Outdoor cooking isn’t for everyone. It takes a person who is willing to put his reputation as a grilling superstar on the line each time he lights a gas grill or tosses a match onto a flammable pile of charcoal. that the people he feeds will appreciate the food he has cooked. Each time he (or she) steps out of his home into his back yard, armed with copper brush, tongs and forks; he faces a challenge to beat his best individual performance on the backyard grill.
Most of the outdoor chefs I’ve run across are men. It seems that women had rather stay in the kitchen. I think it is just a ploy to get the men out of the house for a while. The ladies give them the idea that cooking on the grill is almost important as breathing, especially if it’s done by him! That will get the guy outside with his chest puffed up, carrying a can of charcoal starter and a match.
First rule! If you’re using charcoal and you’re using a liquid lighter, know what you are dousing on those briquettes! It is really not the volume of the whoooomp that determines whether your coals will burn consistently. Never use gasoline, lacquer thinner, lantern fluid or any of those things that will blow you out of your shoes. Stick with charcoal lighter.
One big tip! Never use kerosene to start your charcoal! No matter how long you let your charcoal burn, no matter how much more briquettes on the coals, your rib eyes will have that subtle aroma and taste of kerosene. Your grill will smell like a piece of construction equipment. It’s best to stay with prescribed fuels that don’t stink.
There are other methods to ignite your charcoal. Use the chimney type device where you put the charcoal in an inverted cone and push a couple of sheets of newspaper in the bottom. Put a match to the paper in the bottom and the draft of the “chimney” will make the coals burn. I have never been able to keep that apparatus around the house for more than a summer due to rust, being stepped on or having the neighbors’ borrow it.
There is also the electric heating iron category of charcoal starters. Just plug it into an outlet, let it get red hot and stick it under the charcoal. It doesn’t take long to get a pile of charcoal glowing and shimmering with heat. You don’t have to worry about the whooomp either! The heating iron works well but it’s just not the same as seeing flames shoot as high as your house. You only get that with a liquid lighter that you’re not supposed to use in the first place.
Let’s talk about charcoal grills versus gas grills. I use both in my back yard barbequing. Cooking with gas is almost like cooking on the gas stove in the kitchen. Boring! Maybe that’s why I prefer charcoal. It’s just manlier to battle the flames and rescue a steak just in the nick of time, from being overly cooked. That’s the way outdoor cooking is supposed to be; a man conquering the elements!
Really, cooking on a gas grill is a nice and comfortable way to grill steaks, chickens, burgers, chops and vegetables. One of the areas in which the gas grills are deficient is smoking meat. As far as I know, you just can’t do that with today’s grills. You have to have a smoker. I prefer charcoal smokers of course, but I’ve had excellent results with electric smokers also.
Smokers, both electric and charcoal, are set up pretty much in the same way. The ones that I use are tall round ones that have a trap door opening on the side so you can add charcoal or water in the water bowl. There are other kinds of course and you can find them at a hardware store or outdoor market place. The costs are going to range from roughly $75 to $500 depending on the one you choose. I think most of them are good, but you can usually get just as much satisfaction from a cheap one instead of the high priced smokers. Of course there is the prestige of getting one of those sleek, black ones with the chrome smoke pipes. Gives you sort of a chill just to think of owning one of those, doesn’t it?
Meat smoked on an electric grill is great if you have some wood smoke flavor to make it tasty. I know you can buy little cans of wood chips to add some character to your cooking. Simply pour a little water in the can, set the can on the lava rocks in the bottom of the smoker, and when starts to simmer, you have hickory, cherry or pecan steam permeating your Boston butt! This is the city folks’ way of making barbeque.
Another big tip! If you’ve left the electric smoker outside uncovered, check to make sure the lava rocks are dry. If it has rained since your last cookout, chances are that the bottom of the smoker is covered in water. If so, don’t plug in the heating iron! It’s not a wise move because you will blow the iron up! Drain the water out of the base first, let the lava rocks dry, then have a safe barbeque.
My personal favorite is the charcoal smoker. It’s really not hard to use, though a lot of people seem to think it’s some kind of a miracle that the meat I smoke tastes so good. Some even think there is a secret to my success when I cook a pork loin or Boston butts and wind up with some of the most delicious barbeque you have ever tasted. Some folks even think there is a secret ingredient that I haven’t shared with anyone!
I usually smoke three or four Boston butts at a time. It’s easy. First I load the coal pan with charcoal, and then use a charcoal lighter fluid to start the coals. You could use one of the instant light charcoals if you wish, but just make sure than when you add charcoal, you use the regular briquettes or your meat will taste funny.
After the coals are lit and the flames have died, fill up the metal water bowl with about a quart of water. This helps keep the meat moist. Next lay the meat on the two racks of the smoker. I salt and pepper the meat liberally, and then put the lid back on the smoker and I’m finished for about an hour.
For three Boston butts, I usually let them cook for about 12 hours, adding charcoal and hickory chunks to the hot coals about every hour and a half. Some chefs soak the hickory in water for thirty minutes or so before adding them to the coals. I prefer to lay the wood chunks on the live coals. The dry wood smoking and burning will give you a mild taste of hickory, not the smell and taste of a burning barn! When the meat reaches 180 degrees on the meat the thermometer, take it off and tear it apart with forks. This way separates the pork easily. You can add barbeque sauce at this time or serve it on the table.
There is one ingredient so unique, so necessary to cooking good barbeque. It’s PATIENCE! From the moment you light the fire until you take the meat off the grill, allow yourself allow yourself enough time to do the job properly. Most people don’t do that. We are a society of instant gratification. If we want something, we want it now! That just won’t work when you’re trying for the best tasting barbeque you can cook.