BBQ Grill Reviews
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This post about barbecue vs. grilling comes to us from August Bering V, “Augie” to his friends, is President of Bering’s Hardware in Houston, TX.
Barbecue vs. Grilling – There’s a World of Difference
The first thing you should know is that to grill and to barbeque are not synonymous. To grill is to cook over direct heat for minutes, and to barbeque is to cook over indirect heat using smoke and a slow heat for hours. This may be a point of semantics for some, but we’re talking religion here for those of us down South.
The Best BBQ Pits
The best barbeque is a pit with a grill (or rack) over some water source, with a fire box removed from the grill in which a fire is maintained for as long as 18 to 20 hours. This results in meats that are tender, moist, and flavored according to family and regional traditions.
The meat is prepared with a rub, and is bathed with sauce to keep the meat moist, fat side up to retain flavor. The rub and the sauce are cherished and no doubt well-protected recipes you will have to invent, or else beg, borrow or steal. Of course, there are some great books on Texas BBQ out there!
The pit, however, is fairly generic. On one side is a chimney with a damper to control smoke flow, heat retention, and even temperature. In the middle is the cooking chamber: some thermometer to help maintain a constant 200 to 300 degree temperature, a grill on which to place meats, and a water source below it in which to place spices, wood chips for flavoring, and of course, water, which helps keep the meats moist in the long cooking process.
On the far end is a fire box, in which a fire is maintained for the duration of the smoking process. This fire may be gas fueled, but purists will want a wood fired heat, burning some hard wood (you must never use any soft woods for grill or barbeque cooking) which you will start, build to a strong fire, then damper down and reduce the air flow, thus slowing the fire and reducing the resulting heat.
Because the dampers on either end of the barbeque pit are crucial in maintaining airflow, the door to the cooking chamber should also be a close fit with minimal air leakage. All of this suggests a pit made of heavy steel, and as long as you are interested in quality, you may as well get quantity, too: a serviceable pit is going to have a cooking chamber two feet by three feet. This will allow you to cook ribs, brisket, and chicken to feed a party, and will leave you room to cook vegetables alongside.
Different Sizes and Types of BBQ Grills
Grills come in many styles and designs. The principle is the same, however. The fire/heat source and the cooking surface are in one container. Your first choice of two, after you choose to grill versus barbeque, is over what fire source: gas or coals? Gas fires are instant heat, minimal clean-up, and ease of use.
Wood fires enable flavoring, finesse, and wood-based nuance. They also require cleaning, ash collection and removal, and a longer period between “hey let’s grill” and “food’s ready.” The rule of thumb is that coals take about 20 minutes from lighting to cooking; the impatient will find that the coals are ready about 15 minutes after you are. Coals allow you to burn flavoring hardwoods, or water-soaked hardwood chips over coals or briquettes, which imparts an exquisite flavor to meats.
The grilling container, generically speaking, should have a close fitting top, a grill on which to cook, a coal grill on which to make a fire that is elevated above the bottom of the container, some way to bring grill and fire closer or farther apart, and some air vents on opposite sides of the container (top- bottom, or left-right).
Your second choice is the size of the grill itself. Figure on having at minimum one square foot per person served. A hibachi is great for one person, or a couple who don’t eat too much. For a family of four, and really, if you have four, you’re probably going to have friends, so why not get a grill that is at least four square feet? Your basic Weber (the sputnik shaped grill) is close to five square feet.
Better too big a Grill than not big enough. Here’s why.
Cooking over a grill is the art of controlling heat. Whether you have coals or gas, there will be areas of higher and lower heat. Hot dogs take no time at all to cook, so you can put them over a high heat; Chicken cooks slower, and so needs a moderate heat. A bigger cut of meat is going to take as much as 20 minutes and you don’t want to burn it.
When your fire is going (coals are ready, or gas is burning) if you can put your hand over the grill one to two inches, and can tolerate it there for only two to four seconds, you have a high heat. If you can last for four to six, it is a medium heat; and if you can last longer than five to six seconds to as much as ten, it is a low heat.
Varying between these heats enables you to cook slower, keep items warm but not necessarily cooking, or sear to keep in flavor, as you choose. A grill will naturally have zones of differing heat. You must get to know your grill. If you have coals, you can arrange this by spreading the coals into an arc across the back of the grill, or to one side. With a multiple burner gas grill, this can be achieved by turning one burner higher or lower than the other(s).
Art comes from practice. Get out there and cook!
About the Author
August Bering V, “Augie” to his friends, is President of Bering’s Hardware in Houston, TX. Bering’s is well known for a broad range of carefully selected home goods such as housekeeping products to grilling products and accessories, and red carpet service that has delighted customers for generations since 1940. From your bridal registry, decorating your first home, to your first baby registry, Bering’s has special gifts for special occasions and the right tools for the right job. Augie enjoys spending time with his family and friends, grilling and cooking, playing hard outside, travelling, design, art, live music, and spending as much time as he can with his family.
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