Grilling is more than placing a rack over hot charcoal and arranging the food on the rack. Grilling is more than being able to flip burgers or steaks on a rack or turn skewers this way and that. Just like frying, the objective of grilling is to quickly sear the surface of the food over high heat while retaining as much internal moisture as possible. Unlike frying, grilling uses direct dry heat.
The key to successful grilling is to find the right temperature to sear the food and cook it through without burning the surface. If the heat is too high, the surface will burn before the inside is cooked. If the heat is too low, the food will steam, lose moisture and turn dry by the time it is cooked through.
Kinds of grill
Electric grills come with temperature control switches. Turn a knob or push a button and the correct temperature is set. No need to move the rack up or down. Convenient. Takes the guesswork out of grilling. We have one of those.
Electric grills are easy to use and easy to clean. We can even use it indoors. The downside is that, depending on the model, an electric grill can be a huge power guzzler. And the grilled food does not acquire a smoky flavor.
Then, there’s the stovetop grill. We have one of those too. If grilling outdoors is not possible or convenient, I prefer the stovetop grill over the electric grill.
Just place on the stove (depending on the size of the grill, you may need to turn on one or more burners), control the temperature through the burners and you’re set. The only downside to the stovetop grill is that when grilling fatty food, the rendered fat will accumulate on the grill. You will have to throw out the fat from time to time. Otherwise, you will end up frying instead of grilling your food.
When we’re cooking a daily meal, the electric grill or the stovetop grill works well. But when we have company and a huge amount of food has to go on the grill, indoor grilling is not fun. The heat from the grill and the smoke will stifle everyone in the house. So, for parties, we prefer the old-fashioned way of grilling with charcoal — outdoors. It’s really so much more fun.
Grilling with charcoal
How does one set the correct temperature on a charcoal grill? There are three things to consider:
1. The shape of the vessel that contains the charcoal;
2. The height of the rack (that is, its distance from the charcoal); and
3. The size of the food that you are cooking.
Naturally, thinly sliced skewered pork, for instance, will cook much faster than bone-in chicken wings, chops or steaks. If you have a grill with a deep vessel for the charcoal, for instance, to generate low to medium heat, you can use just enough charcoal to coat the bottom and place the rack directly on the rim of the vessel. But if the vessel is shallow, you may have to move the rack higher especially when grilling larger chunks of food.
All set to grill your food? Some say that smoking (barbecue) and high temperature cooking (grilling and frying) can cause the formation of carcinogens in food. It is a very controversial issue and one worth reading up on to determine what are hard facts and what are scare stories. That is something I will leave to you. Personally, I like grilled food although not for every day of the week.