Let's talk grills and grilling

For years we had a Weber gas grill, and this summer we replaced it with a nice, large charcoal grill. One of those big black ones that looks like a gas grill, made by Master Forge. We did not get the smoker add on (the box on the end.) It has a nice smooth, well made handle you can turn that moves the charcoal platform up and down quite a bit. It’s not super expensive, but we’ve enjoyed it a lot. Ah, here it is:


We use charcoal that is actual charcoal chunks, rather than briquettes, and use different types, still experimenting. Also toss in various wood chunks for smoking different flavors (e.g. hickory, apple, maple, etc.) One learning: we used the chimney starter rather than starter fluid, and it was a pain in the butt. However, a friend who is really into BBQing recommended this chimney starter:

And it made a HUGE difference.

I’m still learning how to best cook on this. The standard burgers and sausages are pretty easy, of course, steaks are also great (though still learning various techniques for best flavors) but things like fish and even chicken have been more challenging. For the chicken, I think we just need to make thinner breast cuts (challenging to get a thick one fully cooked all the way through while not overcooking the outside, even with the meat on the side of the charcoal pile.) I’m also still learning temperature control, e.g. how do you get the grill to 350 and then keep it there.

ANYWAY - this thread is for any and all grilling tips. tricks, and Q&A!

Chimney starters are magic. I need to replace mine, however, as it’s rusting out. If anyone has a recommendation for a not-too-expensive stainless chimney starter that has a door on the bottom so you can drop the coals out without pouring, I’m all ears!

You know what I really need help with when it comes to grilling is cleaning the grill. Not just the grates, but, like, deep cleaning. I do an annual barbecue for my birthday (coming up this weekend) and I always feel like maybe I should get the old gunk out of it. But the couple times I’ve tried to clean it, it’s like nothing will get the greasy charcoal globs out of there. Any tips?

If your grill doesn’t come with one, get a cheap stem thermometer, drill a hole in the top of the grill, and set it in there. You need to know how hot it’s getting.

Also get a cheap probe thermometer, stick it in the meat you’re cooking, and set the alarm appropriately. For beef around 125F for medium-rare, for chicken you want to cook to 145F (not 160F, that will be dry and horrible). For hamburgers, always get 80% ground and cook to 145F (essentially well-done) unless you get the butcher to grind up select pieces of meat for you, in which case 125F is fine. Obviously if someone is immunocompromised or pregnant, cook higher.

Lump charcoal burns hotter than briquettes. Until recently everybody recommended lump, as it’s more natural and so on, but these days most of the grilloscenti recommend briquettes as they burn more evenly and it doesn’t actually make a bit of difference except costing more money. Only important bit with charcoal is to use a chimney not lighting fluid. And don’t use quick-start briquettes, which contain combustables, only burn charcoal.

Remember that charcoal grills work exactly the opposite of gas. When you close the lid, they cool down, because you’re starving the fire of oxygen. Control heat by controlling oxygen with the vents. On a kettle, place the vents over your food so smoke is drawn over the food.

To deep clean your grill, use a ton of charcoal, leave it open for max heat, then burn it all the way down. Then scrub with a steel wire brush. This will get rid of everything but polymerized fat, which can look unsightly but is the same stuff that makes cast iron pans non-stick and perfectly safe.

Thanks, stusser. And to get rid of all the ash and stuff you scrubbed off… do you spray it out with a hose and dry it?

By the way, I think I’ve found the Ferrari of chimney starters! Still looking for a decent one that’s closer to a tenth that price…

For chicken I prefer indirect heat (put the coals on one side, chicken on the other) or on the top rack (if your grill has it). It will take a lot longer but it usually means that the outside is not overdone by the time the center is safe to eat.

Yeah, you can just spray it with the hose when a ton of it builds up.

Right, only thin chicken cutlets and kebobs should be grilled on direct heat. Otherwise direct heat is only for browning/crisping the skin.

The Weber chimney starter I linked works great and is inexpensive. It is SO much better than the one I had first. Just a number of design features that make the difference in getting frustrated at how long it takes and how uniform the coals are to saying, wow, that was quick!

Interesting on the briquettes vs. lump charcoal; I’d read there was no doubt you wanted to use the lump.

Sous vide, grill marks, done. Best anything I have ever eaten. Ug. Ribs. So good. Plus it takes like zero skill, unlike actually grilling something from start to finish.

The only negative I can think of is the lack of smoke flavor. Since I am ambivalent at best about the flavor it brings meat I just happily forget about it.

That was the common refrain until very recently, and you still hear it sometimes, much like the also false but very common “searing meat seals juices in”, and “you should only salt a steak immediately before cooking”. The real answer is that briquettes are more consistent and much cheaper-- you just don’t want to get ones with additives, particularly accelerants. You want 100% charcoal, which is just carbon. The irregular form factor of lump just means it’s inconsistent and can burn hotter.

I love to sous vide also, although I sear in a very hot pan as I want that maillard reaction flavor across the entire surface of the meat, not just where it touches the grill grate. Haven’t tried ribs, though. I want smoke on ribs, and overcooking ribs isn’t an issue anyway.

Sous vide is really nice on steaks and roasts in particular, as you can cook to a perfect 122F rare and then very quickly sear the outside to get maillard flavor without creating a “grey line” of overcooked meat in the middle. It’s a perfect doneness all the way through. Circulators have become super cheap lately, it’s no longer expensive science experiment, it’s usable day to day. Also amazing soft cooked eggs.

I’m starting to lean in the direction that a quality store bought frozen burger is better than a quality fresh burger.Don’t know why, all other meats fresh of course. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. I’m thinking I may try freezing my own burgers and grilling them from frozen.

Freezing will change the texture of meat, but that shouldn’t make any difference for a hamburger. Maybe your grocery store’s non-frozen hamburger meat isn’t fresh?

The best way to do it is what I said above, buy a roast and get the butcher to grind it for you to your specifications. I tell him “grind coarse, twice”. You can even mix cuts of meat for this. I like 1/2 chuck, 1/4 short rib, 1/4 brisket myself. As it comes from whole cuts and not 10,000 animals all chopped together, you don’t need to cook it well-done.

Maybe your grill is too hot? Starting from frozen might prevent you from over-cooking the inside of your burgers by the time the outside is done.

I’ve been meaning make those pork steak things triggercut posted about ages ago. I wonder if my local chinese market would have a similar cut, they have a lot of odd cuts of meat.

Oh yes, depending on the cut of meat in question its either the cast iron pan or the grill. Usually the cast iron pan because it’s easier and sometimes better.

For the ribs, you have to ask yourself if you want more bacony flavor, and the answer is of course you do. The texture is a bit different as well, but each bite is like the best bite of a rack of ribs. You know what I am talking about, how the traditional cooking process leaves awesome parts and just great parts to a rack of ribs? This is all awesome.

Sous vide is the best grilling accessory you can get for your grill imo. Unless you really want to get into the manly art of grilling, in which case have fun. No sarcasm intended, I think it’s fun too, I just don’t have the time and patience anymore.

I am going to share my secret burger recipe here.

Get Ground chuck (80/20 to 90/10) 1lb

Put beef in bowl. Pour a few glugs of Worcestershire sauce, sprinkle in a dose of garlic powder, add Kosher salt and black pepper, add Dehydrated onions and then… the super duper key ingredient and most important thing.

Crack one egg over the beef mixture and knead into the meat. The egg will do wonders keeping the juices inside the burger.

These are the best burgers. Also, it is important for you to let the burgers sit for like 5 minutes under foil before plating. Gotta rest your meat, helps the juices stabilize inside.

The secret is the egg. Though it isn’t a very well kept secret, as I am looking online and many recipes are very similar to mine.

That’s a meatloaf in patty form. Like Chicago style pizza, it may be tasty, but it’s not actually pizza.

Yeah, I did the onion/garlic/soy/worcestershire sauce thing for a while. It’s good, but it doesn’t have the simple meatiness of a burger. Working all that stuff into the meat affects the texture as well.

The only thing I put in a burger at this point is salt.

Meatloaf also has the “loaf” part.

Otherwise, even if you don’t want to add the seasonings, the egg is key.

Fine, like a beef kofta then.

Regarding hamburgers, I am a follower of the late, great, Josh Ozersky. He was a hamburger purist.

  • Just ground beef and salt. Good meat, not garbage.
  • Burgers should be thin and flat, because this promotes greater crust formation, and that crust is flavor. The best way to promote browned craggy formation is to make a meat sphere, press it lightly onto a very hot griddle, wait 15 seconds, then press down hard with a flat spatula until a thin but regular thickness. After this initial formation you don’t press down at all as it bleeds out the juices. You can’t do this on a grill obviously, which is why grills make inferior hamburgers.
  • The burger should be cooked 90% of the time on the initial side, to promote the most possible browning. Flip when the top starts to bleed, pop on the cheese, cover, give it 30 seconds to melt, and serve.
  • American cheese is the only real choice for a hamburger. Use two slices, in a mogen-david configuration, melted on top of the burger.
  • Soft squishy white buns must be used. The burger should be the same size as the bun, no overhang or (much worse!) underhang. Toasting the buns is acceptable.

Egg in a hamburger is an abomination. If you don’t mess with it too much the burger will hold together on its own, and adding egg compromises the texture.

Well, the egg is more of a “make the ground chuck from the grocery store juicier”. When using good meats, it isn’t necessary.

I think the key to a great burger is patty formation, not too tight, but not too thick either, gotta put the dimple in the center. Also, grill bad, grill pan better, but griddle best. Maximum metal to meat contact for that delicious crust.

I would concur about American cheese being excellent for burgers, it has a melting property that works well with burgers. I prefer swiss cheese, but I am a crazy person that puts egg and spices in his burgers. Though… I probably should just try to buy some of the good ground beef.

On the “Kofta” barb, that shit is amazing. Basically the same as my burger recipe but instead of garlic powder, minced garilic, coriander, allspice, cumin, cinnamon and ginger, and I usually would do half lamb/ half beef. Smush into a kebab shape and serve with cous cous and yogurt sauce. Turkish/Albanian/Greek food is amazing for the grill.

But seriously, eat your fancy beef only burgers. If I want beef-only taste, give me a ribeye or t-bone cooked right (not on the grill). We are talking about grilling here.