For Grilling, Wood Is Good
The heat is on -- or will be come Saturday afternoon, when Memorial Day weekend is in full swing. If you have lost all sense of time, all you'd need to do is open the window and take a big whiff to know summer has arrived. The smell of burning charcoal will enter your nostrils just about everywhere you go, from sea to shining sea, suburban backyard to city park, beach cottage to camp site.
But let's face it, the smell in the air doesn't really go away after the holiday. Basically, for the next few months, we grill-loving Americans are all about eating fire and inhaling smoke.
As the cook in the family, I often don't accept much kitchen advice from Mister Mighty Appetite, but I must admit, ever since we met a few years back, he's taken the lead on grilling, and I like what he's done.
Early in the relationship, it was clear that we were both partial to charcoal grills, and I must now say, I am relieved. This should actually one of the many questions asked of a prospective mate -- Kids? Blue or Red? Coffee or tea? Charcoal or gas? Imagine how many dating disasters could be avoided if all this vital data were retrieved before it was too late.
That first summer, we stuck to what we both knew -- briquettes out of a bag and lighter fluid. For years, I'd wanted to change up that odiferous, toxic combination, but frankly it was at the bottom of the to-do list. By the next grilling season, Mister M.A. asserted his grilling prowess and procured a chimney. (Link is for illustrative purposes only.)
A grill chimney looks like a big flour sifter. You dump the coal inside, and light a match. Lighter fluid suddenly becomes irrelevant. Once the flames have died down, you pour the contents of the chimney into the bowl of the grill, and you're ready to cook.
I was blown away. No more fluid. What a concept. I've wanted to get that stuff out of my life for years.
Gearing up for grill season number three, Mister M.A. decided to push the envelope just a wee bit further. Rather than loading up on a bag of briquettes, he chose a bag of lump charcoal instead. What that means is 100 percent hardwood, without fillers, which sometimes are petroleum-based, sometimes wheat-based (which is something to keep in mind if you have celiac disease).
So we try the stuff, using a pound of ground sirloin that we bought at The Organic Butcher of McLean, an interesting little butcher shop selling meat from Virginia farms. We add little to the meat -- one teaspoon salt and a few teaspoons of olive oil only. He mans the fire and does all the flipping.
My word. Why had I waited so long? The wood isn't just good -- it's imperative. It's so good your brain receptors eliminate all references to briquettes and store lump charcoal as the only way to grill a burger or whatever else is on your menu this summer. Yes, I know it's more expensive (starting at 10 bucks per 10-pound bag), but I'm telling you, a few extra bucks will take your grilling to a whole new level.
Go. Find. Wood.
You'll thank me next Tuesday, I guarantee you. Actually, you'll thank Mister M.A. I'll tell him to be on call.
By the way... did you know automobile magnate Henry Ford invented the charcoal briquette? It all got started around 1920 in Kingsford, Mich., which is how the famed Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes got its name. To make things even stranger, the Kingsford line is a subsidiary of the Clorox Company. Yes, that Clorox.
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