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Firing Up - Your Live Fire Repertoire

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: A fire for simple grilling - Depending on what you’re planning to cook, you’ll need to build either a simple or a multilevel fire (see Building the fire). Start checking the temperature as soon as the flames die down to catch the right moment to cook. © Provided by DKBooks A fire for simple grilling - Depending on what you’re planning to cook, you’ll need to build either a simple or a multilevel fire (see Building the fire). Start checking the temperature as soon as the flames die down to catch the right moment to cook.

Smoke-roasting on the grill - A deep layer of coals over half the base of the grill (also see image) gives you your initial high heat; to keep this going, you need to top the fire off generously every half-hour or so.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

A fire for simple grilling - Depending on what you’re planning to cook, you’ll need to build either a simple or a multilevel fire (see Building the fire). Start checking the temperature as soon as the flames die down to catch the right moment to cook.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Using the grill to barbecue - As the food is not directly above the coals, you don’t, when the lid is closed, get a buildup of the acrid fumes caused when fat drips onto the fire (see also Using the lid), so the barbecue won’t be tainted by off flavors. © Provided by DKBooks Using the grill to barbecue - As the food is not directly above the coals, you don’t, when the lid is closed, get a buildup of the acrid fumes caused when fat drips onto the fire (see also Using the lid), so the barbecue won’t be tainted by off flavors.

© Provided by DKBooks

Topping up the fire - “Little and often” is the secret to keeping a good, slow barbecuing fire going. Some barbecue takes 8 hours or more to cook, so be sure to lay in a good supply of charcoal to take you through the day (or night).

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Topping up the fire - “Little and often” is the secret to keeping a good, slow barbecuing fire going. Some barbecue takes 8 hours or more to cook, so be sure to lay in a good supply of charcoal to take you through the day (or night). © Provided by DKBooks Topping up the fire - “Little and often” is the secret to keeping a good, slow barbecuing fire going. Some barbecue takes 8 hours or more to cook, so be sure to lay in a good supply of charcoal to take you through the day (or night).

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Smoke-roasting on the grill - A deep layer of coals over half the base of the grill (also see image) gives you your initial high heat; to keep this going, you need to top the fire off generously every half-hour or so. © Provided by DKBooks Smoke-roasting on the grill - A deep layer of coals over half the base of the grill (also see image) gives you your initial high heat; to keep this going, you need to top the fire off generously every half-hour or so.

© Provided by DKBooks

© Provided by DKBooks

Using the grill to barbecue - As the food is not directly above the coals, you don’t, when the lid is closed, get a buildup of the acrid fumes caused when fat drips onto the fire (see also Using the lid), so the barbecue won’t be tainted by off flavors.

© Provided by DKBooks

Ash-roasting in foil - Lots of vegetables grill well, but ash-roasting gives your side dishes a melting, succulent texture to contrast with the seared crust of a grilled steak or chop.

© Provided by DKBooks

Photo: Ash-roasting in foil - Lots of vegetables grill well, but ash-roasting gives your side dishes a melting, succulent texture to contrast with the seared crust of a grilled steak or chop. © Provided by DKBooks Ash-roasting in foil - Lots of vegetables grill well, but ash-roasting gives your side dishes a melting, succulent texture to contrast with the seared crust of a grilled steak or chop.

Your Live Fire Repertoire

People all over the world routinely cook with live fire, and they use all kinds of inventive methods when they do so. We think it’s not only interesting but useful to know the differences between these various techniques. The best way to understand them, to us, is to look at what is being cooked, what temperature it is being cooked at, and why this method is the appropriate one for that food. In other words, it’s good to understand the methods by looking at what you’re trying to achieve.


Grilling

Grilling basically involves cooking food quickly over the coals of a hot fire. When food is laid over the direct heat of the coals, a seared crust develops on the exterior. This flavor-packed crust (not the fuel) is most directly responsible for the characteristic taste of grilled food. On the other hand, the food also needs to be properly cooked on the inside by the time it comes off the grill. This relationship between surface sear and interior doneness, then, becomes the crux of the matter, the key to great grilled food. These are our top tips for perfect grilling:

Build the right fire for the food you’re going to grill.

Before you put that food on the grill, be sure that you are cooking with the right temperature fire. Not everything should be cooked over the same heat, so always check the recipe and then see how hot the fire is before you start cooking.

Never cover the grill when you’re doing direct-heat grilling .

Start checking food for doneness well before you think it is actually ready to come off the grill. All live fires are different, so cooking times in recipes are just approximations, and checking for doneness early and often may just save you from a dry, overcooked dinner.

The lid stays open for direct-heat cooking

A thick layer of coals will give you the intense heat you need

If cooking thick or bone-in cuts, tapering the coals toward the fire edge gives you an area of gentler heat to get interior doneness right without over-charring the outside

Coal-free area gives you somewhere to move food to in case of flare-ups


Grilling: The facts

Fire temperature depends on what is being cooked

Fast cooking, lid open

What to grill: Small, tender things; steaks, chops, baby back ribs; fish fillets, fish steaks, and other seafood; vegetables and fruits


Sample recipes

Rosemary-Grilled New York Strip Steak;

Asian-Flavored Baby Back Pork Ribs;

Thai Chicken Sticks;

Coriander-Crusted Grilled Halibut Steaks;

Grilled Clams.


Barbecuing

This is where the terminology can be confusing. In much of the English-speaking world, including large parts of the United States, “barbecuing” and “grilling” are used interchangeably. But in the South and Texas, “barbecue” describes a cooking method in which food is cooked slowly over the indirect heat and smoke from a charcoal or hardwood fire, which is quite different from cooking directly over the coals. The term is also used to describe the meat cooked by this method, which should always be both tender and smoky if you’ve done it right. Like braising, barbecuing was developed to deal with large, tough pieces of meat that need slow cooking over low heat in order to become tender. The best-known examples are the pork shoulder, favored by North Carolina fans; beef brisket, the most popular barbecue of Texas; lamb shoulder, which you’ll find most prominently in Kentucky; and ribs, which are found all through the southern half of the country.

The temperature of a barbecue pit should be somewhere between 180 and 240°F (80–115°C). As the meat basks in the low, smoky heat, the tough connecting tissue in the meat—known as collagen—dissolves, and the meat itself goes from very tough to extremely tender. The technique of barbecuing involves building a fire on only one side of your grill, using about enough charcoal to fill a large shoebox, then putting the food on the other side and covering the grill. After that you just let it cook, adding a handful of coals every 30 minutes or so to keep the temperature in the proper range.

The technique of barbecuing is simple, requiring primarily patience, but it gives a remarkable end result, as generations of Southern barbecue cooks can testify. One more thing while we’re talking barbecue: You don’t use temperature to decide when your barbecue is ready to eat, because you are looking to go beyond mere doneness all the way to tenderness. Instead, use the “fork test”: Stick a large fork into whatever you’re cooking and try to pick it up. If the fork slides out of the meat without grabbing onto it, it’s done; otherwise, keep cooking.

Heap the coals well up to one side of the grill. You don’t need a lot of charcoal to produce gentle barbecuing heat

The food is always placed over the coal-free area

Closing the lid creates an oven-like cooking environment

Partially open the vents to keep the fire going yet retain the heat


Barbecuing: The facts

Low heat (180–240°F/80–115°C)

Slow cooking, lid on

What to cook: Large, tough cuts of meat—racks of ribs, shoulder joints, beef brisket


Sample recipes

North Carolina-Style Pulled Pork Barbecue

Texas-Style Slow Beef Brisket

Cuban Ribs.


Smoke-roasting

Next to grilling itself, this is the most useful of the live-fire cooking methods. It is similar to barbecuing, but you are cooking at a higher temperature, between 300 and 450°F ( 150–230°C). So when you build the fire on one side of your grill you use more charcoal than when barbecuing, enough to fill about 1 1/2 shoeboxes, and when you add charcoal during refueling, you use two handfuls rather than one. Basically what you are doing is roasting in a smoky environment. Like oven roasting, this method is most suitable for large, relatively tender foods—beef and pork roasts, leg of lamb, fresh ham, chickens, turkeys, ducks, whole fish, and basically anything else you would put in the oven if you were cooking inside. But you have the additional advantage that whatever you’re cooking will pick up that ineffable smoky flavor from the charcoal or wood you’re burning.

Closing the lid keeps all that heat inside to roast the food

The joint or bird sits over the coal-free half of the grill, preventing fat flare-ups and acrid fumes


Smoke-roasting: The facts

Hot fire (300–450°F/ 150–230°C)

Medium to long cooking times, lid on

What to cook: Large but tender, juicy joints; whole birds and fish


Sample recipes

Glazed Smoke-Roasted Fresh Ham

Smoke-Roasted Whole Duck;

Pepper-Crusted Smoke-Roasted Top Loin.


Ash-roasting

Since ancient times, people have been encasing food in leaves and putting it in a pit with coals to cook. It is still fairly widely used today—think of the Hawaiian luau or the pibil of Mexico. Ash-roasting, also known as “hobo pack cooking” (the Boy Scout name for it), is really just a variation on this method. Instead of leaves, you wrap the food in foil; instead of a coal-lined pit, you simply slide it into the coals of your fire. It’s pretty much as simple as that, but there are two important things to remember. First, be sure that there is a good amount of liquid in the parcel; otherwise the food will dry out in those hot coals. Second, wrap the foil carefully, so that juices don’t leak out. The package doesn’t need to be dug down into the coals so it’s completely covered. Instead, just push it in so the coals come partway up the sides. This technique is particularly useful because you can cook your side dishes—or even your dessert—in the coals while other food is cooking above them.

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