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Memorial Day signaled the unofficial start to summer, so it’s only natural that the next part in The Good Cook series should be about grilling and barbecuing. Here’s a quick primer to get you started.
Direct Heat vs. Indirect Heat: The first thing to think about when grilling is how long your food will take to cook and that all depends on what you’re making. Quick-cooking items like sausage links, steak and shrimp cook best when placed directly over the heat source (i.e., flame or hot coals). This is called direct-heat cooking.
Brisket and ribs, on the other hand, need a long cooking time to become tender, so you want to use an indirect cooking method. This simply means the coals are piled, also called “banked,” on one side of the grill, or just the outer gas burners are turned on. The food is placed on the rack, away the flame or hot coals, and cooks from the radiant heat. It’s akin to turning your grill or barbecue into an oven. With this cooking method, you’ll also need to keep the grill closed to maintain a consistent cooking temperature.
Gas vs. Charcoal Gas Grills: Gas grills are easy and require little maintenance for cooking, provided you have enough fuel in the tank. Open the lid, turn on the propane tank and light all the burners according the manufacturer’s instructions.
True barbecue enthusiasts swear by charcoal cooking, which infuses a distinct smoky flavor. Charcoal grills require a bit more maintenance, so you have to plan in advance before setting out to cook. To get the barbecue going, begin by using a chimney starter piled with briquettes. Place some crumpled newspaper under the chimney starter and light it using a long butane lighter. Briquettes are ready to be dumped into the grill when they’re covered with a white-gray ash. If you’re using an indirect-heat cooking method, you’ll need to add a few more briquettes to the pile every hour. Add them to the outer edges, then move them to the center of the pile once they ash over.
Don’t forget to preheat. The same way you’d preheat a skillet for direct cooking, or an oven to make a roast, you must do the same when grilling and barbecuing. Gas grills heat up in about 10 minutes. Charcoal fires take a little longer, so give yourself at least 20 minutes for the coals to reach that white-ash stage.
Now that you’ve got these tricks of the trade, it’s time to put them to the test. Here are a few my favorite grilling recipes from Food Network’s archives to get you started:
- Sweet Cola Ribs (pictured above)