Three things to remember: 1) Indirect cooking is your friend, 2) Avoid open-flame cooking, especially in public, and 3) Keep in mind the variables: the quality of the raw materials and the seasoning, flavoring and preparation. This applies to Chicken, Beef, Fish, Vegetables and all their variations.
Indirect Cooking: The pieces are moved away form the direct, intense heat of the coals to the side or center of the grill. If using charcoal light the coals and after the flames die down and a light covering of ash covers the briquettes (about 20-25 minutes) separate the coals into two piles on opposite sides of the grill. I use two half-moon baskets and drag my baskets to opposite sides using tongs. You can also just move the coals to one side of the grill. The idea is to have a space where the food can be placed away from the direct heat of the coals. If you are using gas, with a two-burner grill, set one burner to medium-low and leave the other unlit. With three or more burners, set the outside or front and rear burners to medium-low and leave the center burners unlit.
How Hot is the Grill?
Charcoal Temperature: I try to use a medium-hot grill most of the time. A quick easy way to estimate the temperature of the coals is to hold your hand, palm down, about 4 inches above the coals. Count the number of seconds you can hold your hand in that position before the heat forces you to pull it away. Don’t be a hero.
- 2 seconds = Hot (375˚ or more)
- 3 seconds = Medium-Hot (350˚ - 370˚)
- 4 seconds = Medium (300˚ - 350˚)
- 5 seconds = Low (200˚ - 300˚)
When Is It Done?
Temperatures: The best way to judge when the meat is done is by temperature, not cooking time. Generally, Chicken = 180˚ (170˚ in the breast), Pork (160˚), Beef (140˚ rare, 150˚ medium rare, 160˚ medium, 170˚ well-done), Lamb = 160˚. Vegetables are done when they are tender and meet your expectations. They vary by type but usually 10 minutes does the trick often started with direct heat over the coals. Whatever you are grilling, try to start at room temperature.
How to Cook It
Roasts and Whole Chickens: Place the piece in the space away from the coals (center of the grill for me) for the duration.
Grilling Chicken Pieces: Pieces can remain for about 35-40 minutes and finished over the coals for 5-10 minutes turning occasionally and being careful not to char them. This is good for caramelizing barbeque sauce if you are using it.
Steaks: Sear the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side. Move to indirect heat and for a 1 inch steak cook about 8 minutes on the first side and 7 on the next for medium (use a meat thermometer). Adjust timing up or down for thickness and desired doneness.
Fish: Fish varies by type. Salmon is what I usually do on the grill. It takes about 10-15 minutes on indirect heat. Some recipes do call for you to grill salmon over the coals. 8-10 minutes usually works fine. Be careful not to overcook it.
Ribs: Remember the ribs? I don’t do them indirectly. I build a medium fire, spread the coals out, and place the ribs on the grate over the coals, turning them occasionally being careful not to char them until the ribs are warm and the sauce is caramelized.