Fourth of July Grilling Tips, Part 1
But mastering the art of fire, heat, metal, and meat takes serious know how. It also takes time and patience, and an understanding of how this age old cooking method actually works. Without proper technique, your Fourth of July burger bash could turn into a hockey puck hoe down. But fear not, fellow grillers. Charlie's got an in depth grilling rundown to get you up and smoking in no time.
Today: Part 1 -- It's Getting Hot in Herre
Choosing Your Heat Source
If you're like most Americans (nearly 75% in fact), you've got a barbecue grill on your porch or backyard. But what kind of grill you have is another story. Is it the old reliable bucket grill, perfect for outfitting with charcoal? Or a big propane beast, churning out reliable BTUs (that's British Thermal Units, a method of measuring heating capability) across a big cooking surface? Or maybe you've got both like me. Either way, it's perfectly fine: you can turn out great grilled food using either method. But each does have some pros and cons.
On the con side, propane grills don't provide the woody, smoky flavor to foods that cooking over wood or charcoal does. Older models usually don't have as many features and have poor grates or heat spreaders, resulting in lots and lots of heat loss each time you open the lid (or if you keep the lid open, slow cook times in general). Low BTU models can be a real pain to work with. Plus... when's the last time you cleaned your propane grill? Without care, they can get pretty gunky and the grates can get rather nasty (that's true of all grills, I suppose). These grills also tend to break down and rust over time. And it's also pretty easy to run out of propane mid cook session if you're not careful. Check yours out before the big day.
How about the cons of charcoal cookery? Well, to be honest, there are many. Everyone has had the experience of standing around a pile of charcoal with four or five guys just trying to get the sonofabitch lit. Then, of course, there's the problem of heat variance and reliability -- it takes a bit of skill to maintain an even temperature over the course of one grill session. It takes longer to get the coals to the proper cooking stage as well, and a lot longer to cool the grill down if you've got to. Clean up ain't exactly easy, either.
So which to choose? Well, it's really up to you. Do you want to take the extra steps and time to cook with real coals, or do you value the ease and convenience of propane? Once you decide, it's time to...