FIND THE PERFECT GRILL FOR YOU
The concept of cooking outdoors carries a certain mystique. It’s a spring rite of passage, posting yourself in front of your trusty grill and coaxing out the flavor from a slab of meat (or vegetables) while the intoxicating aroma of smoke rises on the breeze.
But what grill is right for you? Figuring out which one to cook on is no small decision, so with that in mind, we present the following primer on the grilling basics.
From the giant trailer-hauled smokers that flood the fields of rib smoke-offs every year to the big-box store offset-barrel smokers, your true pitmaster knows that the key to perfect meat is smoke.
The key here is in low and slow cooking, easing the collagen of tougher cuts of meat into a flavorful juice, by bathing them in heat and smoke. Your offset smoker accomplishes this by letting you get the wood going then adjusting the vents to get the perfect mix of heat and smoke traveling through the main cooker and out the chimney.
Don’t have the patio footprint for that kind of hardware? You can investigate upright smokers that still manage to keep that indirect heat and smoky flavor, although they tend to be on the pricier side.
Remember to practice patience. The constriction of muscle fibers as the meat cooks tends to push all the juices toward the center. Let that steak sit a moment and the juices will eventually redistribute, giving you a perfectly moist and tender bite every time.
The classics never get old.
Ever since Henry Ford started turning wood scraps from his Model Ts into charcoal briquettes, which were then sold by his cousin’s husband, E.G. Kingsford, the world has been grilling over coals.
Suffice it to say, charcoal grilling comes with its own challenges — heat regulation, flare-ups, ash cleanup — but offers its own delicious rewards. Looking for that perfectly pink steak with a crackling sear to it? You’re going to want the high heat of charcoal.
Want to test how done that steak is and show your friends a cool trick?
First, press firmly into the steak with your pointer finger. Then, compare its texture with the fleshy part of your palm. If it feels like your palm when the thumb and pointer finger meet (like you’re giving the “OK” signal) it’s rare. Touch your thumb to your other fingers to determine how thoroughly your steak is cooked: thumb and middle finger is medium rare, thumb and ring finger is medium and thumb to pinky is, “aw, darnit, I ruined the steaks.”
Yes, smokers offer a fall-off-the-bone tenderness and charcoal lends that perfect texture to a juicy steak, but there’s still something to be said for the classic gas grill.
Convenience, for one. There’s no debate about how best to heat up a gas grill. You turn the crank and push the button. And once it’s up and running you have precise control over where your heat is and how hot it is. Plus, there is a small but dedicated camp who will point out the way gas locks in moisture better than its open-fire counterparts.
And if you really want to fine-tune the culinary experience, there are always the accessories.
Throw a rotisserie on there and you’ll get that bird roasted to perfection without breaking a sweat. Higher-end infrared heaters on some models will give even the best charcoal configuration a run for its money.
And who needs a giant smoker when you can simply add some hickory chips into a smoker box?
Pellet grills, which burn wood pellets, require electricity to control the temperatures, which range from about 160 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. There are a few models that allow you to adjust the temperature with your smartphone.
Some brands have apps that offer step-by-step guidelines and recipes. Ideally used for grilling, smoking and roasting, pellet grills offer the most savory and tender foods when slow cooked.
There are plenty of ways to get outside and carry on that eternal tradition of fire, meat and gluttony. We’ve given you the basics, now go out and find yours.