With the Fourth of July just a couple of days away, I’m gonna go ahead and assume that more than a few of you have plans to fire up the grill this weekend. And why shouldn’t you? Barbecue was born for days like this one.
In the July issue of Field & Stream, I interviewed grilling guru Steven Raichlen–host of “Primal Grill” and “BBQ University” and author of the new book Planet Barbecue!–for some of his best barbecue pointers, which I’m also sharing here on the blog. I know I learned more than a few brilliant lessons from Raichlen’s advice, and I hope his tips will elevate the flavor of your ribs, burgers, backstraps, or whatever else you plan to grill this weekend that much higher.
As an added bonus, Raichlen was kind enough to donate a copy of Planet Barbecue! as a prize on the blog. Here’s how you can win it: If you barbecue this weekend (or even if you just eat barbecue) I want you to take a photo of your food and send it to email@example.com. Whoever takes the most mouth-watering photo wins the book. I’ll accept submissions until 5 pm (EST) on Tuesday, July 6. Good luck and have a great Independence Day.
And try not to pig out too much. –Colin
Good Wood: Raichlen prefers natural lump charcoal to briquettes. “Briquettes are made with sawdust, coal dust, and petroleum binders,” he says. “They can produce an acrid smoke flavor. Lump charcoal is just pure tree and gives you better flavor.”
Getting Started: Use a chimney starter instead of lighter fluid, which can give the meat a petroleum taste. Raichlen also recommends paraffin fire starters (available at hardware stores) to ignite the charcoal. When the coals glow orange and start to ash over, they’re ready.
Rule of Thirds: Raichlen rakes the coals to create a three-zone fire. First, make a mounded, double-thick layer of coals. This is your searing zone. Next, in the middle third of the grill, spread out an even layer of coals for a cooking zone. The third of the grill closest to you should have no coals. This is your safety zone and where you should quickly transfer the backstrap if it starts to burn.
Grate Advice: When the grill grate is screaming hot, clean it with a stiff-wire brush. Next, dip a tightly folded paper towel in olive oil and run it across the grate with tongs. “The grill master’s mantra is hot, clean, and lubricated,” says Raichlen. “Follow that, and you’ll get killer grill marks.”
Down for the Count: Hold your hand 3 inches over the grate and count: one Mississippi, two Mississippi… “If you get to three just before you have to say ouch,” Raichlen says, “your fire is hot and ready.”