Cooking With Fire: Tips for the Backyard Grill
Hosea Rosenberg loves the dynamic action of the grill. “Cooking with fire is a more elemental experience,” says Rosenberg, whose Boulder restaurant, Blackbelly Market, is so hot right now it’s practically en fuego. On a rare day off, he loves to have friends over while he grills like a madman in his Boulder backyard. “It’s the only way I like to cook at home; we can all be outside together, and it’s not as claustrophobic as having everyone hanging out in the kitchen.”
[Photo: Aaron Colussi]
The oldest form of cooking has spawned a multibillion-dollar industry of cookers, accessories, sauces, and books, and evolved into a national pastime. In fact, 80 percent of American households own an outdoor barbecue, grill, or smoker, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. There’s a mind-blowing array of choices—so we asked Hosea to give us a bit of enlightenment.
WHICH GRILL IS RIGHT?
Rosenberg, whose Blackbelly Market includes a restaurant, bar, market, catering company, and butcher shop and who also co-owns Blackbelly Farm (where he grows produce and raises pigs, lambs, chickens, ducks, and rabbits), has three grills at home, each with its own big pluses:
- A Big Green Egg. Part smoker, part roaster, and part oven, this is great for both high-heat grilling and low-and-slow barbecue, thanks to its thick, ceramic wall. (Find dealers at biggreenegg.com.) This is the Mercedes-Benz of outdoor cooking: Once you drive one of these, you’ll never want to use anything else.
- A natural fire barrel grill and smoker. With the less-expensive Pit Barrel Cooker (pitbarrelcooker.com), you get three for the price of one: It’s a smoker, a slow cooker (with low convective heat of 275° to 310°), and a barbecue grill (with food cooking directly over charcoal or wood). Rosenberg prefers to use wood for flavor when smoking but a combo of coal and wood for grilling.
- A small gas propane grill. This is Rosenberg’s go-to cooker when he’s pressed for time because it heats up super fast.
FIVE TIPS TO GET YOUR STARTED:
- Clean your grill. With a wire brush, really scrape that sucker. Always do this right when you start to grill, after cooking, and even in between when you switch ingredients.
- Oil the grill with a clean towel. This will prevent food from sticking to the grates.
- Be patient. Wait until coals are glowing—and radiating heat—before throwing on meat or fish. (If you’re using a charcoal grill, you can use a chimney to get the fire going faster.)
- Don’t fondle the meat! “It drives me crazy when people keep moving or stabbing a piece of chicken,” Rosenberg says. “Let the equipment do its thing, and you’ll get those good grill marks.”
- Don’t overcook the meat. “You can always throw it back on the grill after you let it rest, but you can never uncook meat.”
WHAT TO DRINK?
“Warm weather calls for lighter, refreshing beers,” like pilsners or India pale ales. But Rosenberg’s bevy of choice at the grill is an ice-cold rosé. His current fave: the 2014 Loca Linda Jolie Folle Rosé. Even with red meat, “it’s not necessary to have a big wine,” he says. “I also pair with the environment.” And grilling at the foot of the Flatirons, with a perfectly done steak and a cool glass of wine, sounds heavenly.
A KILLER CHIMICHURRI
Try this perfect sauce with grilled meat, fish, or veggies.
1 bunch Italian parsley, cleaned and stems removed
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and trimmed
1 large garlic clove
4 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and black pepper
In a blender, add parsley, cilantro, garlic, and olive oil; blend until almost smooth, but not quite a purée. (You want a few pieces of the herbs to show.) If you want, Rosenberg says, customize by adding ingredients like diced roasted red bell peppers, grilled scallions, or even pickled mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. Just before serving, add lemon juice and stir well. Re-season if necessary.
3 EXCELLENT PRIMERS TO GET YOU STARTED
Smoke It Like a Pro on the Big Green Egg & Other Ceramic Cookers: An Independent Guide with Master Recipes from a Competition Barbecue Team—Includes Smoking, Grilling and Roasting Techniques, by Eric Mitchell
Pizza on the Grill: 100+ Feisty Fire-Roasted Recipes for Pizza & More, by Bob Blumer and Elizabeth Karmel