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Fine Cooking Culinary School

Grilling Lesson Line-up

Introduction
The Perfect Burger
Great Steaks on the Grill
How to Start a Charcoal Fire
The Two-Zone Fire
How to Grill Bone-In Chicken Parts
How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
How to Grill Fish
Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal
Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder
Real Barbecued Ribs


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Introduction: About This Series

Fred ThompsonWhether you're already an accomplished griller or just a novice, Fred Thompson will turn you into a grill master in ten short episodes. A food writer and cooking teacher based in Raleigh, North Carolina, Fred is the author of two recent grilling cookbooks, Grillin' with Gas (2009) and Barbecue Nation (2007). Here's a taste what you'll learn in his video series:

Lesson 1: The Perfect Burger
How to choose the right burger meat; how to shape burgers so they stay moist and juicy, how to cook them just the way you like them.

Lesson 2: Great Steaks on the Grill
How to choose the best steaks for grilling, how to give them a good initial sear and create those restaurant-style crosshatch grill marks; how to tell when they're done perfectly.

Lesson 3: How to Start a Charcoal Fire
Skip the chemical fumes that come from lighter fluid, and learn to use a chimney fire starter instead.

Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire
This is the most important step to becoming a master griller. Learn how to create a hot and cool zone on your grill, so that you can cook bone-in and large cuts of meat with a low, slow fire.

Lesson 5: How to Grill Bone-In Chicken Parts
Use the two-zone fire technique to grill up the most tender, moist barbecued chicken you've ever tasted. There's one more secret in the brine.

Lesson 6: How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill
Think gas grills lack the smoky flavor of charcoal? It's easy to reproduce: all you need is a handful of wood chips and some foil.

Lesson 7: How to Grill Fish
Grilling fish tends to scare off otherwise confident grillers. Learn how to grill fillets, steaks, and even whole fish without the fear of sticking.

Lesson 8: Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal
Lump charcoal has become the darling of grilling enthusiasts. Learn how it's different from briquettes and how to maintain the fire.

Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder
Where Fred comes from, barbecue is a noun: slow-smoked pork shoulder, shredded and sauced. Learn how to make this North Carolina specialty in your own back yard, tenderized by an injected brine and hours over a low, smoky fire.

Lesson 10: Real Barbecued Ribs
Among champion barbecuers, few dishes are as obsessed-over as ribs. Learn Fred's secrets for tender, juicy baby backs, finished with a spicy-sweet glaze.

Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

Lesson 1: The Perfect Burger

Classic Ultimate Hamburger Everyone knows how to grill a burger—or at least everyone thinks they do. The truth is that burgers are one of the most-abused foods on the grill. The worst crimes are overworking the ground beef when you shape the patties, and pressing down on the burgers with a spatula, which squeezes out all the juices. In this video, Fred demonstrates how to avoid both of these pitfalls and make the Classic Ultimate Hamburger better than you ever thought possible.

Step One: Choosing the Beef
At some of the high-profile hamburger joints that have recently opened across the country, the restaurant's custom blend of different types of ground beef is often a closely-guarded secret. But it doesn't have to be that complicated. My favorite mixture is 3 parts ground chuck, which has enough fat for a nice texture, plus one part ground sirloin, which adds a "beefier" flavor. For a basic burger, season the meat simply with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper—but use a light hand here; you'll add more later to the outside of the burger.

Step Two: Shaping the Burgers
Mix the ground beef very gently, with a light, kneading motion. Overworking the meat drives out the juices and makes for a tough burger. Shape the meat, again using a light touch, into 6-oz. patties. You don't need to make these perfectly round—if they are, that's a sign you've over-handled them. One easy way to shape the burgers is to use an 8-oz plastic deli container as a mold.

The most important part of shaping is to put a thumbprint in the center of each burger. As the burgers cook, the heat drives the juices to the center, causing the burger to puff up in the middle. To combat this, you want to start out with a concave center, so that as they cook up, the burgers end up with a nice, flat top and bottom.

When the burgers are shaped, season the outside with a little more salt and pepper. This lets you use less salt overall—because it's on the outside where you'll taste it—and it also helps give the burgers a nice crust as they cook.

Step Three: Cook the Burgers
First oil the grill grates, turn all the burners on high (or build a hot charcoal fire), and leave the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes. This preheat gets the grates super clean, which both prevents sticking and helps get a good sear on the burgers.

When the grill's good and hot, put the burgers on the grill, close the lid, and turn down the burners just a bit. Cook 4 to 6 minutes without disturbing them.

The burgers are ready to turn when they've got nice grill marks on the first side, and they release easily from the grill. Turn the burgers just once. Because these burgers are loosely packed, they could fall apart if you turn them over and over. Do NOT press down on the burgers with your spatula; it only squeezes out the juices.

If you like cheese on your burger, add it in the last two minutes of cooking time, so it gets nice and melty. And put your buns, cut side down, on the grill about a minute before the burgers are done.

Check for doneness by touch (see chart) or using an instant-read thermometer, inserted sideways into the center of the burger.

Unlike most meats, burgers don't need to sit and rest after they come off the grill. Dress them with whatever toppings you like, and serve right away!

How do you like your burger?
Use these guidelines for beef burgers; burgers made with pork or poultry (and any burger cooked for someone with a compromised immune system) should always be fully cooked to 160° F
Doneness Level Internal Temperature Feels Like
Rare 125° F Center very soft; inside red
Medium-Rare 135° F Center slightly springy; juices not yet flowing from interior
Medium 145-150° F Center taut and springy; inside moist
Well-Done 160° F Center hard; inside texture crumbly

Video Length: 7:25
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More Burger Recipes

BLT Burger
BLT Burger
Grilled Sliders
Grilled Sliders
Katrina’s Seattle Salmon Burger
Katrina’s Seattle Salmon Burger
     
Argentine-Style Burger
Argentine-Style Burger
Stuffed Blue Cheese Burgers
Stuffed Blue Cheese Burgers
Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers
Middle Eastern Turkey Burgers

 

 

Lesson 2: Great Steaks on the Grill

New York Strip Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter A steak is one of the simplest things to grill, and it's a good way to learn how to use your grill's heat. In this episode, you'll learn how to choose the best steaks for grilling, how to give them a good initial sear, and how to tell when they're done perfectly. To practice all these points, we'll make a grilled New York Strip Steak with Blue Cheese Butter.

Step One: Prep Your Steaks and Grill
Take your steaks from the fridge about 30 to 40 minutes before cooking and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Starting with room-temperature steaks gives you better control over their doneness. For tender steaks like rib-eye and strip steak, you want to choose steaks about 1-1/2 inches thick. When you're ready to cook, make sure the steak is completely dry, then brush it with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat your grill with all burners set on high and the lid closed for 10 to 12 minutes.

Step Two: Cook the Steaks
Place the steaks on the grill, at a 45-degree angle to the grill grates. Close the lid.

After about 1-1/2 minutes, the steaks should release easily from the grates. Pick up each steak and rotate it 90 degrees, so the grill grates now run at 45 degrees in the opposite direction. This is how you create those neat, restaurant-style crosshatch grill marks on your steak.

After the steaks have cooked about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, they're ready to turn. There's no need to do crosshatch marks on the second side, because it will face down on the plate. Close the lid and continue to cook to your preferred doneness.

Step Three: How to Judge Doneness
There are two ways to judge doneness—one is with an instant-read thermometer, inserted into the center of the steak (see chart for temperatures).

But touch is the method most chefs use to determine doneness, at least for steaks. To start learning what each stage feels like, your face is a handy guide:

  • Touch your cheek with your mouth slightly open—that's what rare feels like.
  • Touch the tip of your nose—that's medium
  • Touch your forehead—that's what well-done feels like.

After you pull the steaks off the grill, they should rest for 5 minutes before serving, to let the juices redistribute, producing a steak that's equally juicy all the way through.

Steak Doneness Temperature Guidelines
Doneness Level USDA Recommendations Fred's Thoughts
Rare none given 125° F
Medium-Rare 145° F 135° F
Medium-Rare 160° F 145° F
Well-Done 170° F 160° F and above

Video Length: 5:29
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More flavored butters for topping your steaks

Basil Butter
Basil Butter
Caramelized Shallot Butter
Caramelized Shallot Butter
Chipotle-Cilantro Butter
Chipotle-Cilantro Butter
     
Garlic-Rosemary Butter
Garlic-Rosemary Butter
Lemon-Herb Butter
Lemon-Herb Butter
Three-Herb Butter
Three-Herb Butter

 

Lesson 3: How to Start a Charcoal Fire

chimney starter Using a chimney starter is the most efficient way to get your charcoal fire going. It's fast, and it doesn't involve a lot of chemicals that can end up flavoring your food the way lighter fluid can. They're really simple to use and I'm going to show you how it's done.

Look for the oversized chimney starters like this one from Weber. You can find cheaper ones out there, but this holds enough charcoal for a good long grilling session, and it also has a double handle that makes it easier to empty the coals into the grill.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to stuff the bottom of the starter with too much newspaper, which can stifle the flames. Instead, compact the paper lightly and only use enough to just fill the bottom.

Set the starter on the grate. Light the paper with a long match or lighter. Leave the lid off so the paper ignites the coals. At this point, you can leave the coals unattended and work on prepping your food for the grill. It'll take about half an hour until the coals are ready.

When the coals are glowing red and covered all over with a light coat of ash, that's a hot fire. Empty the coals onto the fire grate and arrange them for a direct or indirect fire, as your recipe instructs.

How hot is your grill?
To test the heat, hold your outstretched palm an inch or two above the cooking grate. The length of time you can stand the heat tells you how hot the grill is. The same test can be used for gas grills.

Time palm can be held over grill Grill
heat
Temperature
range
less than 1 second very hot over 600°F
1 to 2 seconds hot 400° to 500°F
3 to 4 seconds medium 350° to 375°F
5 to 7 seconds medium-low 325° to 350°F

How to keep the fire going
If you're cooking over indirect heat for a long time, a batch of briquettes will die down within about an hour, so it's a good idea to start you'll need to add additional coals. Here's how you can get them going in your chimney starter before you add them to the fire:

  • Put an extra grill grate over a galvanized metal bucket or another large, heatproof container. You want air to be able to circulate under the chimney.
  • Load your chimney starter and set it on the grate. Light the paper and let the coals start to burn.
  • When the coals are glowing and ashed over, pour them into the grill. If your cooking grate doesn't have a flip-up door on one side, you may need to use tongs to add coals to the fire.


Video Length: 3:43
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

Charcoal Grilling Recipes

Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Mexican Grilled Chuck Steaks
Mexican Grilled Chuck Steaks
Master Barbecued Chicken Recipe
Master Barbecued Chicken Recipe
     
New England-Style Clambake
New England-Style Clambake
Maple-Brined, Wood-Smoked Grilled Turkey
Maple-Brined, Wood-Smoked Grilled Turkey
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs

 

Lesson 4: The Two-Zone Fire

Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeno Lime SalsaNovice grillers tend to blast everything they cook with a uniform blast of heat. This works well for burgers and steaks, but when you want to go beyond that, it's time to learn how to make a two-zone fire that lets you use two methods of grilling: direct and indirect.

Every grill has hot and cool spots, and this is actually a good thing—it helps you control the cooking of your food better. In fact, it lets you create two zones on your grill: one for direct cooking, and one for indirect cooking.

The Direct Method
Direct cooking is what most of us refer to as grilling: you put the meat right over the gas burner or the hot coals. It's best for foods like steaks, hamburgers, boneless chicken breasts, and fish fillets—anything that's thin and quick-cooking.

  • To direct cook on a charcoal grill, keep the coals in the center of the grill and place the food directly over them.
  • To direct cook on a gas grill, simply place the food directly over the burners that are turned on.

The Indirect Method
If you tried to cook larger cuts, like roasts, ribs, and whole chickens and turkeys this way, they would burn the outside before the center is done, so that's where indirect cooking comes in.

  • To do indirect cooking on a charcoal grill, bank  your coals on one side of the grill, and put your food on the other side, away from the coals. Depending on what you're cooking, you may also want to put a disposable foil tray. Keep the lid closed, and the heat that builds up inside the grill is what does the cooking—you're turning your grill into an oven.
  • To do indirect cooking on a gas grill, you basically mimic the same setup, but how you do it depends on how many burners your grill has. For a three-burner grill with burners running side to side, turn on the front burner, and place the food towards the back.
Many recipes that use indirect heat also get a blast of direct heat at some point. This is sometimes referred to as combination cooking. Fred's Buttermilk-Brined Chicken Breasts, for instance, start out over direct heat to give the chicken a nice sear, then move to indirect heat until they're cooked all the way through. Fred's Baby Back Ribs, on the other hand, get hours of low, slow cooking over indirect heat, with a final turn over direct heat to get some char on the meat and caramelize the sauce.


Video Length: 3:32
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More Direct-Heat Recipes

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Pork Chops with Pineapple & Scallions
Grilled Ginger-Sesame Pork Chops with Pineapple & Scallions
Grilled Lamb Kebab Salad
Grilled Lamb Kebab Salad
Grilled Scallops with Remoulade Sauce
Grilled Scallops with Remoulade Sauce
     

 

More Indirect- and Combination-Heat Recipes

Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeno Lime Salsa
Spice-Rubbed Pork Loin with Jalapeno Lime Salsa
Honey-Barbecued Chicken
Honey-Barbecued Chicken
Herbed Grill-Roasted Lamb
Herbed Grill-Roasted Lamb

Lesson 5: How to Grill Bone-In Chicken Parts

Buttermilk Brined Chicken Breasts If you just want a quick dinner, throw some boneless, skinless chicken breasts over direct heat, and 15 minutes later, dinner-s ready. But bone-in chicken parts deliver much more flavor. This episode shows a few tricks for grilling bone-in chicken parts so they cook all the way through without getting burnt on the outside. The secrets are a brine that adds both flavor and moisture, as well as a two-zone fire.

A buttermilk brine for tenderness and flavor
This buttermilk-brined chicken recipe is inspired by classic Southern fried chicken, including a traditional soak in buttermilk. That tradition has very solid roots in food science: the calcium in dairy marinades (including yogurt as well as buttermilk) activates enzymes in the meat that start to break down the proteins, tenderizing the meat in the process. The salt in the brine helps to tenderize, and also seasons the chicken through to the bone. After soaking the chicken overnight in the brine, pat it dry thoroughly before grilling; too much buttermilk clinging to the meat will slow down the cooking.

Combination cooking: Essential for bone-in chicken
While thin, boneless cuts cook up quickly over a hot, direct fire, bone-in chicken parts require a slower cooking method so the outside doesn't burn before the inside cooks fully. The solution is a combination cooking method: you start the chicken out over a direct fire to brown the outside and crisp the skin, then move the chicken to the cooler zone to complete the cooking with indirect heat.

During the indirect cooking, be sure to keep your grill lid closed, to maintain a constant temperature; the grill thermometer should stay close to 325° F the whole time. Large bone-in chicken breasts will roast for about 40 to 45 minutes in this manner; if you're substituting chicken legs or thighs, start checking earlier.

When an instant-read thermometer reads 165° F, brush the chicken with your favorite barbecue sauce, and put it back over the direct fire for a few minutes more to caramelize the sauce.

The final step is to let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes after it comes off the grill. This lets the juices redistribute, so the chicken meat is evenly moist throughout.

Video Length: 5:29
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More Grilled Chicken Recipes

Grill-Roasted Honey Barbecue Chicken
Grill-Roasted Honey Barbecue Chicken
Thyme-Grilled Chicken Dijon
Thyme-Grilled Chicken Dijon
Beer-Brined Butterflied Chicken
Beer-Brined Butterflied Chicken
     
Grilled Thai Chicken Breasts with an Herb-Lemongrass Crust
Grilled Thai Chicken Breasts with an Herb-Lemongrass Crust
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad
Grilled Chicken with Apricot Balsamic Glaze
Grilled Chicken with Apricot Balsamic Glaze

 

Lesson 6: How to Add Smoke to a Gas Grill

It's a long-persistent myth that grilling on gas means you can't develop smoky flavor in your food. But it's actually very easy to add smoke to any gas grill, all you need are some wood chips. If your grill is equipped with a smoker box, you can add wood chips directly to it. If not, you can create your own homemade version with a few sheets of foil.

Creating Foil Packets
These days, you'll find lots of different wood chip varieties, like oak, apple wood, and hickory, and they all impart different flavors to your food. To create smoky flavor, you need to soak your wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes to an hour. That way, they'll smolder and smoke when they go on the fire, instead of just incinerating. For extra flavor, you can also soak the wood in beer, wine, or juice.

Stack two sheets of foil, each about 14 inches square. Place about 1 cup of soaked wood chips in the center, fold it up into a rectangular packet, and poke a few holes in the foil. Each one of these packets will produce smoke for about 20 minutes, so depending on how long you want to smoke your meat for, you'll need to make a few of them.

Preparing your grill to smoke
Before you preheat the grill, put the foil packet under the cooking grate, on whatever's the hottest spot of the grill. Allow plenty of time; it'll take at least 30 minutes for the chips to start to smoke.

For long-cooking items (more than 30 minutes), set a pan of liquid on the cooking grate: smoking tends to dry food out, so this will keep things moist. Put this pan of liquid in the cooler area of the grill.

After the steaks have cooked about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side, they're ready to turn. There's no need to do crosshatch marks on the second side, because it will face down on the plate. Close the lid and continue to cook to your preferred doneness.

Smoking your food
Once the chips have begun to smoke and smolder, it's time to add your food. How long to smoke? Depends on what you're cooking. Too much smoke makes the food taste like an ashtray. Smaller pieces of protein like a whole trout only need to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, so one packet of chips will produce enough smoke for the whole cooking time.

Big cuts like a brisket or pork shoulder can smoke for 1-1/2 to 2 hours (still, bear in mind that's only a fraction of their total cooking time). Every 20 minutes or so, as the smoke dies down, add a new packet of wood chips to the fire. But work quickly, because every time you lift the lid, you lose heat and smoke.

Video Length: 3:48
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More smoking recipes

Whole Smoke-Grilled Mountain Trout
Whole Smoke-Grilled Mountain Trout
Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder
Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder
Smoked Heirloom Tomato Relish with Corn & Beans
Smoked Heirloom Tomato Relish with Corn & Beans
     
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Agujas
Agujas

 

Lesson 7: How to Grill Fish: Fillets, Steaks, and Whole

Bacon-Wrapped Tuna Steaks Grilling fish tends to scare off people who are otherwise very competent grillers. The two things that scare them are the fish's tendency to overcook and stick to the grill. In this episode, you'll learn some tricks for avoiding both problems, and you'll also get three delicious recipes for cooking fish fillets, steaks, and whole trout. We'll make Grilled Fish Tacos with cod fillets, Bacon-Wrapped Tuna Steaks, and Whole Smoke-Grilled Mountain Trout, stuffed with herbs and lemon.

The first tip is, if you have a gas grill, use it. When it comes to cooking fish and seafood, gas grillers have a real advantage, because it gives you total control over the temperature.

Part 1. Grilling fillets and steaks:
The technique for grilling fish steaks and fillets is very similar. The most important things to remember are:

  • Direct heat, because they cook quickly
  • High heat, to help prevent sticking
  • For fillets, make sure they're thick, meaty ones like salmon, halibut and snapper. Thin fillets like flounder or tilapia are too delicate for the grill, and prone to overcooking.
  • A super-clean cooking grate is the secret to preventing sticking. To get it very clean, preheat the grill thoroughly on high heat, then use a grill brush to clean off any bits of protein or sauce sticking to the bars.

Always coat your fish with some sort of oil or fat to prevent sticking. The fillets you're grilling for the fish tacos are marinated in olive oil and spices. The tuna steaks are wrapped in bacon, which not only helps keep them from sticking but gives them that smoky bacon flavor. For extra insurance against sticking, you can also brush the grill grates with a little oil.

For just about any type of fish, you want to cook with the lid down. The only exception is plain tuna steaks if you want to keep the center rare; in this case, leave the lid up. Cook the first side of the fish a little longer than the second. This gives the fish nice sear marks for a good presentation, and it also helps the fish release from the grill without sticking.

The usual rule of thumb for cooking time—10 minutes per inch of thickness—tends to produce overcooked fish on the grill. For steaks and fillets, 8 minutes per inch of thickness is a better guideline.

Part 2: Grilling whole fish
Whole fish isn't too much trickier than fillets or steaks, but in this case you want to use indirect heat instead of direct. So set up your gas grill for a two-zone fire, and place the whole fish in the cool zone from the start. As with steaks and fillets, keep the lid down.

Again, coat the fish with fat. The whole trout in this video are brushed with mayonnaise, a great fat for grilling fish, because it clings well to the fish. Even if you're not a mayo fan, give it a try; the flavor of the mayonnaise really disappears in the cooking.

When it comes to turning, use a gentle hand. A fish spatula, with its thin, angled blade and widely spaced tines, is an essential tool. Even better is two fish spatulas: place them side-by-side and slide them under the fish, so the whole fish is cradled as you lift it up to flip.

For whole fish, the 10-minute-per-inch rule is a good guideline. Whole fish are actually a little easier to judge doneness than fillets, because they are already slit through to the center. Just peek inside cavity and use the point of a knife to test the meat right next to the backbone. It should separate easily, and be just barely opaque. When the fish is done, let it rest 5 minutes before serving.

Video Length: 7:22
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More grilled fish steak and fillet recipes:

Cedar-Planked Salmon with Red Pepper-Caper Sauce
Cedar-Planked Salmon with Red Pepper-Caper Sauce
Grilled Tuna Steaks with Mango Habanero Mojo
Grilled Tuna Steaks with Mango Habanero Mojo
Grilled Swordfish with Lemon, Dill & Cucumber Sauce
Grilled Swordfish with Lemon, Dill & Cucumber Sauce
     
Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
Grilled Salmon with Wasabi-Ginger Mayonnaise
Niçoise Salad with Grilled Tuna & Potatoes
Niçoise Salad with Grilled Tuna & Potatoes
Grilled Halibut with Tarragon-Caper Mayonnaise
Grilled Halibut with Tarragon-Caper Mayonnaise

 

Lesson 8: Lump vs. Briquette Charcoal

Lump CharcoalGrilling with charcoal used to mean one thing—briquettes. But lately lump charcoal has become the darling of everyone who's serious about grilling. It has a lot of advantages—it burns hotter and cleaner—but it requires a little more know-how to cook over lump charcoal than briquettes. This episode explains the difference between the two types of charcoal, and gives you tips for working with both.

Briquettes
Briquettes consist of pulverized charcoal, bound together with cornstarch and other fillers, depending on the brand. Their standard size, shape, and composition makes them burn very steadily and reliably: A batch of 45 briquettes will give you consistent heat for 1 hour.

When you shop for charcoal briquettes, look for solid hardwood charcoal briquettes, which have less in the way of fillers, and burn cleaner and hotter. Definitely avoid any of the briquettes impregnated with lighter fluid, unless you like the taste of that stuff in your food. And of course, if you use a chimney charcoal starter (see Episode 3 for how-to details), you can skip the lighter fluid entirely.

Lump Charcoal
Serious grillers these days have gone to using hardwood lump charcoal—it is just what it sounds like: pieces of hardwood, with no additives, that have been charred into lumps of charcoal. It burns hotter and cleaner than briquettes, but the heat is variable and not as consistent, so it requires a little more experience managing your fire to get good results in cooking.

Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes. A briquette fire can get up to 800 to 100 degrees, while lump can get up to 1400°F. Depending on what you're cooking, this can either be an advantage or something you need to work around.

If you're cooking something like steaks or tuna steaks—things that you want to have a great sear on the outside and a rare or medium-rare center—that high heat is perfect. In this case, make sure that when you hold your hand about a foot above the fire, you can hold it there for 1 to 2 seconds before you have to pull it away.

But if you're doing pork chops, or chicken, something you want cooked all the way through, you'll want to let the fire die down until you can hold your hand there for 3 to 4 seconds. To help bring the fire down a little cooler, close the top and bottom vents on your grill slightly, which feeds less air into the fire.

Time palm can be held over grill Grill
heat
Temperature
range
less than 1 second very hot over 600°F
1 to 2 seconds hot 400° to 500°F
3 to 4 seconds medium 350° to 375°F
5 to 7 seconds medium-low 325° to 350°F

When I'm working with lump charcoal, I tend to use a combination cooking method, even for items I'd normally cook over direct heat only (such as steaks): Set up a two-zone fire, and after an initial sear in the hot zone, move it over to a cooler area of the grill to finish the cooking.

When you open up a bag of lump charcoal, you'll find a huge variety in the sizes of chunks--some brands are more consistent than others, but they're all less consistent than briquettes. Because of this variation in size, the burn time of lump charcoal varies a lot. It's not necessarily a shorter or longer burn time than briquettes, it just depends.

So the best way to tend your lump charcoal fire for a longer period of time is to find a brand you like and stick with it (for exhaustive reviews of many different brands of lump charcoal, check out the web site www.nakedwhiz.com/lump.htm). Always use a grill thermometer to monitor your temperature, and always have a second batch of coals getting ready to replenish the first.

One way to get some of the benefits of lump charcoal without the drawbacks is to build a mixed fire: some briquettes, and some lump. This will help you get a hotter fire for searing, but it will maintain more consistent heat for longer-cooking items.


Video Length: 3:51
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

Charcoal Grilling Recipes

Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Mexican Grilled Chuck Steaks
Mexican Grilled Chuck Steaks
Master Barbecued Chicken Recipe
Master Barbecued Chicken Recipe
     
New England-Style Clambake
New England-Style Clambake
Maple-Brined, Wood-Smoked Grilled Turkey
Maple-Brined, Wood-Smoked Grilled Turkey
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs

 

Lesson 9: Slow-Smoked Pork Shoulder

Fred's Ultimate Smoked Pork Shoulder Where I come from in North Carolina, "barbecue" is a noun, a word for pork that's cooked slowly over low heat and often smoked. There's a ton of mystique around good pork barbecue, this episode will show you how to do it on your own grill, whether you've got gas or charcoal. All it takes is a little bit of patience.

Prepping the Pork
Barbecue starts with a dry rub of spices. This includes a little sugar, which helps produce an outside char. Rub the mixture all over the pork, then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight. Reserve 1 Tbs. of the rub to sprinkle over the finished barbecue.

Injecting a brine into the pork is the latest trick on the competitive barbecue circuit. This not only keeps the meat moist and tender, it also seasons the meat throughout. I like a Cuban mojo for my brine, which also lends a little tanginess and garlic flavor. To inject the brine properly, you need to slowly pull back on the syringe while you depress the plunger. This helps distribute the brine more evenly throughout the meat, without creating large pudles that will make the meat cook unevenly.

To Barbecue on a Gas Grill:
Set up the grill for indirect cooking as demonstrated in the two-zone fire epside, and add a packet of wood chips for smoking.

When the chips start smoking, put the pork on the grill on a cooler zone, cut off all the burners except the one under the smoking chips, and close the lid.

Every 20 minutes add a new smoke packet, until you've used all six. Work quickly when changing your smoke packet; the longer you leave the lid open, the more heat and smoke escapes. Then keep the lid shut and let it cook 4 to 5 hours more.

To Barbecue on a Charcoal Grill:
Set up your two-zone fire as demonstrated in episode 4. Sprinkle a handful of soaked hickory or apple wood chips over the coals.

Once the chips start smoking, put the pork shoulder on the grill's cool zone. Put the lid on and close the vents almost completely.

For the first two hours, you'll need to add another handful of soaked wood chips to the fire every half hour to keep the smoke going. After two hours, stop adding wood chips, but continue to cook over a low fire (the grill temperature should stay in the neighborhood of 275° to 300°F). You'll need to replenish your charcoal every hour. See episode 3 for tips on getting a second batch of coals ready.

Finishing the Barbecue:
The pork shoulder is done when it reads 175° to 180°F on an instant-read thermometer. When you grab the flat bone that runs through the meat, it should move easily, or it may even slip out of the meat. Pull the barbecue off the grill, transfer to a large roasting pan, and let it rest 20 minutes.

After the meat has rested, use tongs or two forks to pull the meat apart in stringy chunks. Separate out the crispy outside brown crust—this you want to chop up finely and stir back into the meat. Sprinkle with the reserved spice rub and about 1/2 cup barbecue sauce, if you like, and mix well. Then it's ready to serve.

Video Length: 8:04
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More Grilled Pork Recipes

Barbecue-Braised Country Spareribs
Barbecue-Braised Country Spareribs
North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches
North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Grill-Roasted Pork Loin with Jalapeño-Lime Salsa
Grill-Roasted Pork Loin with Jalapeño-Lime Salsa
     
Grilled Pork Blade Chops with Thai Marinade
Grilled Pork Blade Chops with Thai Marinade
Spicy-Smoky Mexican Pork Kebabs
Spicy-Smoky Mexican Pork Kebabs
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

 

Lesson 10: Real Barbecued Ribs

Fred's Finest Baby Back Ribs My barbecued baby back ribs are my most-requested recipe. It took me 20 years to develop it, and I still tinker with it. In this episode, I'll show you the tricks to the ultimate barbecued ribs. The key is starting them out with low, slow cooking in a steamy environment, which helps soften the meat. Then I finish them over higher heat to give them a nice seared crust.

Prepping the ribs and the fire:
To start, you need to remove the membrane that clings to the bony side of the rib racks. It's tough to chew through, and it also shrinks as it cooks, which will give your ribs a misshapen look. It's easy to remove: just peel up one corner with a paring knife, then use a paper towel to firmly grasp the membrane, and tear it off.

Brush the meaty side of the rib rack with some mustard, and then sprinkle both sides with spice rub.

Whether you use a gas or charcoal grill, you'll need to set it up for indirect cooking (see Lesson 3). For a gas grill, create 6 to 9 foil packets of soaked wood chips for smoking; add the first one to the hottest area of your grill once it's preheated. For charcoal, have on hand about 6 cups of soaked chips and throw a handful on the coals once the fire's good and hot. Put at least 1/4 cup apple cider in a spray bottle for basting the ribs.

Slow initial cooking
When the chips start smoking, place the ribs on the grill bone-side down. Turn your gas grill to low, and the charcoal grill should only be about 200°F.

Every 20 to 30 minutes, add another packet or handful of woodchips to your fire chips to keep the smoke going. And every other time you change the packet, spritz the ribs with apple cider. This helps create steam inside the grill, which melts away the fat and keeps the meat tender and moist.

The ribs are ready for the next step when they bend almost 90 degrees when you lift them with a set of tongs.

An alternate method for slow-cooking
If the weather's not cooperating, or you just don't want to spend hours tending the grill, you can also do this low-and-slow initial cooking in your oven: Preheat the oven to 300°F, and place the ribs in an aluminum roasting bag with 1/4 cup water or cider (you can also wrap them well in aluminum foil if you don't have a roasting bag). Place the ribs on a baking sheet, and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Let the ribs cool in their wrapper for at least 30 minutes.

Final sear and glaze
Now set up your grill for a direct fire. When the grill is hot, put the rib racks meaty-side down over direct heat, turn your gas grill burners down to medium, and close the lid. Sear for 15 minutes, then turn. Brush the seared side with barbecue sauce, cover, and continue to sear for another 10 minutes. Brush the same side with sauce again, cover, and cook for no more than 5 minutes. These successive brushings with sauce help it reduce down to a thick glaze on the meat.

Finally, drizzle the ribs with a little honey, and let them stay on the heat for a few minutes more until the honey turns into a sticky glaze, and they're ready to serve.

Video Length: 7:42
Produced by Sarah Breckenridge; Video by Bruce Becker and Dariusz Kanarek; Editing by Cari Delahanty. Shot on location at the Dana Holcombe House, Newtown, CT.

More Barbecued Rib Recipes

Kansas City Style Barbecued Ribs
Kansas City Style Barbecued Ribs
Slow-Cooked Memphis Ribs
Slow-Cooked Memphis Ribs
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
Apple-Bacon Barbecued Ribs
     
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Hoisin Barbecued Ribs
Barbecue-Braised Country Spareribs
Barbecue-Braised Country Spareribs
Barbecue-Braised Vietnamese Short Ribs
Barbecue-Braised Vietnamese Short Ribs