Few would consider walking into someone else's kitchen to advise the cook while a meal is being prepared. Few would offer advice on the correct way to saute or change the amount of flame under a pot. But out-of-doors, on a summer afternoon or evening, its open season on the cook in charge of the barbecue grill.
Perhaps that's partly because so many males, either unwilling or too timid to accept the challenge of preparing a meal in the kitchen, eagerly don aprons, wields forks and tend to backyard cooking. Americans are enthusiastic about barbecuing and have spent fantastic sums on tools and gadgets in pursuit of the perfectly charcoaled piece of meat.
The kibitzers not only have opinions, they usually have recipes, techniques and barbecue grills of their own. A primer on outdoor cooking - such as the ones that follows - has to leave room for divergent approaches because unlike cooking on top of the stove, a lot of extraneous factors influence the way in outdoor fire behaves - humidity, air temperature, strength and direction of the wind.
The best way to be prepared for all eventualities - fires that refuse to start, die too soon, flare up or causes excessive smoke - is to have the proper equipment, not necessarily the most expensive.
In addition to the grill, which no matter the size, should have adjustable grids and draft doors, you also will need the following: a long-handled fork; two sets of tongs - one for food and one for coals; a long-handled basting brush (a paintbrush or a dishmop will do); a long-handled spoon. The handles should be wooden to protects your hands from the heat.
In addition you will need a grill scraper or cleaner, a box of long matches; mitten-shaped potholders; and a watering can or water pistol to douse flareups.
In the nice but not essential class are; a hinged metal grill for cooking small items; a fish rack; a basket rotisserie; skewers for kabobs; a small pot with a long handle to keep basting sauces warm; a carving board; a knife; a meat thermometer and a grill thermometer. STARTING THE FIRE
Charcoal briquets are the easiest to use and the long-lasting of all forms of charcoal; they also provide the most uniform fire and are generally the most reliable.
If your unit doesn't have an opening in the side or bottom to allow a draft, you can make a fire base of small stones. Arrange stones - about 1/2 inch in diameter - up to the edge of the fire bowl, then arrange the charcoal over the stones. To increase the life of the fire bowl, line it with heavy-duty aluminium foil, shiny side up.
If your grill has a grate to hold the charcoal, you can line the ashpit with foil - some manufacturers recommend this. Using foil also make cleaning the grill easier. But remember that foil reflects heat and speeds up cooking time.
Probably the simplest way to get the fire going is to use an electric starter (you must have electric outlet nearby). Place the starter on the charcoal - the grey ash (which means the charcoal is burning) will develop in minutes.
Another way to speed up fire-starting is to light the charcoal on a metal container such as coffee can. Punch holes in the sides around the bottom with a beer-can opener, then remove both ends of the can. Place can in the fire bowl; fill with charcoal and sprinkle in starter fluid; light. When the charcoal is ready, remove the can and add the rest of the charcoal.
If you're using the liquid starter, place the charcoal in a pyramid in the center of the firebox and drizzle the starter over the charcoal. Let stand for a few minutes to soak up the fluid, then light in several places with long matches.
Solid and semisolid starter and ready-to-start packages of briquets are more expensive, but are good for trips since there is no danger of flammable fluid being spilled.
After the fire is going, wait 15 to 20 minutes, or until two-thirds of the charcoal is covered with grey ash. Then spread the ash-covered charcoal around the grill in the pattern needed for the particular kind of grilling (see instructions on arranging charcoals that follows). It will take a total of about 30 minutes before the charcoal reaches the right temperature.
The biggest mistake made by novice outdoor cooks is to use too much charcoal and make too large a fire. A single layer of coal is all you need.
To increase heat during cooking, open the dampers or fan and tap the ashes off the coal, or moved the grid closer to the fire.
To decrease heat during cooking, close the dampers or sprinkle a little water on the charcoal; or move the grid up to the fire. ARRANGING THE BURNING CHARCOAL
For spit roasting on a unit with a reflector hood, arrange charcoal slightly to the rear of the spit, extending it beyong edges of the meat. Put a drip pan under the meat to catch drip and prevent flareups. (See instructions on making on a drip pan that follow.)
For spit roasting in an open grill arrange charcoal in an oval slightly wider than the food to be grilled.
For skewer cooking, place charcoal between rows of the skewers.
For steaks and other solid pieces of meat, arrange charcoal in polka-dot fashion.
If you need additional charcoal, place some at the edge of firebed to heat 15 minutes before using. TO MAKE A DRIP PAN
Fold a double thickness of heavy-duty aluminium foil to extend at least an inch beyond each end of the food. Fold up the edges 1 1/2 inches or more on all sides. Pinch corners tightly to prevent drippings from leaking. COOKING HINTS
If your firebox is not adjustable , cook food in a hinged grill that you can raise and lower manually.
Brush grill with fat or oil before cooking to prevent food from sticking.
When wrapping food to cooked in aluminium foil, place the shiny side of the foil towards the food.
Trim all excess fat from meat to prevent drippings from flaring up.
Score meats such as steaks or chops at the edges to prevent curling.
Salt meat after juices have been sealed in by searing.
Sprinkle the charcoal with fresh herbs such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme or mint, or dried herbs such as bay leaves or fennel, soaked in water to give the grilled meat a subtle flavor.
When placing meat on a spit for rotisserie cooking, be sure to balance it properly so it will rotate eventually. SAVING COALS
To save partially used charcoal for another time, remove with tongs to a bucket and cover to smother fire. Or, if a grill has a cover, close cover and dampers.
You can douse the charcoal with water once it is in the bucket, but dry it thoroughly before using again. CARING FOR THE GRILL
Place grids on just before cooking and remove immediately after cooking. Clean as soon as possible, first with a scraper then in soapy water (a bristle brush is a great help).
If you use gravel as a grill base, wash it in hot water after several uses.
To "winterize" grill, clean thoroughly, oil the grids lightly and cover well. SMOKING FOOD
You can smoke food without a smoker and even without a covered grill. To smoke without a cover, place wet food chips in an aluminium foil package: punch small holes in package with a fork and place directly on the charcoal.
Make a covered cooker out of a simple brazier by loosely tucking heavy-duty foil in a dome shape over the grid. Sprinkle wet wood chips directly on the hot charcoals.
To smoke food you'll need 20 to 25 pieces of charcoal, preferably briquets. Position most of them around the sides and few in the center.
There are several kind of wood chips - hickory, walnuts, apple, etc. (Hickory is the most popular and the easiest to find.) Soak chips in water for at least 20 minutes to increase smoke penetration and prolong their life. When smoking meat for a long time, add chips as needed.
If you use wood chips often, keep some soaking in water all summer long. SAFETY TIPS
Don't use kerosene to start a fire - besides being dangerous, it will make the food taste kerosene.
Never use gasoline to start a fire - you can end up in hospital.
Do not add more liquid starter, once the charcoal is ignited - it can flare up dramatically.
Keep children and pets away from the grill while lighting and cooking.
Keep the grill away from where people are sitting so a change in wind won't blow smoke or sparks on them.
Wear clothes without dangling scarves, strings or shirttails.
Use your grill in a well-ventilated area - not in your garage.
Grill in an outdoor fireplace only if it has a good draft. TEMPERATURE GUIDE FOR GRILLING
Testing by thermometer:
Low-about 300 degrees
Medium-about 350 degrees
Hot-about 400 degrees
Testing by hand*:
Hot-less than 3 seconds(FOOTNOTE)
* The length of time you can hold your hand over the coals before you have to remove it to determines the distance your grill should be from the coals. (END FOOT)
HENS ON A SPIT
(Makes 6 servings) 2 broiler-fryers (3 pounds each) or: 6 Rock Cornish hens (1 pound each) 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1 whole stalk celery for each chicken or 1/3 stalk for each Cornish hen 2 sprigs parsley for each chicken, or 1 sprig parsley for each Cornish Hen 1/2 cup soy sauce 1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
Wash birds and pat dry with paper toweling, rub cavities with salt and pepper and place celery and parsley in each. Close openings with skewers; flatten wings over breast; tie drumstick securely to tails. Insert spit rod through center of each bird, using holding forks. (In order to fit 6 hens on a single spit, you may have to arrange them crosswise, alternating fronts and backs. Be sure birds are balanced.)
Combined soy sauce and butter; brush over birds. Attach spits to motor; place medium coals at back of fire box and drip pan under birds.
Cook chickens 2 to 2 1/2 hours or hens 1 to 1 1/4 hours, basting frequently with soy-butter mixture. (Add more coals if necessary.) Birds are done when leg bones moves easily.
BUTTERFIELD LEG OF LAMB
(Makes 8 servings) 4 pound legs of lamb, boned and butterflied 6 to 8 cloves garlic, crushed (see Note) 1 cup vegetable or olive oils 2 teaspoons leaf tarragon, crumbled 2 tablespoons ground cumin seed 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Have butcher bone the leg of lamb and butterfly it, or simply slice thick portions so that meat lies flat. Place lamb in roasting pan; spread garlic over. Combine oil with half tarragon and cumin and spoon over meat.Let stand 1 hour; turning meat and sprinkle with remaining tarragon and cumin. Marinate at room temperature, basting and turning occasionally, for 2 hours or in the refrigerator overnight.
Season meat with salt and pepper; grill over medium hot coals 4 to 6 inches from heat for 45 minutes, basting with marinade and turning occasionally. When done, the meat should be pink on the inside and well done on the outside. Slice thinly to serve.
Note: To crush garlic if you don't have a garlic press: Chop very fine, then turn knife on its side and crush garlic against chopping board.
SOY GRILLED FISH
(Makes 6 servings) 2 pounds fish fillets, cut in serving pieces 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 4 teaspoons soy sauce 4 tablespoons vegetable oil 4 tablespoons lemon juice 4 tablespoons minced parsley
Season fish with salt and pepper; place on oiled grill or in oiled wire basket. (If fish is dry, broil on heavy duty foil, slit at regular intervals and lightly oiled.) Combine soy sauce and oil.
Grilled fish 4 to 5 inches from coals until golden brown, basting frequently with soy mixture, 5 to 8 minutes on each sides. Remove fish to warm platter, add lemon juice and parsley to any remaining soy mixture; heat quickly and pour over fish.
(Makes 4 servings) 1 broiler-fryer (about 3 pounds), cut up 2 cups plain yoghurt 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon ground coriander 3 tablespoons butter or margerine, softened 1/2 teaspoon salt Lime wedges
Place chicken in a large nonmetal bowl. Combine all remaining ingredients except lime wedges in a 4 cup measure; pour over chicken; marinate overnight in refrigerator.
Grill chicken 5 to 6 inches above medium-hot coals 20 to 30 minutes on each sides, basting often with yogart mixture. Heat any remaining marinade and pour over chicken pieces when serving; garnish with lime wedges.
(Makes 8 servings) 8 bratwurst 2 cup sauerkraut, washed and drained 2 tablespoons brown sugar 1 teaspoon caraway seed 8 frankfurter buns Dijon or spicy brown mustard
Split bratwurst lengthwise almost all the way through. (To keep from curling, score along edges or cook in hinged grill.) Grill about 5 inches from coals about 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
Heat sauerkraut with brown sugar and caraway seeds until sugar melts and kraut is hot. Grill split buns a minute or two; spread with mustard and put a bratwurst in each one; top with sauerkraut.
CHUCK STEAK BORDEAUX.
(Makes 6 servings) 3 1/2 to 4 pounds boneless chucks, 2 inches thick 1 cup red wine or cider vinegar 1/2 cup vegetable oil 1 large onion, sliced 2 cloves garlic, halved 1 bay leaf 1 teaspoon leaf thyme, crumbled 3 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black petter
Place meat in a deep nonmetal dish. Combine remaining ingredients in a 2 cup measure; pour over meat. Marinate meat in refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours, turning occasionally.
Grill meat 6 inches fron coals about 30 minutes for medium rate, turning occasioally and basting with marinade.