Once you move out of your parents house and you either rent your own place or buy your own house, every man is faced with one daunting predicament. You must now grill your own meat.
No more daddy to take care of your grilled meat needs, you have to learn how to start your grill, maintain your grill, and then the most important part of all, use your grill to make delicious food.
What Kind of Grill?
The key to BBQ at home is your grill. You can go the gas route, but for the truly lazy like myself, charcoal is actually way easier (and cheaper). Now let me just say, if you want to get truly fancy and advanced the BBQ equipment world is vast and diverse, but you’re probably like me and you just want to grill something and not set your house on fire.
First off, with a charcoal grill, you can essentially leave it out regardless of the weather (unless it’s a tornado) and the thing will be fine. Next, the parts are cheap! So if something breaks, not a big deal you can just go to the Depot or Lowes and buy a replacement part. Think of the charcoal cheap grills as the AK-47 of the grill world. You can literally do almost anything to it, and it will still work.
Now what kind of grill should you get? If you’re going gas, you can’t go wrong with Char-Broil. But again, we’re thinking lazy here. So just buy yourself either a Char-Broil barrel grill like this one or a standard Weber grill. You can’t really go wrong, don’t get hyped up by the product reviews either, your just buying a piece of cheap metal with legs and a grill grate.
So now you’ve bought your grill, and you need to start an actual fire. Starting fires near your house is serious business, and no matter how fun starting fires may seem, fires are most definitely not fun when your whole house is on fire because you cannot properly light your grill.
That’s where the chimney starter comes in, it’s the most important tool you have at your disposal. Basically, you take your coals and you dump them into this metal cylinder thing. You light a match and then the charcoals light and 15 minutes later you have fully lit charcoals for your grill.
So now you have a grill and you have a fire! I probably should’ve mentioned that you should establish heat zones on your grill. If everything is super hot, you run the risk of ruining your food, because you cannot regulate the heat on a grill, you need to be able to move the food from hotter areas to cooler areas. This way the food doesn’t dry out. This is fairly simple to do, just pour a majority of the charcoal out on one side of the grill, this way you’ll have a hot side and a cold side.
How to Grill Different Meats
Now the easy part, cooking the food. Depending on your skill level you can get fairly fancy on the grill.
Okay grills all ready, now you need to decide on a meat! Or vegetarian, but blah why bother? I’m not anti-vegetable, I’m just blah on grilled vegetables. I rather cook vegetables on a stovetop not on the grill, but if you like them, you do you.
Meat options vary in difficulty. The leaner the cut, often times the harder it is to cook. Why? In a few short minutes your tasty cut of beef or chicken can be transformed into a chewy piece of rubber. On the flipside of things, the fattier the cut of meat the more you have to deal with flare-ups and your meat getting charred. Remember, actual flames during grilling is no bueno.
If you’re cooking chicken, go chicken thighs (boneless), they cook fairly quickly and don’t dry out. If you’re cooking steaks, choose something like a ribeye or sirloin. Flank steak is great too, but just be wary that you need to act fast. And if you’re advanced enough to tackle seafood, tuna, swordfish, and or salmon all grill very nicely.
Make sure you grease your grates before cooking, you can use a paper towel soaked in some peanut oil, this will help prevent your meat from sticking. You want to make sure that the temperature is fairly hot, you want to cook the meat quickly or at least brown it quickly then move it to your cold zone.
The key to tasty grilled food is the marinade. Why? Because it’s much harder to add flavors during the actual cooking process of barbecuing. Versus when you cook on a stovetop, you can season and add different sauces all along the way.
The first thing to remember when cooking on your grill is to avoid sugar marinades. People always want to marinade something in a sugary sauce for some reason and then they’re shocked that they have a black burnt mess on their hands. People, SUGAR BURNS! Don’t apply the sugary sauce until the very end. Next, in your marinade if you’re using acids, be careful. Acids will ruin the consistency of your protein if it sits for too long. Essentially the acids will break down the meat (i.e. cook it) and you’ll end up with a ceviche on your hands. If your marinade is less than an hour you’re fine, but otherwise go easy on the lemon or lime juice.
A few marinade go-to’s:
Spicy Korean Style – Gochujang paste, crushed garlic, fish sauce, and a little bit of grated Asian Pear.
Southwestern – Cumin, Coriander, Garlic, Lime Zest, Onion Powder, and Cilantro
Classic BBQ – Paprika, Black Pepper, Salt, Ground Mustard, Chili Powder, Garlic Powder, and Onion Powder
Middle Eastern – Yogurt, Saffron, Coriander, Cumin, Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, and a touch of Turmeric
Everyone loves smoked meats,but you don’t have to have a smoker to smoke meats in your backyard. It all goes back to the hot and cold zones we talked about earlier. First you need your zones set up, then you need to soak a bunch of wood chips (flavors like hickory, applewood, or mesquite are optimal and all available at Home Depot) and set them near the hot zone.
The soaked chips will then smoke and flavor your meat. Once the wood chips are on the coals, you set your meat up, close your lid, and finally all the vents. This will choke the fire of oxygen, but it will create a ton of smoke. I recommend leaving your bottom vent slightly open to let some air in so the fire doesn’t die out completely.
After several hours, at least 4 or 5, you should have a delicious smoked meat on your hand. I do this for whole chickens and the end results are masterful.
The Basic Bitches of BBQ: Hot Dogs, Burgers, and Ribs
For hot dogs, don’t make the mistake that every dufus with a grill makes every year. Parboil your hot dogs/sausages first, then finish them off on the grill. Or if you want to get fancy, cook them the Serious Eats way: http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/the-best-way-to-grill-hot-dogs.html.
BUT JUST DON”T THROW THEM DIRECTLY ON! You’ll ruin a perfectly delicious hot dog.
Repeat after me. I. Will. Not. Buy. Pre-molded. Burger. Patties.
(unless of course you have a real butcher who sources good meat)
Buy 80/20 ground beef, preferably from a butcher, a good burger requires good meat. If you want to make your own blend, have at it, but that’s too much work for me. All a good burger needs is a nice dose of salt and pepper on the outside.
Burgers are better pan-fried (my opinion), but if you must grill when you grill the patty make sure you have a nice imprint in the middle to prevent you from having a hockey puck burger. Once you have laid the burgers on the grill, make sure you only flip them once. Too many flipping is no bueno. Do not squeeze down on your patties either, all the juice will leak out, you don’t want to cook them more than a medium internal temp regardless (unless your source of ground beef is suspect).
Now the Kate Upton of BBQ, Ribs.
Everybody wants them, not everyone can make them. Ribs are a fickle beast, delicious when done right and downright tedious when executed poorly.
The first major trick to ribs is one of the guiding principles of BBQ large cuts of meat. Low & Slow.
Pretty much no matter what you do, if you cook the ribs at a low heat for a long period of time,they will end up delicious. For my rib novices, I suggest you bake them in the oven at first and finish them on the grill. If you fancy yourself a grill master, try my indirect heat ribs for a melt your face off bonanza: http://theunmanlychef.com/2014/07/02/grill-week-smoked-pork-ribs/
For ribs, don’t douse them with BBQ sauce until you’re just about ready to serve them. If you put the sauce on too soon, it will just burn and your ribs will taste like garbage. Pork baby back ribs are great for grilling as they’re easy to eat and to prepare.