Grilling 101: What You Need
It occurs to me, looking back on all these grilling columns that I’ve been doing, that maybe I am jumping ahead too far. While I like cooking a rolled, boned lamb leg bound with coat hangers, maybe that’s not for everybody. Maybe some of who have never done any serious grilling, outside of some hotdogs and hamburgers on a gas grill now and then. It is my purpose in life to make sure that you grill well. For those unfortunate readers who are stuck using a gas grill, I’d deal with that terribel handicap next week; for now, I want to give you the most very basic, stripped down checklist of what you will need to cook well outdoors this summer. I’m sorry I haven’t done it before.
You will need:
A Weber-style bowl grill – any size, any make, any price. They haven’t invented one that isn’t great. Basically, this is a metal bowl with some holes in the bottom, two racks, and a lid. It’s a perfect tool, and the single most important part of grilling. I would strongly recommend investing in the Weber
Coal. The good news here is that you don’t need lump hardwood charcoal, or any other kind of premium fuel to make your fire. I use the classic Kingsford “blue bag” charcoal all the time. Lump is definitely better; the regular Kingsford has no small amount of coal dust in it, more than you may think. But it burns evenly, lasts a good long time, and imparts a nice smoky flavor. Down the road you may want to start using lump charcoal, or even straight-up hardwood. But start out with the blue bag.
A “chimney” style lighter. Here’s some more good news. You don’t need lighter fluid. It’s a disfiguring accident waiting to happen, and it doesn’t work that well anyway. Plus, it’s another thing to buy and have around and to get on your hands and clothes. The chimney is another one of those tools, like hammers and post-it notes, whose design literally can’t be improved upon. You put newspaper under it, coals inside it, light a match and wait 20 minutes. You now have burning coals.
Kosher salt. Everything that goes on your grill, with no exceptions, should have liberal amounts of kosher salt on it. You’ll just have to take my word on this. Table salt is no good; it melts and overseasons the food. Sea salt is too big and crunchy – and expensive. A big box of kosher salt costs less that $5, is available at every supermarket, and will likely last you the whole summer. It’s madness – madness! – not to get one.
A big cutting board with a grease groove. When you food is done, you need a place to cut it, and that place needs to contain and the hot juices that will come out of it, even when rested. A flat piece of wood or plastic, no matter how big, won’t help. But a big board with a groove around its edge will keep your counters from turning into an abbatoir floor.
A heavy spatula and a grill brush. I’m not a huge believer in tongs; I end up using a fork most of the time. A fork won’t help you with burgers, though, and what is the point of grilling if you never make hamburgers? The grill brush helps get off the biggest pieces of stuck-on crud, the kind that isn’t incinerated by the fire.
Good meat. Because otherwise, why bother?
That’s it. You don’t need tongs, a carving fork, an expensive knife, an apron, a basting brush, grapeseed oil, or any other expensive accessories. In fact, your experience will be a lot better without it. Anybody who tells you otherwise is just getting in your way.