Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Playing With Fire

Memorial Day Weekend is upon us, so grilling season is in full swing!

My husband and I love to grill and we do it all year, although most frequently during the warm months.  I prefer cooking outdoors because the kitchen stays cool and clean, you get to enjoy the great outdoors, and your food gets that smoky flavor that can't be duplicated on a gas grill.

That's right, we don't own or use a gas grill.  I know they're convenient and clean, but they don't give that authentic smoky barbecue flavor.  Plus, we don't have room for one on our small deck.  Maybe in a future home we'll get one, but for now, it's all about the charcoal.

A Weber One-Touch Silver grill, to be exact.  I recommend a Weber grill because they are affordable (less than $75) and replacement parts and accessories can be purchased at any home improvement store. Make sure you buy a cover for your grill. You don't want it to get rusted out.
Ours is quite dirty well-loved:

Actually, it just needs to be cleaned.  Usually we just let the coals burn out, cover it, and clean it before the next use.  It's a simple process.  Just dump the ashes and old coals into a garbage bag and make sure you scrub the grates on the grill.  Grease + open flames = fire and we don't need to see the fire department at our barbecue.

Check out that charred-on mess from our last barbecue.  Not pretty.  Fortunately it can be removed with a grill brush.  You can pick one up at a hardware store for less than five bucks.  You don't have to get it perfectly clean, but you want to apply a little elbow grease and scrub off the big chunks of yucky stuff...

Don't go do something silly like covering your grates with foil.  You want to grill your food, not steam it.  Grills get dirty.  Grilled food gets charred.  That's what makes it good. 

Now, it's time to make a fire.  Remove the top (larger grate) and then get our favorite tool, the charcoal chimney.  You'll find you'll use less charcoal when you start using a chimney.  You can pick one up for less than $15 at a home improvement store.   

Stuff the bottom (small compartment) of the chimney with crumpled up newspaper.  Flip it over and fill the top (larger compartment) with charcoal. Do not add lighter fluid!  You don't need lighter fluid with this method, plus lighter fluid makes your food taste... different.

Simply sit the charcoal chimney (charcoal side up) on the smaller, bottom grate and carefully light the newspaper on fire and burn baby burn!

Now is the time to go do something else for about 30 minutes.  Drink a beer or cocktail.  Take your marinated meat out of the fridge to get it closer to room temperature before grilling.  Water the garden.  Just keep an eye on the chimney because in about a half hour the coals will smoke, then turn white, which means it's time to cook. 

When your coals look like this (above), it's time to dump them out onto the lower (smaller) grate.


At this point you can decide how you need to arrange your heat.  You could position the coals in a pile in the center for a combination of direct and indirect cooking, you could push all the coals to one side... there are several possibilities.  (Hmm... and possibilities for future grilling blog posts.)

We opted to place our coals in the middle this time.  This allowed us to sear our steaks, then move them to indirect heat until they reached the desired doneness.  Meats like hot dogs and burgers cook quickly.  Chicken may take a bit longer. 

So, that's the basics on building a fire.  I'm planning to share some of our favorite grilling recipes and tips throughout the summer, so stay tuned. 

Special thanks to my husband for serving as the model for this grilling demo.  Okay, actually, he pretty much did everything while I just held the camera. 

P.S. Even Milo and Zelda love barbecue.  It seems these dogs are quite fond of the aroma of grilled meats.  We can't enjoy a barbecued meal without looking at these adorable faces and listening to their wimpers.  We may have given them a hot dog.  Maybe.


  1. Nicely done, Keeley and hubs!

  2. Can I get a hot dog too if I shake my rump and bat my eyes?

    Great post, now I want to BBQ! Have a great weekend.

  3. there's nothing quite like a bbq! and the dogs are sooo cute. you know you gave them a hot dog, lol


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