I Guess I'm "Old School"

I Guess I'm "Old School"

Chefs & Experts

I Guess I'm "Old School"

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Grilling today (or so I’m told) means stepping out onto the deck or patio, turning on the gas grill burners, plopping some meat on the grates, and in a few minutes, dinner’s ready. Sounds, um…“efficient.” Something’s missing from that scenario. That ain’t grilling to me.

I’m sorry, but I’m a charcoal guy. I love the charcoal grilling experience. The whole ritual of preparation, relaxation and anticipation.

I grew up watching my dad light the coals using gasoline. When he tossed the match into that Weber kettle, it was exciting. Now, I don’t use gasoline, nor do I recommend that to anyone. And gas was probably 25 cents a gallon back then.

Here’s my grilling routine:

  • First, I open a cold beer and bring that out onto the deck with me. Priorities, after all.

  • Next, I tear a sheet out of the newspaper (see, I really am Old School). I usually select a page from the real estate section or one that contains an editorial I find odious. Then I take one of those compressed-wood firestarters, break off a little chunk and put it inside the crumpled newpaper.
  • The crumpled newspaper sheet then gets stuffed into the bottom section of my charcoal chimney, while the upper section gets filled with charcoal briquets. You don’t necessarily need the little chunk of compressed wood, but I’ve found it guarantees the coals will ignite. I never use starter fluid or charcoal that’s pre-soaked in starter fluid. I believe those things adversely affect the flavor of whatever you’ve got cooking.

  • Then it’s time to sit back and relax while the fire burns down. Enjoy the cool-down of the evening. Relax with the beer, keep an eye on the hummingbirds as they dart around the feeder, see what the squirrels are up to. Chat up the wife (OK, she chats me up.) Maybe I’ll turn on the radio to listen to the ballgame, or crank up a CD. THIS…is what the gas grillers are missing.
  • In about 20 or 30 minutes the coals are ready, and I’m ready for another beer. I dump out the coals from the canister, let the grates heat up for five minutes or so. Scrub the crud off of the grates, and I’m ready to cook!
  • From here, the procedure is pretty much the same as it would be if I was using gas, I guess. But look at all the fun (and, yes, some work) the gassers have missed out on.

Plus, I believe you get a truer, more genuine smoky flavor with charcoal. I was glad to see Chef Dave Kamen of the Culinary Institute of America offered the same opinion in an interview we published recently. Thanks, Chef, for the validation.

Now, I’m sure there are many opposing viewpoints out there from gas grill enthusiasts, and I’d be happy to hear your rebuttals.

Till then, thanks for reading…

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