Grilling guru Steven Raichlen's best-selling cookbooks have been teaching readers how to get the most out of barbecue for years. In Planet Barbecue! (read our review here) he travels around the world to learn how other countries hone their grilling skills. Here he shares a few extra tips to get you on the right track.
Tune up your grill
Charcoal grill owners will want to scrape out any old ash and spray the vents with WD-40. Gas grill owners should make sure the burner tubes are free of cobwebs and spiders. Replace the igniter batteries if the grill won’t light. If you smell gas, brush the hoses and couplings with a leak detection liquid (made of equal parts water and dish soap)—bubbles will show any leaks.
Buy a second grill
Gas grills are convenient, but when it comes to smoking, you can’t beat charcoal. Join the more than 30 percent of Americans who own more than one grill. Use the gas grill on busy weeknights and fire up the charcoal grill on the weekends, when there is plenty of time to smoke low and slow.
Load up on fuel
Always keep an extra bag of charcoal or an extra tank of propane on hand. To take if up a notch, if you normally grill with charcoal briquettes, try natural lump charcoal because it burns cleaner. If you normally use natural lump charcoal, graduate up to wood (like oak or hickory) for a richer smoke flavor.
Ready your rubs
Prepare a few extra batches of Raichlen’s Basic Barbecue “Four Four” Rub (equal parts salt, pepper, paprika, and brown sugar) at the start of the season, so you always have some on hand for an impromptu grill session.
Gather your tools
Make sure you have the three essential tools: a long-handled grill brush; spring-loaded tongs; and an instant-read meat thermometer. Other more specialized cool tools that come in handy include a wood chip soaker, rib rack, cedar grilling planks, beer can chicken roaster, and a set of flat skewers for authentic shish kebabs.
• Grilling means to cook small, tender, and quick cooking foods directly over a hot fire.
Review the basics
Barbecuing on a budget? Try these tips:
• Stay home and fire up your grill. Simply commit to grilling at home and automatically save money—especially when entertaining a group. Grilling at home is also healthier for you and more fun.
• True barbecue is the original budget food. The low, slow heat of the smoker breaks down tough meat, making cheap cuts like brisket and ribs supernaturally flavorful.
• Save leftover charcoal for next time. If there is charcoal left over, cover the grill, closing the top and bottom vents to put out the fire. Use the remaining charcoal for a future grill session.
• Inexpensive steaks, like skirt and hanger, have a lot more flavor than costlier cuts, like filet mignon. Tenderize these cuts by flash grilling over high heat and slicing the meat thinly across the grain.
• Choose the less-expensive dark meat pieces of a chicken. Dark meat, like thighs and legs, are better marbled, richer tasting, and less prone to drying out when exposed to the high, dry heat of the fire than pricier white meat pieces. 95 percent of the world’s grill masters prefer dark meat.
• Grill dark oily fish like sardines, Spanish mackerel, or kingfish as an inexpensive seafood alternative. The omega-3 fatty fish oils are great for your health and keep the fish from drying out on the grill.
• Smoke whole briskets, beef clods (shoulders), pork shoulders, whole turkeys, and racks of spareribs. This yields more meat for the money, much less work is required, and everyone loves the primal pleasure of cutting into a communal size roast.
• Cook the whole meal on the grill. appetizer, main course, vegetable side dishes, and even dessert. It saves on fuel, clean-up, and wear and tear in the kitchen. And don’t forget, if something tastes good baked, fried, or sautéed, it probably tastes better grilled!