Memorial Day is the official beginning of grilling season — when it comes to choosing the best grill, I prefer charcoal over gas simply because it truly delivers real smoky flavor.
Gas grills may be more convenient, but if you can…treat yourself to a charcoal chimney. Which reminds me of the way my dad would grill those asados for the entire family. A ritual that took an entire day — starting early in the morning, going to the local butcher store, preparing the grill, grilling, eating, table talk or after-dinner conversation, and of course a much needed nap.
What I did learn from my dad’s parrilladas? Always go to a butcher and get fresh meat. Don’t ever buy the pre-packaged produce. Take your time to choose the best grill, the differences between direct heat and indirect heat, and never rush the meat.
Charcoal vs. Gas
Taste • Grilling with charcoal gives the meat a very distinct smoky flavor while electric grills add almost no extra flavor.
Convenience • An electric grill is easier to clean and to use — nothing beats the convenience of an electric grill, but as you know, it doesn’t provide with the real fire flavor. While hardwood grills will give you better flavor than gas, they are the most difficult to work with. Also consider how you plan to grill. If you want to grill something last-minute with almost no preparation or hassle, then gas or electric might be the best grill for you.
Space • Charcoal grills need to sit outside. Electric grills are safer in smaller areas. Gas grills produce flare-ups and need to be in a larger space.
Cost • Last but not least, consider how much you want to spend on this summer cooking tool. Gas grills are overall more expensive than electric grills, charcoal being the less expensive. Yet charcoal is more expensive fuel than gas.
Once you’ve selected the best grill for the job, you need to decide whether to cook over direct or indirect heat.
For cooking with direct heat on a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. Once charcoal is grayish, hold your hand on top to determine heat.
Hot • Holding hand there for 1-2 seconds
Medium-Hot • 3-4 seconds
Low • 5-6 seconds
If you’re using a gas grill, preheat burners on high for 10 minutes (covered). Then, reduce heat if necessary.
To use indirect heat on a charcoal grill, open vents on the bottom and lid of the grill. Light charcoal and, when lit, dump it across bottom rack, leaving space in between coals slightly larger than the size of the item to be grilled. (See above to determine heat.)
If using a gas grill, preheat all burners on high, covered, for 10 minutes. Right before grilling turn off middle burner — given you have three burners.