Has this ever happened to you? It’s the weekend (or a holiday) and you decide to grill with your family and friends. You’ve got everything you need but the charcoal bag is a little too low. So you send someone to the store to get more. They go and return with some off-brand name. Fine, you say. Let’s get started. And after an hour (or more) of frustratingly dealing with the coals that were brought to you (and plenty of complaining from everyone else), you can finally get the show in the road. What gives? Continue reading
I absolutely love cooking out! Honestly, I can’t get enough of it. And those folks that have visited here before know that to be the case. Shoot, I can go on like a broken record on why grilling is such a passion of mine. In fact, that’s exactly why I started this blog. And it turned out to be one of the best decisions that I think I’ve made. But when I tell some of my acquaintances and neighbors about it, they tend to think that I’m some kind of expert, which I am not. Allow me to explain.
You see, I have never been to a culinary school. Nor have I ever been a restaurant chef or worked as a caterer. I have worked as a short order cook for a Mom-and-Pop fish & chicken shack, back in my younger days. But that hardly qualifies, right?
Furthermore, I am not a published author on grilling related cuisine. Not once have I entered a barbecue competition, and have never secured a contract to cook for anyone’s company picnic or trade association. And I have never been one of those guys that cooks barbecue plates for sale in a gas station parking lot.
What I have done is cookout an awful lot over the years. I have dedicated myself to learning my craft and improving it by doing plenty of research, talking to other grillmasters for advice, and learning how to grill a variety of different foods through good old fashioned trial and error. I’ve got plenty of experience and am the go-to guy whenever any of my family and friends throw a cookout and need a grill man. I have also given out plenty of advice of my own over the years to guys that want to grill for their own families.
So you see, I am not an expert. But the truth is, that ain’t the point of grilling. In my opinion, the entire point to grilling is to enjoy cooking your food from a freshly made fire of charcoals with loved ones. It does not take an expert to make the foods served taste good. The truth is, anyone can do it. YOU can do it.
You Don’t Need To Be An Expert
I would caution those that are caught in a paralysis of analysis to chill out. Thing is, with the rise of these food shows, tv channels and websites, ordinary folks get to thinkin’ that they need a Ph.D just to cook dinner! That’s nonsense y’all. Yes, those fancy dishes are best made by experts, but good cookin’ is fair game for anyone to learn. YOU can learn. And the best part is that you learn by doing it. Yes, I want you to read the material here at cookouteveryday.com. But more importantly, I want you to get out there and grill!
The best advice I can give you on grilling as a whole is that you’ll learn far more by actually grilling than you will from reading about grilling. Naturally, learning a new technique or recipe can be read about, but making it well comes from the experience of cooking it. Let’s wrap this up. Remember, there is no need for you to become an “expert” at grilling for folks to enjoy your cooking. Just making tasty food is a good enough goal. Now get out there and grill.
This is a guest post by Max from the website CampingandHikingIdeas.com, a fabulous resource for all things related to both camping and hiking along trails. We appreciate her expert advice on this topic.
As an avid camper I have had some darn fine camp food in my time. I have also had some food cooked so horrendously that the only thing it fed was the fire.
Most people, when they camp, take along a camp stove and then rely on sticks and hotdogs to get them through the trip. Canned beans are popular, if they remember to bring the can opener, which five times out of ten they forget. Some ambitious individuals bring steak and proceed to char it to death, leaving nearly raw areas because they don’t know just how variable a fire can be.
So what do you do? The food has to be tasty—what is the use of a camping trip if you don’t enjoy yourself? Where’s the pleasure in remembering every trip as “the food was horrible, but we had fun!”?
You need the Grill Master’s secret weapon while camping—charcoal.
That’s right—charcoal. Take a bag of charcoal briquettes with you.
This is your emergency back-up master plan for cooking. Experiment all you want, but when you need the food to be good, and you need the cooking to work, charcoal briquettes is the way to go.
In the Philippines it’s a common practice to take one of those tinfoil turkey roasters that you can buy at the grocery store this time of year and fill that with charcoal briquettes, light them and throw a cheap little grill over it. Works really well, too—my brother and his wife visit the Philippines regularly to spend time with her family. Bbq is big there, especially on the beaches.
But back to camping.
There are many who will tell you, and I am one of them, that charcoal is the Rolls Royce of camp cooking. A campfire is difficult to regulate heat with. There are so many factors to consider—type of fuel you are using, the time of year, the weather—all these affect the temperature, and therefore the cooking outcome—of whatever it is you want to grill.
Charcoal helps because it regulates the heat. We’ve used it for spit-roasting and pit-cooking, and have thrown it to the side of a campfire and stuck a grill overtop (camping hint: get the oven rack from an old oven for a grill—they’re far sturdier than the camping grills most stores offer and are often free because the stove is being discarded) for steaks and hamburgers.
So keep your menus simple while camping, but take along a couple of bags of charcoal for one or two meals where you really need to trust the heat you’re cooking over. I guarantee you—those meals will be the memory-makers!
For more information on any topics related to hiking or camping, please visit CampingandHikingIdeas.com
Each time I slide open the back door to the patio, I get that surge of adrenaline. The time has come to start the grill. I say this all the time and its absolutely true; any chance I get to cookout fills me with a giddiness and excitement like no other. No matter the time of day (or night), day of the week, or month of the year, there’s no place like standing in front of my grill! See, Dorothy had it wrong in the movie cause Kansas can’t compare to cooking out – not even a little bit (not that there’s anything wrong with Kansas).
And without a doubt, I can’t even start that fire without making sure that I have all of my bbq grilling accessories handy. When that smoky aroma begins filling my backyard, I want everything to be right where it should be; strategically placed and right at my disposal. It makes for a stress free and wonderfully good time. Continue reading
No matter how many times I do it, each time fills me with joy! Cooking on a grill is my stress relieving activity. At it’s highest level, we’re talking about art. At it’s lowest, it’s still a science (cause you gotta make sure that meat is cooked through enough that you won’t get nobody sick). And all that in-between is pure fun!
But we all had to start somewhere. Yes, I can remember being in front of that hot bucket of coals wondering what I was doing. It may have been awhile ago, but I know what it’s like having them hungry folks behind you that you want to please, but scared you’ll mess up at the same time. It’s natural. And your people won’t mind too much…just remember this — if they knew how to barbecue, then they’d be sweatin’ in front of that grill while you waited impatiently in the background. That’s okay though, cause we are about to feed them people!
In this post, we are going to discuss some general grilling tips for cooking out, because this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. There are plenty of factors that come into play, like the type of meat (or veggies) that you slap on there. Obviously, not all food cooks the same, but we can still observe some general guidelines that apply to backyard grilling as a whole. Let’s get started.
What Will We Need?
Not a lot, actually. We are going to stick with [seven] eight basic things:
I went over firing up the grill first, because that’s what I do. Then while that bad boy is getting hot, I tend to my meats. I believe that in order to have nice & tasty dishes, you should prep your foods the night before. That means cleaning (washing the meat once your take it outta the packaging), seasoning & covering the food, so it’s ready to roll when you start the grill. However, some meats I tend to when the grill is heating up. So here’s what ya do to prepare your meat:
Take it out of the packaging & wash it in the kitchen sink. Lukewarm water is fine. The key is to run water over the meat at all angles so it is clean of any bacteria (this isn’t necessary for hamburgers).
Place it on a plate from the cabinet, so the excess water has a place to settle. I don’t pat it dry (but you can with a clean paper towel if you prefer), so I sit each piece on a plate till I’m done cleaning
After that, season your meat. Here’s where the fun begins; there are endless types of seasonings, but to keep things simple, just use pepper, garlic powder, & seasoning salt. Your food will taste fine with these three. But please feel free to experiment & have fun. Sprinkle it over the meat so it covers it, but don’t drown it.
Place on a dry plate (or put it into a dish of marinade) & cover until you put it on the grill.
The Moment of Truth
Everything we have gone over leads to this – slapping that meat on the grill! This is what it’s all about; all the preliminary prep work is for getting that mouth watering food tasting right. First things first; it is important that you understand that everyone has their own way of cooking their food. What this means is that although grilling is basically the same wherever you go, feel free to cook how you feel comfortable.
So the first grilling tip is to relax! That meat’s going to taste just fine. Here’s what you do:
Place your meat on the center area of your grill, seasoning side face up (facing you). This is the hottest portion, so you can be sure that it will cook through properly.
Close the lid. This will not only encase the food in heat, you’ll also get the full benefit of those smoky flavors soaking into your meats.
Wait at least 5 minutes before turning!!! Honestly, this is the hardest step because while the food is cooking, we all get an irresistable urge to fiddle with it. DON’T! Let it cook at least five minutes before you check it.
After those five minutes, turn it onto it’s seasonings side. Now, let it cook another few minutes (it doesn’t have to be 5 – 3 minutes is fine). Don’t cook the seasonings side as long, because 1)The meat is cooking through on the other side, we’re just browning this side. 2)That’s the side you leave up for presentation when the food’s done.
Crucial Grilling Tip: In order to know how done the meat is, use your spatula to test it by pressing on the food to check it. Don’t press too hard, cause this will squeeze the juices out of it, but this way you can check the firmness. (If you haven’t done much cooking at all, do this; press the meat when it’s raw, so you can have a reference point for how soft it is when raw) As your meat cooks, it will get firmer. You will know it’s done when you press it & two things happen: 1)It is firm against pressure & 2)*Especially for hamburgers* You see clear grease coming out when squeezed. This means the meat is cooked well all the way through.
Once your meat is cooked, take it off the heat and place it directly into a dish or on a tray & cover with aluminum foil. Try to leave it alone for about five minutes to settle. Now enjoy your food! See, that was easy, wasn’t it?
General Grilling Tips
Try to refrain from poking & prodding the meat. All this does is puncture it so those tasty juices flow right out. Ever had dry babecue? That’s why.
If you are not comfortable with pressing the meat to check if it’s done, then get a reliable meat thermometer. There’s no harm in that, since its most important to cook comfortably.
When you have finished grilling for the day, close the lid, shut off the vents, and let that fire burn out overnight. You can clean it the next day. Remember – charcoal can burn inside of a grill for a long time. To stay on the safe side, always give that fire a full day to burn out.
Hot dogs cook just fine with an open grill. Hell, you can teach your kids to grill by starting with those bad boys.
Keep your grill clean! If you’ve ever cleaned a grill, you know how much fun it isn’t, but its very necessary.
Experiment & have fun!! What I teach & advocate is learning to develop a feel for grilling.
Everyone has their way of doing things – this is a prime example of just that. After just two or three cookouts, you may not know how to cook everything, but I can ganruntee you that you will have developed a much stronger comfort level with the process based on experience. And the best part is, if you devote just a little time to it, you will improve leaps and bounds as ya go. That’s what makes the whole thing fun!
I still remember my first time cooking on the grill like it was yesterday. More than a few years back, I got myself one of those minature charcoal grills that are sold at the dollar store (I think I paid 20 bucks for one), because at the time me and the Missuz were living in a second floor apartment unit. Shoot, that didn’t stop me – I would barbecue on the balcony! Safe to say, that isn’t optimal.
Anyhow, I basically learnt through trial by error…there were some good meals, and then there were some “learning experiences.” But it was great fun all the same. In them days, I would try to cook everything on that little grill. And honestly, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong until a buddy of mine invited me to use the grill at his place (I can’t recall why; I think he knew I enjoyed grilling more). That experience opened my eyes to the need for a genuine grown-ups grill. Once we moved, you better believe that thing was at the top of the to-do list.
That’s what I love about outdoor cooking: everybody gets there a slightly different way. Some people get trained as pups from their daddies. Other folks learn from watching the cook at the football tailgates. Heck, I even knew a guy that learned in the Boy Scouts (now that’s what he said – who am I to correct him?). The point is, we all learn in our own way. And now, it’s time for you to learn to cook on the grill from the advice given here at cookouteveryday.com! And without further delay…
Let’s fire up that grill!
Lighting The Charcoal Grill
Learning to grill with charcoal is simple. It’s mastering the art that will come with time. But before anything gets cooked, we gotta get that grill goin! And to fire up the grill, we will need
four five things;
Let’s get started;
First, empty your charcoal into the bed of the grill, on top of the
bottom rack. Now make sure to open up the vents so that the fire you will start can eventually breathe.
Second, arrange the charcoal into a pyramid shape. It doesn’t have to be too high, but make sure to place this pyramid in the center of the grill.
Third, spray the lighter fluid on the briquettes. I recommend
squirting around to bottom and working up to the top. However, towards the top, spray inside of the stack. This will get your fire hot faster and you won’t need a whole lot of lighter fluid ignite the fire.
Fourth, strike one of the matches and place it at one point of the base of briquettes. Done properly, the lit match will ignite the lighter fluid that you spayed on the briquettes earlier. Repeat, and try to place a lit match at each point of the four ends of the base. (Tip: do this
quickly, but don’t rush. Once the flame catches the briquettes, it spreads quickly!)
Fifth, let that fire burn for 20 minutes or so. This is key, because you want to make absolutely sure that your charcoal is fully heated. You will know when it’s good to go, because the coals with be completely gray and ashed over. This
means that your coals are fully heated and ready for cooking! (Tip: if the charcoal is ashed over but you can still see flames, just give it another couple of minutes for the flames to die down before placing the grill rack back on the grill.)
Sixth, Grab the grill rack with the long thongs and place it back on top of the grill. Remember, the grill will be hot, so make sure to have a firm grip on the rack and place it on the grill carefully. The grill is now ready for cooking.
If you follow these directions carefully, you shouldn’t have any problems while you learn to cook on the grill. But here are a few things to consider for charcoal grilling safety:
Although this is a controlled fire, keep in mind that you are starting a fire! Please keep the lighter fluid at least 10 feet away from the grill, just to be safe. I’ve been grilling for years, and I still practice this.
NO CELL PHONES OR GADGETS!!! I want you to pay attention to what you are doing; firing up a grill is easy. The flip side of that coin means that if you tip that thing over, then you could have an uncontrolled fire on your hands. For goodness sake, just concentrate on what you are doing those first few times. An once of prevention…
Keep that pair of long thongs handy. Sometimes a portion of the coals don’t light with the others. The long thongs are good because you can safely grab the unlit coals and place them in the center of your pyramid. Once the fire is going, those things will light just fine.
Keep the grill open so you can easily see how the fire is progressing. There’s no harm done if you close it, but for now, open is fine.
Taking the time to learn to cook on the grill with charcoal begins with properly igniting your fire and getting it ready. Next comes the best part…cooking that delicious barbecue!
Today was a great day. I didn’t have to go to work and it was beautiful outside. So naturally, I decided to throw something on the grill. For me, grilling will never get old. Once I get that bad boy fired up, that first whiff of charcoal always makes my day! It reminds me that life is A okay (regardless of what’s going on), because I still get to enjoy my passion. And most times, that’s all I need.
Yes, I really did grill today. And while the charcoal was getting hot, my thoughts drifted to this site. Well, specifically this very page. Why? Because today we are going to talk about the things you need to set up your own cookout. That’s right, we are gonna set you up with a simple cookout checklist. This will guarantee that your get together runs nice and smooth.
I still remember what it was like when I began barbecuing. It seemed like there was always something that wasn’t getting done. Sure there was some uncertainty, but mostly I was bothered that I didn’t know what I needed. Yes of course that feeling passes, but we are gonna help you avoid that situation by giving you a simple cookout checklist to help you get started the right way.
So What Do You Need?
Before we go over the list, just keep in mind that there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ cookout. Everyone is different, because folks like eating different stuff. Heck, if you wanted all of the advice here boiled down into one nugget of wisdom, it would be this: Feel free to experiment and find what works best for you. Folks, you really can’t go wrong with that advice. Yes, when you go to a ‘traditional’ cookout you expect (and may only want to eat) hamburgers and hot dogs. Truth is, that’s definitely not the only thing to put on the grill. Ironically, it’s rare that I grill either one – and you know I’m on that darn grill all the time!
For your first time, let’s keep it simple. We can always build on it as we go forward. Here’s what you need:
Napkins – These are for your guests. Paper towels have always been fine in my book, but napkins show consideration for the people you invite. Some may consider this something small, but it matters. There are people that will judge you unkindly for making them use paper towels instead of napkins. They’re cheap enough. Just get them.
Paper Towels – You can use paper towels if you wish (I do), but their primary function is for cleaning up spills. Don’t underestimate the power and convenience of paper towels when you’re the one hosting the cookout. Spills are inevitable. Live with it and have em ready.
Utensils – Sure, its obvious. But that doesn’t make them any less necessary. Get whichever kind you like, but buy them separately, cause you’ll need extra forks. At least one time a year we end up running outta forks. And I have yet to catch the dude who’s eating em.
Plates, Cups, Bowls – Like the last one, get whatever kind you want but stock up! Some cookouts encourage people to take a plate home with em (I do that one too). Therefore, its best to have more than you think you’ll need and you will have just enough. Folks go through these the most; cups too if you plan on serving drinks that aren’t canned.
Sturdy Trash Bags – Pay a little extra and get quality trash bags for the cleanup. Skip this one, and when you’re cussin’ the air after cleaning up the third spill from a cheap busted bag, you will remember where you read this. Happens to the everyone, but it doesn’t have to happen to you.
Tables and Chairs – Everything to this point has been about your guests. You want them to be comfortable, right? Then do not skip this step (and don’t be cheap either!). There are some fine fold up tables out there, just like chairs. The ideal number to keep in mind is 20-25. This is how many people you’ll want to be able to seat comfortably. Once more people show, it’s going to be visibly crowded, and everyone will understand that you ran outta room.
Tablecloths – Disposable Tablecloths are not only a nice touch, they make cleanup a snap! Here’s a case of a small detail going a long way. Your guests will appreciate that if there are spills, there won’t be any guilty feelings about ruining your tables. And the kiddies can go crazy. This item is a good investment.
Outdoor Trashcan – It’s fine if you use one from the house. Just make sure that it is sturdy enough that a gust of wind won’t blow it over. Put one of these outside and a lot of the cleanup will take care of itself.
You have probably noticed that we left some key things off the cookout checklist. And your suspicion would be right. For starters, its important that you understand that there is a bunch of stuff to cover when you invite guests over. And we haven’t even talked about the different foods and cooking accessories that you’ll need. That stuff will be saved for a different post. Right now, just work on these things. The disposable stuff is easy, but the setup stuff can get expensive. Choose wisely. But the good news is once you have it, you’re halfway there!
Next we’ll talk about getting on that grill.