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Ever since the invention of fire, nothing could quench man’s burning desire to cook meat over an open flame. It is elemental and primordial. When done right, grilling results in the best tasting food on earth.

There are many important things to celebrate on the Fourth of July, and we proudly wave our American flag and love watching the fireworks exploding overhead.  But no Independence Day is complete without a cookout!  So it's time to go food shopping and invite your friends over.  And we will help make sure you don't forget the grill next door...

Grilling is what we do on Sunday afternoon with a cold beer in our hand, while the game is on TV and the kids are trying to kill each other in the living room. It is hot, fast and (usually) painless. 

In contrast, barbecue (and wood smoking) refers to a slow cooking process over indirect heat which typically takes several hours at a relatively low temperature (between 200°F and 300°F). When you watch those outdoor cooking competitions on the Food Network, wishing the meat was kosher and the event was happening in your backyard, you are watching barbecue. Those “fall off the bone” ribs are only possible with the slow-cooked process. Barbecue aficionados shun pure charcoal, in favor of wood such as oak (mild-smoky flavor), hickory (medium smoky flavor), or mesquite (strong smoky flavor) to make award-winning roasts and ribs.

There are basically two ways to grill, depending on whether you are using either direct heat or indirect heat. We will try our best to demystify these cooking methods below.

Direct Heat

The Direct Heat method of grilling refers to the process of cooking food directly over the heating source.  Direct Heat is best for chicken, chops, hamburgers, hot dogs, kabobs, sausages steaks and vegetables.  You would use the Direct Method when you are trying to sear meats.  Searing involves cooking at an extremely high temperature for a short period of time to caramelize the outer layer of meat. Searing helps create those attractive grill lines and will help lock in the juices of the meat while keeping the center moist and tender.

Indirect Heat

The Indirect Heat method is perfect for slow roasting where direct exposure to a flame would dry or burn the food.  Indirect Heat is ideal for roasts, ribs, whole chickens, turkeys, and delicate fish fillets.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association provides the following guidelines for

Indirect Heat cooking:

Step 1: Prepare the charcoal grill by igniting an equal number of charcoal briquettes on each side of the fire grate, leaving open space in the center.  When coals are medium hot, and ash covered (about 25-30 minutes), add three to four new briquettes to each side.  Place aluminum foil drip pan in the center between the coals.  Position the cooking grid with handles over coals so additional briquettes may be added when necessary.

Step 2: Season beef as desired and place on cooking grid directly over the drip pan.

Step 3: Cover with grill lid and grill over medium heat until thickest part of the roast reaches the desired internal temperature. Turning is usually not necessary.  Add 3 to 4 additional briquettes to each side every 30 minutes or as necessary to maintain proper heat during grilling.  Transfer roast to carving board; tent loosely with aluminum foil.  Let the roast rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  (Temperature will continue to rise about 5° to 10°F to reach desired doneness and roast will be easier to carve.)

So now you know the difference between barbecue and grilling and the distinction between Direct and Indirect Heat…  You are almost ready to cook!  Before you light up, we offer ten simple tips to help you be the king (or queen) of the grill:

1. Plan Ahead
Season your food an hour or two before throwing it on the grill to lock in the flavor.  Slice, dice and trim before your guests arrive so you can spend more time with your friends and less time in the kitchen.

2. Oil You Need to Know
Brush some olive oil or cooking spray on the grill grate before cooking to avoid food sticking.  Do not add oil-based or sauces, or marinades to meat on the grill unless you want a fire or a mess.  If your recipe calls for a sauce or marinade, save it for the last few minutes of cooking.

3. (Food) Safety First
The last thing you want on your menu is salmonella. After transferring raw food to the grill, you must wash any utensils or serving trays thoroughly with antibacterial soap and water.  Never use a marinade that has come into contact with raw meat on cooked food, unless you have boiled the marinade first.

4. Coal Reminders
The best way to light charcoal is with a charcoal chimney that you can pick up at a hardware store.  Lighter fluid and many quick-lighting commercial charcoal products are filled with chemicals that impart a bad taste to food and may be harmful to your health, as well as the environment.  If you must use lighter fluid, light the charcoal briquettes about a half hour before cooking when the coals have turned from black to ash gray.

5. Got Wood?
If you have a gas grill and long for the irresistible smoky taste of true southern barbecue, place some soaked wood chips into an aluminum foil packet, strategically poke a few holes and keep the grill covered while cooking.  You will want to leave at least 30 minutes for the smoke flavor to permeate the food.

6. Learn the Tools of the Trade
Use the proper grilling tools.  Tongs, spatula, grill fork and a carving knife are all you need.

7. Flame Out

Flare-ups are inevitable.  A clever way to reduce the chance of a five-alarm fire ruining your meal, is to keep an unused spot on the grill where you can reposition your food when things get a little too hot to handle.  When the flames get too high, some barbecue experts advise keeping a spray water bottle on hand, while others argue that the combination of water and grease can make matters worse.  We recommend taking your chances with the water bottle.  Just make sure you know where your fire extinguisher is and the phone number for a good plastic surgeon.

Know When to Say When
Check out these Grill Times to learn the proper cooking times for all of your favorite kosher foods.

9. Keep it Clean
Clean your grill before and after every use – for food safety and better taste.  We recommend cleaning your grill after cooking, while it is still warm.