event.

#3 Make your sides easy

Our Chaat Masala Fruit Salad will blow guests away, and can be prepared in advance. You can use it as an appetizer as well.

If you want to include corn as a side dish, you might already know about the technique for cooking corn without the benefit of a big pot. It’s called “Cooler Corn” and yes, it’s exactly what you think. Load your ears of corn into a clean cooler, and pour boiling water over it 30 minutes before you plan to serve. Close the lid and forget all about it. This corn will be cooked in roughly 30 minutes, but you can leave it in the cooler for up to 2 hours without it getting over cooked.


More like "Coolest Corn" Am I right?


Don’t forget to ask guests to chip in on the sides. You never know what they might bring, but that’s why it’s called a potluck. If they love good food as much as you do, you might be the potluckiest!

#4 Keep it simple, stupid

My Mantra. Overplanning, or planning complex events will rob you of the pleasure of grilling and spending time with friends and family. Your guests are there for good food and good company, and in the end if you can provide those two things, you’ll all have a great time. Stop worrying so much, it’s a cookout for crying out loud!

photo credit: wsilver via photopin cc

Categories: Grilling Season, Notes from the Field, Tools of the Trade | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment