Welcome to the second issue of the Chargrill Chat, the nwsletter fromThe Barbecue Hut.
*June 28, 2004, Issue 0002*
In this issue:
- Barbecue Success With The Rule Of Thirds
- Electronic Cookbooks
- Orange Barbecue Chicken
- Closing Thoughts
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Barbecue Success With The Rule Of Thirds
Ever been to a barbecue party where the ‘chef' placed as much food as he could possibly fit onto the barbecue grill, every so often stabbing the food with a fork and juggling it around so that it cooks evenly? Ever noticed how, within a few minutes, the flames start gently flickering under the food, the chef proudly standing back admiring the char grill effect that he's creating? Ever notice the panic that sets in when the flames suddenly leap up and around the food burning it black on the outside and leaving it raw on the inside?
The difference between great char grilled barbecue food and burnt offerings lies in a few small precautions. The chef that we've just described made a few fatal errors that could easily have been avoided. Before discussing the errors though, lets consider the equipment that we're talking about. Although the same can happen with gas as with charcoal, gas grills can be turned lower, or off, when the flames start getting out of control. The flames can also be controlled if the barbecue grill has a tight fitting lid, as with a Weber kettle grill. However most people seem to cook on an open top barbecue grill with the lid, if it has one, open. Note that we're talking about a barbecue grill here, where the food is cooked directly over the hot coals. True barbecue uses indirect heat with the food fully enclosed as though in an oven. So, the barbecue grill that our imaginary chef is using is an open top, charcoal, barbecue grill.
Now lets have a look at our imaginary chef's errors.
First, he filled the grate with charcoal along its entire length, providing a constant heat source, with no area of lower heat to place food if it started to burn. A simple solution is to use the rule of thirds. Imagine the grate of your barbecue being in thirds. Fill two thirds of the grill with charcoal and leave the remaining third empty. Cook your food over the hot coals and when your food is ready, or starts to burn, or creates out of control flames, move it over to the section above the empty grate. The food will stay warm but won't cook any more (or possibly it will but much more slowly), and wont cause any flare-ups. A further refinement can be had, if you've a large enough grill, by placing a double level of coals in one third of the grate, a single level of coals in the middle, and no coals in the final third. You now have three levels of heat!
A further mistake was to overfill the grill. Completely filling it leaves no room to manoeuvre the food. You're not able to turn it for even cooking and you've no space to move the food to a lower heat. Assuming that you're using the rule of thirds as described above, , when you first start cooking, leave empty the area of the grill above where you've placed no coals. You've then space to move the cooked food into. Secondly, don't pack the cooking part of the grill with food. Leave room to comfortably turn your food.
A second problem caused when over filling the grill is to use foods that require different cooking times. When the coals are first ready to use, they're at their hottest. This is the time to cook small, thin items of food that can be cooked in a short time with a high heat. These include items like sausages, burgers, kebabs and small pieces of meat off the bone. Don't forget that food, such as burgers and sausages, drip fat and juices onto the charcoal during cooking and it's this that causes flare-ups. So you'll need to constantly watch the items of food and move them to an area of lower heat if necessary (did I mention the rule of thirds? ). After the heat has died down somewhat, start grilling food that takes a little longer to grill like chops and steaks and meat on the bone. Finally when the heat is even lower, grill food like fruit kebabs that really only need heating through.
Last, but not least, our imaginary chef stabs his food with a barbecue fork to turn it over. During the initially few minutes of grilling, the heat seals the surface of the meat, sealing in the juices. When the meat is stabbed the juices flow out onto the coals, causing the meat to dry out and become tough, and producing a flare up which burns the food. When turning food, always use barbecue tongs.
With a charcoal barbecue controlling the heat is difficult. Instead you need to ensure that you cook your individual items of food at the most appropriate time and that you have separate areas of heat. Use the rule of thirds to provide separate areas of heat. When cooking your food, first grill quick cook food when the coals are at their hottest. Second, cook food that requires cooking at a mid temperature for a longer time. Thirdly, cook food that needs a low heat. Another rule of thirds!
A few months ago I was recommended a collection of cookbooks in electronic format. I’d never considered buying a cookbook in e-format before, as I much prefer to read from a paper page. However, for the small price I had to pay and the amount of cookbooks that I was getting for my money I decided to buy the recommendation. I paid the fee and within minutes I had access to a whole library of books covering every conceivable type of cookery, including barbecue of course!
I’ve tried out a number of the recipes and I’ve found that the easiest way to use a recipe is to print it out; a laptop in the kitchen or where you’re barbecuing isn’t recommended! Put it in a clear plastic wallet and you can wipe it clean if necessary. You can even make your own cookbook with a collection of your favourite recipes printed out. Put in plastic wallets and collected together in a ring binder. What I like about using a printed out recipe is that it’s much easier to handle than a whole book and it doesn’t matter if they get marked or torn. What I don’t like is that they’re no pictures of the food in the book. Of course that’s also a plus point, in that you’re not comparing the food you’ve made to that shown in a picture made by a professional chef and photographed by a professional photographer.
If you’re interested in getting you hands on the collection that I’m using, it’s called the The E-Cookbooks Library . The recipes themselves are deceptively simple and the results, the food, are very good. One of the recipes that I’ve used and recommend is shown below.
Other things that I like about this collection of cookbooks are:
- Very inexpensive.
- One time payment with free upgrades as new recipe books are added to the library.
- Free instructional videos.
- A large collection of other books, such as business oriented and fiction, also for free.
What I don’t like about electronic cookbooks are; there are no pictures and you need a computer to view the books. Apart from that I’ve no problems, especially for the price.
Orange Barbecue Chicken
1 C. orange juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 C. chopped cilantro
2 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Flour tortillas (optional)
In a large bowl, mix orange juice, garlic powder, cilantro, soy, chili powder, salt
and pepper. Place chicken inside a large zip-top bag and pour marinade into bag.
Let chicken marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 24 hours, the longer the better.
Prepare barbecue grill. When it's hot, grill chicken breasts until they are no longer pink on the inside. Watch closely, as chicken breasts cook quickly. Chicken can be served whole or cut up and wrapped in tortillas.
As mentioned in the previous issue of Char Grill Chat I’ve had permission to include publish some recipes from a top barbecue chef. More information will be in the next issue before I add anything to the Barbecue Hut website.
The barbecue season is well and truly underway. I’d love to hear from you with any barbecue related stories and you own favourite recipes.
The Barbecue Hut is going from strength to strength with more and more visitors every day. Just a few months ago the website received less than 100 visitors per month. In May it received more than 2000 visitors and is very nearly self financing thanks to Google. I’d like to personally thank you for visiting the Barbecue Hut and subscribing to this newsletter. Together we can make the Barbecue Hut one of the top barbecuing sites on the Internet. One thing that I’m frequently asked by friends, relatives, people that I meet and by email is how they can start a website of their own? When I tell them that they need to base it on something that they know about or love doing they give-up without starting because they believe that they don’t know enough. My suggestion is to take a look at the sites here, SiteBuildIt results to see the huge diversity in subjects that people have built sites around.
Until next time then, have a great month and keep grilling!