Whether you're a novice or a grilling pro everyone can learn something from our guide, loaded with tips and tricks for grilling everything this Summer.
To start off we turned to Chef Avi Levy for some BBQ wisdom.
Let’s talk barbecue. Gas or coals? That is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the yard to suffer the burns and smoke of outdoor fire, or to take arms against a sea of sparks and flame. And by opposing the toil of coals, go to gas? Never thought you’d get Hamlet into a kosher cooking article, did you?
Anyway, it’s an old question and one that ignites strong opinions from some.
Gas is quick and convenient, but coals give more flavor to the meat.
That being said, my preference is both (I’m so diplomatic). If I’m using gas, I usually put a few chunks of hardwood onto the burner or in a smoker box, and let them smolder to get some smokiness into my food. If I’m using charcoal, I also use wood in the fire as well. In fact, sometimes I forsake charcoal and gas altogether and build a fire from hardwoods. (keep reading for tips on how to cook on both gas and charcoal.)
So once you’ve decided on which type of fuel you’re using, it’s important to have a hot side and a cool side to your grill. You want to be able to move the meat from one zone to the other as necessary. It’s also important to make sure your grill grates are seasoned. An old trick that my Israeli friends swear by is to soak an onion in vegetable oil and then rub it across the hot grill.
However, the number-one rule when it comes to summer barbecues is to be patient. This is not simply throwing some meat on a fire and becoming a caveman or cavewoman. It’s taking your time, enjoying the process and doing it with family and friends. By the way, I love to do some barbecue on Friday afternoon and eat it for Shabbat dinner.
How to cook on a gas grill
It’s pretty obvious that if you’re cooking on gas, the procedure to light the grill is fairly easy. Most have an electronic ignition that simply involves letting the gas flow to a burner and then pressing a button that ignites the gas. However, there are a few safety items that you should be aware of. Always light the fire with the hood open. You do not want to get a buildup of gas that then combusts into a fireball. Think singed hair. Not so much fun, especially if you have a big beard like I do. Along the same lines, once you open the gas, ignite it right away. Make sure that you allow the grill to heat up properly, at least five to ten minutes, before you start to cook. I always try and have a “hot side” and a “cool side.” I adjust that by varying the intensity of my burners. This will enable you to move the food around in order to slowly cook it.
How to cook with charcoal or wood
When it comes to using charcoal or wood, starting the fire is not as easy. My first rule is to NEVER, EVER use lighter fluid or any other combustible liquid to start the coals. I know it’s tempting and seems easy. It also plays to our inner pyromaniac, but it can ruin the taste of your food. Instead, I use either a fire-starter chimney or I simply build a small wood fire from scratch and then build up the coals, including lump charcoal, from there. A chimney is available at your local barbecue shop or hardware store and is simply a metal tube with vent holes on the bottom. You start by putting an easily combustible material on the bottom, like newspaper, and then putting your charcoal on top. Light the newspaper on the bottom and the coals catch themselves on fire. Wait until the coals are glowing red-hot and have developed a white ash outer layer. Then put them to one side of your barbecue. You can build more coals from here to increase the fire, but leave one side of your grill cool, so that you can cook with both direct and indirect heat. This is vital in cooking chicken and thick cuts of meat.
To my coals I also add hard-wood. I prefer big chunks as opposed to chips. They last longer and have time to develop. I use anything from hickory or mesquite to apple or cherry. Each has its own flavor signature. And that is the purpose of the hardwood. It acts like another spice to help you develop that great outdoor barbecue flavor. Always keep your eye on the fire, and build up as needed. It’s important to note that a good cooking fire consists of glowing coals, not flames. Flames will burn your food in an instant and usually impart a strong carbon taste. So resist the urge to make a bonfire. The best cooking, grilling, and barbecuing is done on a fire that you control.
Now that we have that settled, let's start cooking. This summer, go beyond the dogs and burgers, and put yourself in a fowl mood. The recipes I’m ‘oaffering’ are tried and true and even if you’ve never done chicken on the "barbie," everyone will think you’re an old pro.
How to cook chicken on the BBQ with my favorite recipes
More BBQ Tips from Chef Avi:
1. Always know how you’re going to put the fire out and have an extinguisher ready. I once was grilling on my deck,I ran into the house for a moment, when I came out a hot ash had landed in the wrong spot and started to burn my deck. Fortunately, I had my water hose standing by and nothing was ruined.
2. If you have flare-ups, usually caused by burning fat, move the meat to the cool side of the grill and let the fat burn itself out. Do not pour water on it. Pouring water will only help to spread the grease and, if you’re using coals, it will kick up a lot of ash that will get onto and into your food. And no one wants to eat that. However, a spray bottle with water can be used for minor situations.
3. Don’t rush. Remember: hot, searing temperatures and big flames have their place, but the best cooking on a grill is done low and slow. The flavors of the meat and smoke need time to coalesce into culinary magic.
4. Have a way to cover the grill. You want to contain the smoke in the grill to help flavor the food. Speaking of which, you’ll want to get a few different types of wood chunks to experiment with throughout the summer. Hickory, mesquite, maple, apple, cherry, pear, etc. All are good and each one has its own unique flavor signature. By the way, according to the CRC, unless the wood or charcoal you’re using comes from wine barrels or has some kosher-sensitive filler, no kosher certification is necessary.
5. Have everything you need for the recipe ready to go. That includes spices, herbs, meat, veggies, fruit, plates, tongs, and other utensils. You don’t want to run back and forth a million times to keep getting something else that you forgot. Also, it’s very important to make sure that you have a clean serving platter. Do NOT use the same platter that the raw meat came out on, unless it has been thoroughly washed and sanitized.
6. Have plenty of water for yourself. I know a cold beer out by the grill is great. But also have some water to rehydrate yourself. The summer sun is hot and add to that the heat of the grill. I know from first-hand experience that getting dehydrated is not a fun experience.
7. Use an instant-read thermometer to make sure your chicken is completely cooked. The USDA says that poultry should reach an internal temperature of 165 ̊F.
8. Stagger the order of the chicken pieces when you put them on the BBQ by a few minutes. Put the larger pieces like thighs and breasts on first, then legs, and finally wings. That way you won’t over cook the smaller pieces that cook faster. And everything will be done at the same time.
For our guide on how to build and grill Kabobs plus 13 Israeli Kabob Recipes
Let's move on to steak...
How to cook steak on and off the grill
Any meat that benefits from being cooked on high heat we quickly refer to as a steak. Nowadays, butchers are creatively and smartly utilizing shoulder cuts, cut just-so, to create cheaper alternatives to the ultimate steak: the rib eye.
The general premise of cooking any steak is to use ultra-high heat (you really want to hear the pan or grill sizzle and spark), sear the meat until a nice char develops on each side, and then finish in the oven, if necessary.
A meat thermometer helps with thicker cuts such as London broil and is an essential tool for meat perfection.
Bringing meat to room temperature before serving is key, as is allowing the meat to rest about fifteen minutes before cutting into it. That way, the juices don’t run out and they have a chance to redistribute, working their flavorful magic.
This is an amazing technique for rib eye, strip, filet mignon, or any bone-in steaks. Instead of the more common sear and finish in the oven method try this reverser sear.
Reverse searing is a fool-proof method for cooking the perfect steak. Every time. Guaranteed. When you reverse sear, the steak is started in the oven, cooked low and slow, then finished off with a gorgeous sear. What's so fabulous about the reverse sear is that you get a super-thin layer of charred crust on the outside, and edge to edge throughout you have the perfect desired temperature!
Food enthusiasts will say that London “broil” is not a cut of meat, it's simply a method of preparation—hence the name “broil.” LB is best grilled, seared, or broiled fast, on high heat. No low and slow on this guy. LB is a tough and lean piece of meat and is best left to marinate overnight, and then broiled under high heat and served by thinly slicing the meat “across the grain.” There are endless options to the kinds of marinades you can use on LB. Typical marinades start out with soy sauce, beer, sugar, or honey, and then combine with vegetable oil and seasonings such as red wine or balsamic vinegar, fruit juice, hot sauce, fresh ginger, and/or any other combination of herbs and spices according to your preference. The acidic ingredients in the base of the recipe soften and tenderize the meat.
Making shallow cuts on each side of the meat helps it cook up just right so the flavors of the marinade really get into the meat.
A simple marinade for a simple steak.
Indoor vs. outdoor cooking
Outdoor cooking is nice. You can generally get higher heat, which gives you options for how you cook, and you don't have to worry about smoke in your house. If you have a charcoal grill, or add woodchips to your gas grill, you have the added benefit of flavor from the wood as well.
For steaks in particular, the reason you want such high heat is so that you get the caramelization/maillard reaction on the outside, without overcooking the majority of the meat which will make it tough. Applying a medium amount of heat for 6 minutes is not going to give you the same results as high heat for 3 minutes and then some time to rest.
But not everyone has the option to cook outdoors, and sometimes the weather doesn't cooperate, so what do you do then?
How to grill indoors
Our friends from Grow & Behold shared their tips on cooking indoors.
Cast Iron is great -- it heats very evenly (just use mits for the handle!) and you can get it really hot, so you can get a sear on a steak in 1-3 minutes, depending on the size of the meat. After you sear the outside, you can put the whole pan in the oven at around 350F if it is a thick steak that still needs to cook more in the middle. You also get sensory cues -- smells, sight and sound -- that help you know what's going on.
We also like a 3-ply aluminum pan from Cuisinart --- it holds the heat very well and the meat releases easily once the crust has formed. A pan with angled sides is going to trap less steam, so for larger pieces, it's better.
Broiling is much harder to control, though you can experiment and get to learn how your oven works, what the optimal distance from the broiler is for your desired application. (For example, we discovered that asparagus under the broiler for 5 minutes on the 2nd highest shelf produces absolutely perfect, crisp-tender stalks).
A Broiler can be useful when you're searing a brisket that is too big to fit in a pan -- just put it in a low-sided roasting pan (so it doesn't steam) and use the broiler to sear both sides.
You can grill steaks under a broiler -- ideally something in the 1" range so that they can cook quickly without over cooking -- but again, it's tricky and you'll want to take careful notes of what timing works for you.
Click here for more on Barbecue and Smoking (and why it's different from grilling)