Grilling & Charcoal

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Gas vs Charcoal 

The age-old debate over which grilling method is ‘better’ involves multiple variables, from flavour to cost and convenience. While no studies prove that either is healthier, gas does burn cleaner. From a taste perspective though, many people prefer the smokier, richer taste of food cooked on a charcoal grill.

Grilling & Charcoal

Air Flow

Unlike with a gas grill, you can't adjust the temperature with a knob or dial on charcoals. However, you can control how hot the coals on your grill burn by controlling the flow of oxygen, you do that by opening and closing the vents (if your charcoal grill has a lid) or by fanning air directly. Opening the vents allows more oxygen, which produces a hotter grill. Trimming the vents slows the oxygen, which cools the grill. Don't close them all the way or your fire will suffocate. Spacing the coals by spreading them out or clumping together can also assist in controlling the heat. Distributing at least 75% of the coals to one side, creates two different temperature zones. This allows you to cook different foods at different speeds and gives you more options for letting your food rest over little to no heat.

Oiling, Pre-heating & Cleaning

Oiling the cooking grate ensures that your food doesn't stick to the grill. Preheating is just as important. Trying to cook on a cold grill will cause it to spend too long on the grill and overcook. You also won't get those lovely charred marks. For safety, oil the grate before you place it over the hot coals or gently rub with a piece of scrunched up oil-soaked paper towel. Never spray oil directly over a lit grill! 

Just like your oven, you should pre heat your charcoal grill before throwing any food onto the grates (also, make sure the racks are clean before you place anything on them). Once your coals are distributed in your grill, throw the lid on (if applicable) and let it sit for five to 10 minutes before placing any food over the coals, you want to hear a light sizzle when the protein, fruit or vegetables hit the grates. A properly heated grill sears foods on contact, keeps the insides moist and helps prevent sticking.

It's easier to remove debris when the grill is hot, so after preheating, use a long-handled wire grill brush on your grill rack to clean off charred debris from prior meals. Scrape again immediately after use.

Temperature Guide By Feel

Some grills have inbuilt thermometers so you can always see the heat level on the inside of the grill. A laser thermometer is another way to check the temp of your grill or hot plate. Whether you have one or not, your hand can help you determine how hot the grill is.

High heat: Hold your hand about 10-15cm above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it 1-3 seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you’re at high heat.

Medium heat: Hold your hand about 10-15cm above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it 4-6 seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you’re at medium heat.

Low heat: Hold your hand about 10-15cm above the grill grate, palm down. If you can hold it 7-10 seconds before you need to pull your hand away, you’re at low heat.

Direct & Indirect Heat

Whether you have a gas or charcoal grill, it’s important to create heat zones. A preheated grill should have two options: direct and indirect heat.

Direct heat: This means the item you’re grilling is directly above open flame. It’s the hotter part of the grill and great for searing or getting nice grill lines, however, it’s possible to overcook the outside of the item before the inside is done to your liking. This is where indirect heat comes into play.

Indirect heat: This is a separate part of the grill that is still hot because the grill is preheated, but there are no flames directly below the grate. This setup gives you the best of both worlds. You can start something over direct heat and move it to indirect to finish it.

Use The Lid To Your Advantage

This actually depends on what you’re making. Every time you open or close the lid, the temperature of the grill is bound to fluctuate. Thin, quick-cooking cuts of meat are generally fine without using the lid at all. Thick cuts of meat can benefit from the lid holding in extra heat. No matter what you choose, just make sure to close the lid as quickly as possible after opening it.

Sauce At The End

Grilled food often benefits from a sauce or glaze added to boost even more flavour into a dish. You might be inclined to add sauce as soon as you put the meat on the grill to add more flavour, but it’s actually better to wait. The more sauce you add (especially for a lengthy amount of time) the more likely the meat will start to char or burn on the outside and be undercooked in the centre. Brush or drizzle sauces in small amounts towards the end of the cook time to avoid burnt flavours.

Resting

Resist every urge you have to slice into meat immediately. Resting allows the juices in the meat to evenly distribute and settle. If you cut into it immediately, you’ll leave more moisture and flavour on the chopping board, not in your mouth. Even resting for 5-10 minutes will make for a better tasting meal.

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