Thursday, June 29

Where There's Fire, There Should Be Smoke

Beware holding forth on this topic if you're at a barbecue and there's a Dixie cup full of something to drink anywhere within earshot, but it's gotta be said: Propane grills are for sissies. And I don't mean sissy in the fierce, bring-it-on-bitch sense. I mean it in the 'I think I'm an outdoorsy grillin' man (but I'm really just copping-out.)' sense.

Why? Because cooking on propane outdoors is mostly about the pleasure of the person doing the cooking--they get to be outside and it's easier--but this method doesn't really deliver the "grilled" part of grilling to you, your loved ones, or worse, your guests! There are some extraordinary measures you can take to compensate for propane's lack of anything in the way of a contribution to the food except heat, but even on those terms, it can't measure up to the sheer intensity of a charcoal fire.

It's Getting Hot in Here
Break out the Weber and fire up a bag of hardwood charcoal. If you have the industrial thermometer handy, you could be seeing six or seven hundred degrees registering once your fire has gotten going. That's enough to seriously sear anything you might be thinking about putting on the picnic table, from peaches to perch. Using your average Costco propane grill you'd be lucky to get firmly into the high five hundreds.

Besides of its sheer power to sear food tightly, hardwood charcoal contributes flavor and character you can't really replicate with propane. Sure, you could soak the wood chips and put them into a foil tray and put them into the grill so it gets smoky...but if you're the type of person who likes a propane grill because it's a no fuss proposition, would you really go to all that trouble? It's far easier to fire up a true charcoal fire, and you'll be happier with the results.

Why Use Petroleum Near Something You Eat?
Most people object to charcoal because it conjures that square can and a stream of fumey, potentially explosive liquid marketed under the benign and helpful 'charcoal starter' description. Fi! There's a far better, faster, and cheaper way to get your charcoal going.

Smoking Like a Chimney
Chimneys are simply wide metal tubes with a heat-safe handle, and a grate positioned about a quarter of the way inside the bottom end of the tube. The idea is you light newspaper under the grate, and the coals resting above the grate get all fired up. Since all the energy is contained in this compact column, and since heat and flame like to climb, the process goes quickly.

Using this method, you can get coals hot in about ten minutes, and if you stuff the newspaper the right way, it only takes a single match. C'mon, that's just about as easy and fast as propane. Ok so you have to lug a bag of charcoal, but that tank of propane won't fit in your pocket, either.

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