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Grilling basics

Because summer and outdoor cooking go hand in hand

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By ANNEMARIE SCHUETZ

Grilling symbolizes the season, even this summer of 2020, as weird as it might be. Perhaps it will entail virtual grill get-togethers? Or practicing social distancing in the yard with everyone eating a few feet apart? At least we’re outside enjoying the sun, the warmth, the food and the love.

As soon as summer starts here in the country, the grills fire up and the scented smoke drifts through our neighborhoods. Our mouths water and we want to invite ourselves over.

If that’s not possible, we can join the brigade.

If you’ve never grilled before, if you don’t own a grill or you’re thinking about trying something else... well, this is the place to start.

Why grill?

It’s an American dream: some adult cooking on the grill, someone else waving the flies off the potato salad, a horde of kids playing or standing around hoping for a spare hot dog. (Or tofu dog. Whatever moves you.)

Here’s what you need:

A grill.

Okay, that’s obvious. But what kind of grill? Gas? Charcoal? Pellet?

Tom’s Guide says gas is convenient—you just turn a knob. If you have natural gas, you can go that route. Propane’s available too, and it’s the most popular option at Delaware Valley Farm & Garden in Callicoon, NY. Gas can be cheaper than other fuel sources. It’s fast and, as Mark McClusky argues in Wired magazine, a delicious grilled dinner is on the table in half an hour.

Charcoal is traditional, and Arkansas-based grill manufacturer PK Grills (which was revived in 2016 by grilling enthusiasts), has a whole list of reasons why coals are the fuel of choice. Start with an incomparable smoky taste and a higher temperature, so you can get the crusty outside layer, along with the fact that the grill is portable so you can take it to the park, no electricity required. Should there be a problem, charcoal grills can often be repaired at home. Plus, charcoal grills are usually less expensive.

Pellet grills/smokers burn hardwood pellets, so you get the smoky wood taste and you can roast, smoke meat and—often, but not always—grill on it. And the smoking function is great, says Alycia Gordon on Chowhound. Pellet grill/smokers cook more evenly, she adds, and you can get different flavors with different types of wood pellets.

And sometimes traditional is best. A friend originally from the British Virgin Islands occasionally cooks food here in his coal pot. It’s easily portable and “just about any cherished Caribbean meal can be cooked to perfection,” writes Steve Bennett over at www.uncommoncaribbean.com. So, I can say for a fact, are American meals.

What else do you need?

Tools. Tongs to flip the food. Spatula. A scraper or brush to clean the grill. A thermometer, maybe, to monitor the food’s temperature. Fire-lighting stuff like matches or a chimney if you have a charcoal grill. Grill gloves, maybe. At farm and garden stores, like Delaware Valley and Honesdale, you can find smoker boxes, skewers, baskets and rotisseries as well as all the other items.

Charcoal, if you’re using a charcoal grill or a coal pot. Says Alex Delany at Bon Appetit magazine: Hardwood lump gives better flavor and burns hotter; briquettes burn slower and more evenly since they’re manufactured of sawdust and binders. They’re great for long, slow cooking.

The food

Butchers at the Callicoon Peck’s Market recommend New York strip or Delmonico steak. You can grill chicken or vegetables too. Really, the grocery store’s your limit. Try Jude’s recipes and search the internet for more. You’re good to grill.

Buy your grills or grill tools from local farm and garden stores, at Peck’s Market, at hardware stores, or online.

For more on PK Grills, see www.pkgrills.com.

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