Gas grills make no sense to me at all. I find little or no difference between them and the gas stove I have in my home. I can make a perfectly acceptable steak by grilling it on my stovetop cast iron griddle…or I can sear it in a pan and pop it in a hot oven. If the real reason for grilling is flavor, why wouldn’t you want something that makes a real difference?
A charcoal grill is the way to go. Besides the quality and source of your beef, wood and smoke are what makes the difference between a good steak and a great steak.
I know the #1 argument for going with gas over charcoal is time. “It takes too long to start a charcoal grill.” That’s a load of crap. I’ve convinced many friends over the years by showing them that it takes no more time to light a charcoal fire than it does a gas grill.
Here’s what you need: Get yourself the charcoal grill you like…the classic Weber is still an awesome choice.
Get a bag of hardwood charcoal. I’m not talking charcoal briquets, like Kingsford, that have a ton of additives in them. And definitely don’t ever use crap like Match Light. I’m talking pure hardwood charcoal, easily found in many stores.
Get a charcoal chimney. It’s a metal tube with a handle and a grate at the bottom. You crumble a couple of sheets of newspaper into the bottom, pour charcoal into the top, light it, and you have hot coals in 10 minutes without lighter fluid.
And DON’T EVER use lighter fluid! Why would you spend good money on a steak and then want to make it taste like gasoline?
The variety of wood chips available for smoking is another flavor factor when it comes to grilling with charcoal. My personal favorite is hickory, especially when I’m cooking pork or chicken. But apple, cherry, oak, mesquite: they all impart their own unique flavors. I have apple and cherry trees in my yard. So whenever they need a little pruning, I save those cut pieces of wood and use them to smoke with. And I love Jack Daniel’s smoking chips, made from the oak barrels that have had JD soaking in them. You can actually get high from sniffing the bag when you first open it!
You don’t need to buy a separate smoker. Simply soak some wood chips in water for about a 1/2 hour before grilling (I’ve found that hot water speeds the process up), drain the water, and then sprinkle the moist chips on the hot coals in your grill. Throw your meat on the grill, close the lid (opening the vents, of course) and off you go.
“I don’t cook with charcoal because it’s so messy!” So what are you…a girl? You probably have one of those fake plastic log gas fireplaces in your house, too.
Because I’m using a small amount of charcoal for the average dinner, I don’t have to clean out my charcoal grill every time I use it. After a while, yes, some ashes pile up in the bottom of my grill and I have to dump them. But because they’re pure wood ashes, I dump mine into my strawberry or raspberry patch. They love the stuff.
You still have to clean a gas grill after a while anyway, and it always runs out of propane halfway through cooking when you have guests over for dinner. So where’s the convenience in that?
Charcoal grills give you everything you could ask for: low maintenance…ease of use–no stupid propane tanks, valves and igniters…real wood flavor–not lava rocks, whatever the hell those things are…and the thrill of cooking meat over a real fire–bonding with the caveman in you, not some pussy with an umbrella drink and his shiny chrome gas grill with a thermometer that doesn’t work and burners that don’t cook evenly or get hot enough. And I cook throughout the winter with my charcoal grill.
Time to be a man again! Ditch the gas grill. Get the charcoal. And rediscover what a really good steak is supposed to taste like.