Your backyard barbecue is so much more than just cooking meat over an open flame. Your grill is a versatile tool that can be used many ways in the culinary arts, providing you options to experiment with new flavors and delight your palate. “I like to switch it up from time to time — each method delivers unique qualities to whatever you’re planning on grilling,” says Ted Reader, celebrity chef and author of the new book Gastro Grilling. “Whether it’s charcoal, gas, infrared or plank grilling, there always a list of pros and cons.”
In Gastro Grilling, Ted offers helpful insight on unique ways to use your barbecue to achieve new heights in backyard cooking. But the first decision to made is the nature of your grill: charcoal or gas?
Cooking over the natural fire from charcoal is a time-honored tradition. For years, either at the family barbecue or a campsite, people have been breaking open a bag of charcoal to spark up one of the tastiest grilling methods we know. The distinct smoky flavor that charcoal creates is unparalleled in the grilling world. Unfortunately, while flavor is king when choosing charcoal, patience is most definitely a needed virtue. Waiting for the coals to reach the proper temperature, maintaining that temperature and the black, sooty aftermath can certainly be a pain, but nothing beats the flavor of real charcoal grilling. For some interesting variations, try using flavored charcoal—maple, oak, orange grove and mesquite are all nice ones to try.
While using propane or natural gas may not embody the “rustic approach” to grilling that some enthusiasts strive for, you can still achieve gastro grilling results without a huge time commitment. Though you may not receive the same level of flavor that charcoal provides, it’s hard to beat the ease of firing up the grill and being ready to go in only 15 minutes. No matter your grill of choice, there are unique cooking methods everybody can use to enhance the flavors of their food and bring something new to the table. These techniques can take your grilling expertise to the next level:
To increase flavor, Reader suggests trying some simple wood smoking methods. Some newer gas grills come with a built in wood chip smoker, you can buy a cast iron smoker at most barbecue supply stores or you can make your own with some tin foil — form it into a pouch, place the chips, close the pouch and poke some fork holes in it to allow the smoke to escape. Soak a handful of wood-chips — which are available in a variety of flavors — in water for at least 30 minutes before placing them in your smoker, mixed in with some dry wood chips. Place over the open flame and close the lid. Once the wood chips start to smoke, add your meat to the grill and limit how many times you open the lid to ensure the smoke flavor gets into your food.
A small wooden plank can make a serious difference when grilling your food. Soak the plank in water, then place the meat or vegetables you are grilling on top and set it on your grill. The heat will create a small smoke chamber and the food will be infused with the smoke while cooking — this method is especially great for fish. The varieties of wood available make this grilling method versatile and delicious.
Crafted out of Canadian soapstone, a grilling stone placed on top of your grill can create a whole new cooking surface for your food. The extremely dense rock retains heat evenly and is terrific for cooking juicy burgers and crispy grilled cheese. The stone is food-safe, stain resistant and bacteria resistant, ensuring that your food not only tastes great, but is safe. Depending on the size of the stone, adventurous grillers can even attempt a stone-grilled, thin crust Napoleon style pizza. Cleaning the stone is just as simple as the cooking process – warm soapy water is enough to ensure a clean surface for next use.
About Ted Reader
Ted Reader is an award-winning chef and food entertainer, who’s parlayed his passion for food into a culinary tour de force that includes more than a dozen cookbooks, shelves of food products, live culinary performances, TV and radio cooking shows and appearances as well as culinary demonstrations, a catering company and teaching. Known for his pyrotechnic charm and fearless culinary spirit, it’s no surprise that GQ magazine labeled him the “crazy Canuck barbecue kingpin.” The dude just loves to cook!
Ted’s quest for creating “real food for real people” has seen this high-profile culinary barbecue guru demonstrate his flair for grilling in all venues from swanky ball rooms to the Pacific Ocean to a downtown Toronto parking lot. Today, he owns more than 100 barbecues, grills and smokers in all shapes and sizes and never goes anywhere without one in the back of his truck.