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Barbecue basics.

Barbecue basics

The two simplest ways to barbecue are over direct or indirect heat. These charts condense basic information on how to use these methods to grill lamb, pork, fish, beef, veal, and poultry. Foods that take longer to cook--larger meat cuts, whole birds, and fish--work best on indirect heat. Smaller, more quickly cooked pieces work well on direct heat.

What's the difference between the two? It's how you arrange the fuel (charcoal briquets or mesquite charcoal), and whether the barbecue is covered. Any barbecue works for direct heat grilling, but you need a lid for the indirect method. If you have a gas or electric barbecue, follow manufacturer's directions.

Heat is controlled several ways. One is by changing the distance between the grill and the fire grate. In many covered barbecues, the grill and grate are fixed at 5 to 6 inches apart; our charts are based on this. On other barbecues, you can adjust either the grate or grill; increase distance for less heat, move closer for more.

How long the fuel has burned and how much you use affects the amount of heat.

Dampers in a covered barbecue are heat controls, too. With them open, the fuel burns fastest and hottest; partially closing them reduces heat; closing them extinguishes the fuel.

Hot, medium, or low heat

Our charts are based on three heat levels.

Hot. You can hold your hand close to the grill for only 2 to 3 seconds. Coals are barely covered with gray ash and may have low flames.

Medium. You can hold your hand at grill level for 4 to 5 seconds. Coals are well covered with ash and may glow with heat.

Low. You can hold your hand at grill level for at least 6 to 7 seconds. The coals are covered with a thick layer of ash.

How much fuel, how to arrange it

For barbecues with grills that are 18 to 24 inches in diameter, or rectangles 14 to 18 by 24 to 30 inches, start the fire with 50 to 60 charcoal briquets, 2-inch size. This is 3 3/4 to 4 pounds, or 3 to 3 1/2 quarts. To get the same amount of heat with mesquite charcoal, use an equal volume.

To ignite fuel, use an electric starter, solid fuel or liquid starter, self-igniting briquets, or other method. The coals should be ready to use in 30 to 40 minutes.

For direct heat, spread hot coals out in a single solid layer, slightly overlapping edges. The fuel bed should extend in a circle 2 to 3 inches beyond the perimeter of the foods on the grill. With small amounts of food, you can sometimes use less fuel. Position grill and place foods over coals. Flare-ups can be a problem if fat drips; extinguish with a spray of water.

For even cooking and browning, you have to turn foods as needed over direct heat.

For indirect heat, bank fuel equally on each side of fire grate, leaving space for a metal or foil drip pan in center; put the pan in place, then set grill on barbecue. Put foods on grill over pan (if drips are contained, no flare-ups should occur), cover with lid, and keep dampers open.

Foods over indirect heat cook and brown evenly on all sides without turning.

To maintain heat, scatter 10 to 12 briquets (3 cups) over fuel bed every 30 minutes, starting when you arrange the fire for cooking; with indirect heat, put 5 to 6 briquets on each side of fire bed.

Table: Lamb

Table: Pork

Table: Fish

Table: Beef

Table: Veal

Table: Poultry

Photo: For direct heat cooking, arrange a solid bed of ignited coals on the fire grate; fuel should extend 2 to 3 inches beyond the perimeter of foods on grill

Photo: For indirect heat cooking, arrange fuel equally on both sides of fire grate, with drip pan in center. The food goes on grill directly over pan
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1986
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