(Another day another guest post! Today we have the smart and Lee Knaz of Master Chef fame. He is currently a Sous Chef at Smith House in Los Angeles. You can check out his previous appearances on NoH here and here.)
To make a long story short, there was the big bang; organisms were created; then there were monkeys; monkey becomes man; man discovers fire; man starts grilling. The most ancient form of cooking was “invented” about 500,000 years ago after the astonishing discovery that animal + fire tastes way better than the sans-fire version. Mr. caveman was on to something.
Grilling is a form of dry-heat cooking which is introduced from below. Gas, charcoal or wood, indoor or outdoor, it’s all good- as long as you don’t call it BBQ. That’s a whole different story. Simply put, BBQ is grilling + smoking. So no smoking = no BBQ. Today we’re talking straight up grilling! The technical simplicity of grilling is not misleading. It is really uncomplicated as long as you follow a few simple key principles.
1) The Real Deal or… Gas? A matter of preference. Charcoal grills are more tasking but also gratifying when it comes to flavor and authenticity, hence “the real deal”. Also, they are incomparably more portable. All you need is fire and a metal rack and you’ve got yourself a minimalist yet more-than-capable grill. Gas grills are quicker to start and are more convenient. Yes, propane tanks are a drag and there’s the inevitable sense of, well, cheating. Little secret – it’ll taste the same. Pretty much. With that said- if you have the option, get a charcoal grill, and a charcoal chimney. Stay away from any lighter fluid or lighter fluid soaked products, unless you’re into burgers that taste like the inside of your car’s gas tank. You’re all set. Oh and get a fire extinguisher. Now you’re all set.
2) Heat Is Your Friend! Get your grill hot before you do anything. It’s easy to lower the heat later if necessary. Move your coals to one side of the pit and use the opposite side for your product (or simply turning down the gas knob). Get an oven thermometer (if your grill doesn’t come with one) and place it on the rack to better control the heat in there. Don’t place anything on the grill before you have at least a 500*F/260*C inferno working.
3) Don’t Forget To Clean Behind the Ears. The high heat will burn off any leftover unrecognizable particles of whatever was on the rack from who knows when. Scrub your grill clean with a brush after it is already hot. You also want to oil the rack (yes, I said oil the rack…). You can use a towel soaked in canola oil and simply run it up and down the metal grilling racks. A traditional Israeli technique is to put the oil in a small bowl, slice an onion in half and place it in the oil cut side down. Then use the onion to apply your oil. More onion = more fun!
4) A Griller Must Know Its Grillee. Anything is grillable. Even scrambled eggs. But like any other cooking method, it all depends on the nature of your victim. Thin cuts of meat (most steaks), burgers, fish and most vegetables demand high heat for a short time. You want the outside to be nicely charred before the center overcooks. Larger cuts of meat and roasts or chicken cuts require a lower heat for a longer time, so the inside is cooked appropriately before the outside is burned. For the larger cuts, use indirect grilling (heat source on one side of the grill only, product is placed on opposite side and grill is covered, creating a makeshift oven).
5) Flames are awesome! Burned Steak Isn’t. If there are flares under your steak or burger, it’ll burn. Those are created from the rendered fat dripping onto the coals and igniting. Simply relocate the meat to a flameless area on your grill.
6) It’s Getting Hot in Here! So don’t overcrowd your grill. You want to be able to move things around on your grill from hotter zones to less hot ones, especially to prevent flaming. So keep some grill-estate unoccupied (about 30%).
7) B-E-E-R! Because nothing goes better with beer than grilling. ‘Nuff said!
On to some recipes. Like I said, you can grill anything! So go crazy, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. One of my favorites is skirt steak, mainly because it is so simple to cook and relatively affordable. A true no-brainer.
Start with the marinade:
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp onion powder
Combine all ingredients and whisk till combined. Pour into a large ziplock bag. Add 4-5 lb. skirt steak. Seal bag vacuum-tight by releasing as much air as possible from the bag. Shake well so all meat is covered with the marinade. Let sit in the fridge for approx. 2 hours. Remove from fridge 30 minutes before grilling.
Grill on super high heat 2-3 minutes on each side for a perfect med-rare. Let rest for another 5 minutes. Slice thin strips against the grain and devour.
The undisputed king of veggie grilling is asparagus! Of course, the mighty onion is the king of all kings in the veggie world in any type of cooking, but when it comes to grilling, asparagus is a close second place.
Prep the asparagus stem by grabbing the bottom and middle of the stem and breaking. It will naturally break where it should and you’re left with the upper part that is good to go. Coat with olive oil, salt, pepper and ground coriander seed (optional). Grill on med-high heat for 5-6 minutes, while rolling occasionally so all parts get slightly charred. Easy!
And yes, you can grill scrambled eggs!