Archive for the ‘barbecue’ Category

 

I love these ribs. They’re one of the the first recipes I ever tried, and still one of my favorites. I’ll be making them again this weekend!
 
I like making these because you don’t need a grill or a smoker. They’re gooey, sweet and absolutely delicious!
 
 
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¾ cup soy sauce
 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
5 lbs. pork ribs
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 whole star anise
2 cinnamon sticks (3”)
1/2 cup honey
4 cups chicken broth
 
Mix the soy sauce and the hoisin in a bowl, and set it aside. These are the marinade ingredients.
 
If the ribs are large, cut them into individual pieces. If smaller, cluster 2 or 3 ribs together. Place them in a large pot. Cover them with water and bring it to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Drain.
 
Place the ribs on a baking sheet lined with non-stick aluminum foil or with a rack and coat them with the marinade. Let them sit for 10 minutes.
 
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the ribs on the baking sheet for 30 minutes.
 
While the ribs are baking, start the sauce in a large non-stick pan or pot that will hold all the ribs: combine the lemon zest and juice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, honey and chicken broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer.
 
When the ribs have finished baking, add them to the sauce pot and simmer (covered) for at least 15 minutes or until the rib meat is tender.
 
Turn the heat on high, uncover the pot and cook until the sauce is reduced to a glaze that coats the ribs. Be sure to reduce the heat as the sauce thickens or the sugars in the honey will burn! When the ribs are sticky and gooey, they’re ready.
 
Substituting grapefruit for the lemon works really well. And I like to switch the honey for maple syrup! Yum!
 

 

With Thanksgiving now just weeks away, I’d like to share my recipe for what I consider to be the perfect turkey.

I often get asked if I deep-fry my turkey for Thanksgiving. I think it’s way too messy and time-consuming for nothing better than an “OK-tasting” bird. I lived in the South for a few years, and my friends fried a turkey on several occasions. I wasn’t impressed.

First, you need to find a safe spot in the yard to blast the propane-fueled fryer so you don’t burn your house down. Then you need to stand outside and freeze your butt off while it fries, while your friends and family are all indoors having cocktails. Then you need to get rid of gallons of used oil, and clean up a huge mess at the end of it all. And through all this, you need to make sure the oil is at the right temperature so you don’t get a scorched turkey on the outside and a raw turkey on the inside.

No, thanks.

I get great results by cooking my turkey in my Weber grill. I’ve cooked it this way every Thanksgiving for about 30 years. The standard Weber allows me to cook up to a 15 lb. bird–big enough for my purposes–and it comes out crispy, smokey and delicious. If you’re afraid to try this for the first time at Thanksgiving when it really matters, buy a turkey right now, grill it, and bring a bunch of turkey sandwiches to work to share with your friends….then wait for their reaction.

Or be bold! Go for the gusto the first time around. I did it that way and I never looked back.

 

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

The charcoal chimney with hot coals awaits.

 

Although I’ve stopped using charcoal briquettes for basic grilling a long time ago, and now strictly use natural hardwood charcoal, this recipe works best with Kingsford briquettes. They burn slowly and evenly. I never use lighter fluid…I always start my fire with a few pieces of crumbled newspaper under a charcoal chimney.

The tools you need:
A Weber grill, with the dome top
Kingsford charcoal briquettes (don’t t use Match Lite or other pre-soaked briquettes)
A charcoal chimney, easily found at Home Depot or Lowe’s
A heavy-duty disposable aluminum pan
Ingredients:
Whole turkey, up to 15 lbs., thawed and brined (see my previous blog about brining a turkey)
Olive oil (to rub on the turkey)
2 yellow onions, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
½ lb. (2 sticks) of unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon pepper

 

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

Spreading the coals away from the center of the grill.

 

If you want stuffing, it’s always wise to make it separately and cook it separately.

Light 8 to 10 lbs. of charcoal in the grill…depending on the size of the turkey and how cold it is outside.

If you brined the turkey first, you’ve already removed the giblets. If you’re not brining, go ahead remove the giblets from the thawed bird now. Place the turkey in the aluminum pan.

In a small bowl, mix the granulated garlic, granulated onion, salt, and pepper. (Definitely add any other seasonings you might like.)

Coarsely chop the onions and celery. Place them in a another bowl. Mix them with the melted butter and 1/3 of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture.

Place a small handful of this onion and celery “stuffing” mixture in the neck cavity of the turkey. Place the rest in the body cavity (where the stuffing would usually go.) You can fasten the bird with turkey skewers if you like. This “stuffing” is strictly to flavor the turkey…you don’t eat it!

 

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

The rubbed, stuffed and seasoned bird.

 

Rub the outside of the entire turkey with the olive oil and sprinkle the rest of the garlic/onion/salt/pepper mixture on the outside of the bird. Make sure you get the bird on the bottom as well.

When the coals in the grill have ashed over, spread them to the outside edges of the Weber grill equally. Put the cooking grill rack in place. Place the aluminum pan with the turkey in the center of the grill, keeping it away from the direct heat of the coals. If you’re using a meat thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the breast, being careful not to hit the bone. Place the lid on the grill. (You may need to bend your aluminum pan a bit.) Open the vents on the bottom of the Weber as well as the vents on the lid. It’s important to get air circulating!

 

My meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! Time for a cocktail!

My old-school meat thermometer calls me from as far as 100 feet away! (Newer thermometers are wireless and talk to your smart phone.) Time to join family and friends for a cocktail!

 

No basting is necessary.

Now here’s the tough part: DO NOT OPEN THE GRILL TO CHECK ON THE TURKEY! (If you must look, shine a flashlight into the vent holes on the lid to take a peek at the pop-up timer, if there is one.) The whole point is to keep the heat inside the kettle. You’ll know your turkey is done when no more smoke or heat rises from the grill, and the turkey inside stops making sizzling noises. The internal meat temperature should be around 165 degrees.

And believe it or not, a 15-lb. turkey will be cooked in about 2 hours!

If you’re using a meat thermometer (recommended), remove the turkey when it hits about 155 degrees, wrap it in foil, leaving the thermometer still in the bird, and let it rest at least 20 minutes. The temperature will go up a bit to 165 or even a little higher, before it starts going down.

 

Beautifully grilled, and perfectly cooked in less than 2 hours!

Beautifully grilled, perfectly cooked!

 

Bulgogi is the name given to the most common form of Korean barbecue. Unlike the daeji bulgogi that I cooked in a previous blog, this one is not based on a chili sauce that can take the roof of your mouth right off.

I used chicken, though this would work with pork as well, and for the best flavor, it’s best to marinate the meat in the fridge overnight.

 

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2/3 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped scallions
6 tablespoons sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
5 tablespoons fresh garlic, grated or through a garlic press
5 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper
5 lbs. chicken pieces (I use skin-on thighs)

 

Combine all the ingredients except for the chicken in a bowl and mix well.

Place the chicken pieces in a large Ziploc bag and pour the marinade in. Seal the bag well and squish it around to make sure the marinade makes contact with the chicken. Place the bag in a bowl (to prevent accidental leakage) and keep it in the fridge overnight. Squish the bag around every few hours to make sure the marinade does its job.

When you’re ready to cook the next day, pre-heat the oven to 350 and remove the bag from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Place the chicken on a sheet pan (discard the remaining marinade) and bake it for an hour.

Light a hot grill and push the coals to one side of the grill. Place the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill and close the lid, opening the vents. Every few minutes, turn the chicken pieces over so they get nice grill marks but don’t burn.

 

 

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I’ve always been fascinated by Korean barbecue. Every time I see it on TV or catch a recipe on an e-mail blast, my mouth waters and I say to myself that I’ve got to experience it some day. But the painful reality is: Korean barbecue can be really spicy…and I’m a total wuss.

Korean barbecue 101: Gogigui means “meat roast” in Korean, and it refers to the method of roasting beef, pork, chicken, and other meats. Meats can be marinated or not. Bulgogi is the name of the most common Korean barbecue. Meat is marinated with soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic and pepper, and then grilled. Galbi uses beef short ribs, and adds onions to the marinade. And the hot stuff is daeji bulgogi, because the marinade isn’t soy sauce-based, but based on the hot-n-spicy Korean chili paste known as gochujang.

All of the marinades looked delicious, but the hot one with gochujang would be my biggest challenge, so I decided to start there. I found a great recipe, and quickly realized that I would have to turn the heat way down if I was actually going to try to eat it! For example, the original recipe called for 2 tablespoons of white pepper. I totally left it out. And it called for a full cup of gochujang. Not only did I cut that part in half, I doubled many of the other non-spicy ingredients.

So is it authentic Korean barbecue? Probably not. But it’s my version of it. It’s got lots a flavor and still carries a bit of heat.

For gluten-free diets: finding GF hoisin and soy sauce is pretty easy these days. Look for the La Choy brand. But I haven’t been able to find gochujang that has a GF label.

 

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3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup gochujang
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon freshly grated garlic (I use a garlic press)
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
4 lbs. chicken pieces

 

Pre-heat the oven to 500 or its top temperature.

In a bowl, mix everything but the chicken pieces. Brush the sauce onto the chicken pieces, then wrap them in aluminum foil. (I like to tear a long piece of aluminum foil and lay it on top of a sheet pan. I place the chicken pieces on the foil, brush them with sauce on all sides, then fold the foil over the chicken, making one large pouch that holds all the meat.) Leave the pouch on the sheet pan and place it in the oven, then lower the oven temp to 350.

Cook the chicken for about an hour at 350, making sure it’s almost completely cooked. Juices should run clear, not bloody, when you poke it with a fork.

Start a hardwood fire on your grill. Push the coals to one side of the grill so you have a hot side and a cooler side with no coals underneath it. Place the chicken pieces on the cool side of the grill (if you put it on the hot side, it will stick and burn), brush with more sauce, and put the lid on the grill, making sure you have the vents open for air circulation.

 

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See those 2 black bits in the foreground? That’s where the chicken stuck to the grill because I placed them over the hot coals. Don’t do that.

After a few minutes, lift the lid, flip the chicken pieces over, brush them with sauce again, and close the lid. Keep doing this until the chicken is nice and caramelized, with tasty grill marks.

If you want to serve some of the sauce on the side, it’s important to pour some of the sauce off and set it aside in the very beginning, so you’re not using the same sauce that the basting brush touched the raw chicken with.

 

 

 

 

Brining, the process of letting a hunk of protein soak in a salt solution for a few hours, is a great way to add flavor and moisture to any cut of meat. I brine chicken pieces for 3 hours before using a sweet and spicy rub. They can be grilled or roasted in the oven.

The first time tried this recipe, I used chicken wings. But later, I cut up a whole chicken, and found that parts is parts…every piece was delicious!

 

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The brine…

1/2 cup Kosher salt
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 whole bay leaf
2 quarts water

Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar and salt dissolve. Remove from the heat, and let it cool to room temperature.

 

The rub…

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sweet paprika
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated onion
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.

If you have a baking pan like this, you can brine and then cook the chicken in one pan.

Place about 3 lbs. of chicken wings or parts in a baking pan, as above. Place it in the fridge for 3 hours. Pour in the cooled brine, making sure the pieces are submerged.

After 3 hours, remove the chicken from the brine and dry the pieces with paper towels. Discard the brine, and place the chicken pieces back in the empty baking pan.

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1/3 cup of the rub, rubbing it in to coat the chicken well. (Wearing disposable gloves makes this less messy.) Place the pan with the chicken in the fridge until you’re ready to cook.

 

About 30 minutes before cooking, remove the pan from the fridge and let the chicken come to room temperature.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 or light a grill.

Toss the chicken with some more of the rub, if you like.

Bake at 350 for 30–40 minutes or until they’re done, about 165 degrees.

If you’re grilling, cook the wings over medium heat, turning them frequently to prevent burning. Cook until the chicken reaches temperature of 165 degrees.

 

I grill year-round. I’ll stand in 3 feet of snow to get smoked ribs just right, if I have to. Through years of tireless experimentation, I’ve come up with a barbecue sauce that I can be proud of. I prefer a slightly sweet and tangy barbecue sauce,  and it works really well with pork or chicken.

What makes this sauce special is the citrus. I originally used lemon juice for this recipe and it was good. Lime juice was better. Adding lime zest: even better than that. I tried orange juice and zest, even Meyer lemon. But the Big Daddy of ’em all was grapefruit. I was craving my barbecue sauce one day and only had a grapefruit in the fridge. I thought: how bad could this be? Turned out to be the perfect foil to the sweetness of the brown sugar and ketchup.

Try this sauce on your next batch of chicken wings or even a whole bird. Cook the bird almost all the way through, brushing the sauce on for the last 20 minutes so that the sugars don’t burn. Then just try to stop eating it!

Chix BBQ

 

GRAPEFRUIT BARBECUE SAUCE
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
Juice and zest of 1 grapefruit
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup dried onion flakes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, like Frank’s Red Hot
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
(no salt)

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes on low, until slightly thickened.

 

saucey

If you like a less sweet, more vinegary style to your barbecue sauce, this is the one. How could a sauce that’s inspired by what most people claim to be the best barbecue joint in the USA, Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin, Texas, be bad? People line up early in the morning and wait as much as four hours for a slab of brisket from this place. I’ll get there one day. In the meantime, I have the sauce…

 

2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup water
6 tablespoons cider vinegar
6 tablespoons white vinegar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin

 

Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until the flavors have blended, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temp. If you store it in an airtight container in the fridge, it’ll stay good for a few months.

 

 

When it comes to grilling, lamb is often overlooked. Some folks think it tastes too gamey, which can be true with grass-fed lamb that comes from New Zealand or Australia. Although you can’t beat their strict quality standards, the flavor can be intense.

I don’t mind that intense lamb flavor in a chop, but when I make lamburgers, I like to mix ground beef with ground
lamb to give it a milder flavor. And when I cook them over hardwood charcoal, the flavor is outstanding! Even seared in a cast iron skillet and finished in the oven, these burgers are awesome.

1 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. ground beef
2 tablespoons
1/2 onion, minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon each fresh parsley, mint, and dill, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Greek oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 large clove garlic, squeezed through a garlic press
1 scallion, finely chopped, green part only
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Fresh herbs make the difference!

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook it until it’s translucent, about 6 minutes. Transfer the onion to a plate to cool.

In a bowl, mix the cooled onion, mustard, parsley, mint, dill, oregano, cumin, garlic, scallion, and salt and pepper.

In another bowl, combine the lamb with the beef, so they are mixed well. Then add the onion mix bowl to the meat and make sure all the ingredients are combined. Add the breadcrumbs and mix again. Then add the egg and mix one more time.

Form the meat into patties. Place them on a baking sheet covered with non-stick foil, and place the baking sheet in the fridge.

The indentation in the center of the patty keeps it from swelling up while cooking.

Don’t let the lamburgers get too cold in the fridge…just enough to firm the meat up a bit. If it gets too cold, give it a few minutes at room temp to warm up again.  Grill the burgers over hardwood charcoal until they are cooked to medium.

If you’re cooking indoors, heat some avocado oil in an oven-proof pan, preferably cast iron. Sear the burgers well on both sides, then place the pan in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking.

Extra meat is great for meatballs! Just freeze them for another time.

Place the burgers on buns, and smear the bun with the feta cheese dressing.

If the food is good, someone’s always watching!

My recipe for feta cheese dressing works really well with lamburgers. But it’s also great on a salad.

3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1  cup mayo
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce, like Franks Red Hot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4–5 oz. crumbled feta cheese

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate. If you can wait a day, it’s even better.

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Not a very complex idea. I just put the stuff that’s usually on the outside, on the inside of my burgers. Why? Why not?

If I’m making bacon cheeseburgers to bring to a barbecue, even if it’s on my back deck, instead of bringing a package of bacon and a package of cheese and a stack of burgers, I’ve got all the ingredients conveniently in the patties. And as the burgers cook, the fat from the bacon and the gooey cheese melt and combine with the burger meat to make a really tasty and moist burger.

I make 2 lbs. of burgers at a time, using grass-fed beef.

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2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4″ cubes
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, cooled and crumbled
garlic salt
avocado oil or pork fat

 

In a bowl, combine the beef, the cheese and the bacon, mixing well so that all the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Form the beef into 1/4 lb. patties. Refrigerate them until you’re ready to cook to firm them up.

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a drop of oil or pork fat. Place the burgers in the hot skillet to sear and sprinkle with the garlic salt. When browned, flip the burgers and place the skillet in a 350-degree oven to finish cooking.

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If I’m at a steakhouse and craving beef, I’ll usually order a cut like porterhouse or ribeye…great cuts of meat that need nothing more than a little salt and pepper, and a skillful grillmaster. The prep on that slab of meat before it even hits the grill has already been done: carving, dry-aging, trimming.

At home, we eat only humanely raised grass-fed beef. It’s expensive, so we buy the cuts that cost less, but need a bit of TLC before cooking. A cut like beef flap, which comes from the bottom sirloin butt (the back of the animal), looks like a skirt steak, a hanger steak, or a flank steak because of its thinness, but each comes from a different part of the animal.

Though the beef flap is somewhat thin, I will often slice it lengthwise into two thinner pieces, because the meat’s thickness often varies, which can give you uneven cooking. I like to cook it hot and fast on a hardwood fire grill, but still keep it medium-rare. If the weather is really unforgiving, cooking the beef in a hot cast iron skillet works well, too.

Marinades are the key to tenderizing and flavoring tougher or cheaper cuts of meat. What you put in your marinade really depends on what flavors you like.

The recipes below are for 3 to 5 lbs. of beef. I always make more, because leftover marinated grilled beef makes an awesome steak and egg breakfast the next day!

 

A cold winter's night is no excuse not to grill!

A cold night is no excuse not to grill!

 

The instructions with all of these marinades is basically the same: combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Cut the beef flap (or whatever cut of meat you’re using) to a manageable size so that it fits a gallon-sized Ziploc bag easily. (Smaller, thinner pieces will also absorb the marinade better.) Place the beef in the bag, and then pour the marinade into the bag. Squeeze the excess air out and seal the bag. Gently squish the bag around so that the marinade makes contact with all the meat. Place the bag in a bowl in the fridge overnight, squishing the bag every few hours to make sure the marinade penetrates the meat. The bowl will prevent any accidents from happening in your fridge in case the bag leaks. The next day, remove the bag from the fridge and let it come to room temperature before grilling the meat. Discard the leftover marinade.

ALZ MARINADE #355
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Combine the ingredients. Marinate the meat overnight in the fridge or several hours at room temperature. Grill.

 

Marinating beef flap.

Marinating beef flap.

 

On the North Fork of Long Island, in the middle of wine country, there’s a restaurant that’s been around for a long time: a sort of hole-in-the-wall place you might not think twice about visiting, unless you hear that they’ve got a special secret marinade for their beef. The place is called The Elbow Room (I think they’ve expanded to a second or third location by now), and though I wasn’t impressed by the quality of their beef, I was impressed with its flavor. Here, with the help of friends, is what we think comes as close to that marinade as we can get. Gravymaster is a product you can find in any supermarket, usually in the gravy section. This marinade also works well with beef tips or a London broil.

 

ingredients

1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup Gravymaster
2 large Vidalia onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons celery seed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the onions and garlic in a large food processor and purée. Add the remaining ingredients and run the processor until it’s smooth and sort of resembles root beer (below.)

 

marinade

 

Marinate the meat overnight in the fridge or for several hours at room temperature. Grill. Awesome with beef sirloin tips (below.)

 

beef-tips

 

This incredibly simple marinade falls into the “Italian” category. You could almost use it as an Italian dressing on salads, but it works really well as a marinade for beef.

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper

The balsamic vinegar I use is not the expensive aged stuff that costs a fortune. It’s the $9-a-bottle stuff you can find in any supermarket. Simply combine the ingredients. Marinate the meat in the fridge overnight or for several hours at room temperature. Grill.

 

 

 

 

 

I find little or no difference between the stove in my kitchen and an outdoor gas grill…so I don’t own one. I can make a perfectly delicious steak by searing it in a cast iron pan on the stovetop, then finishing it in a hot oven. So, for me, if the real reason for outdoor grilling is flavor, nothing can replace a hardwood charcoal grill.

Besides the quality and source of my beef, wood and smoke are what make the difference between a good steak and a great steak.

beef brisket

I know the #1 argument for going with gas over hardwood charcoal is time. “It takes too long to start a charcoal grill.” That’s a load of crap. Over the years, I’ve showed many friends that it takes no more time to light a charcoal fire than it does to start up a gas grill.

Of course, it starts with the grill itself. The classic Weber is still an awesome choice. For larger cooking needs, I also have a Primo ceramic grill.

Then I get a bag of hardwood charcoal. I’m not talking charcoal briquets, like Kingsford, that have a ton of additives in them. And I’m definitely not talking about Match Light. I’m talking pure hardwood charcoal, easily found in supermarkets and home stores.

Next: a charcoal chimney. It’s a metal tube with a handle and a grate at the bottom. I crumble a couple of sheets of newspaper into the bottom, pour charcoal into the top, light it, and I have hot coals in 10 minutes without lighter fluid.

And I NEVER use lighter fluid! Why spend good money on a great steak only 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. And they’re all available in most home stores where you find all the other barbecue gear.

Although I have an electric smoker for those low-and-slow jobs, like a big ol’ brisket or pork shoulder, I don’t need it when grilling a steak. I 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 my grill. I throw the meat on the grill, close the lid (opening the vents, of course) and off we go.

So now, in 10 minutes, I’ve got a grill that’s ready to cook a steak with…about the same time as gas.

If you say: “I don’t cook with charcoal because it’s so messy!” …I honestly don’t know if you and I can be friends.

Because I’m using a small amount of hardwood charcoal for the average dinner, I don’t have to clean out my 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 can dump mine into my strawberry or raspberry patch. They love the stuff.

You still have to clean a gas grill after a while, 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 propane tanks, valves and igniters–real wood flavor, not lava rocks, and the thrill of cooking meat over a real fire, bonding with the caveman in you. Grab a beer–or even better: a bourbon on the rocks–and start grilling!