Barbeque & Grilling

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Refrigerate any leftovers promptly in shallow containers. Discard any food left out more than 2 hours (1 hour if temperatures are above 90 F).

Safe Smoking

Smoking is cooking food indirectly in the presence of a fire. It can be done in a covered grill if a pan of water is placed beneath the meat on the grill; and meats can be smoked in a "smoker," which is an outdoor cooker especially designed for smoking foods. Smoking is done much more slowly than grilling, so less tender meats benefit from this method, and a natural smoke flavoring permeates the meat. The temperature in the smoker should be maintained at 250 to 300 F for safety.

Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature.

Pit Roasting

Pit roasting is cooking meat in a large, level hole dug in the earth. A hardwood fire is built in the pit, requiring wood equal to about 2 1/2 times the volume of the pit. The hardwood is allowed to burn until the wood reduces and the pit is half filled with burning coals. This can require 4 to 6 hours burning time.

Cooking may require 10 to 12 hours or more and is difficult to estimate. A meat thermometer must be used to determine the meat's safety and doneness. There are many variables such as outdoor temperature, the size and thickness of the meat, and how fast the coals are cooking.

Does Grilling Pose a Cancer Risk?

Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk related to eating food cooked by high-heat cooking techniques as grilling, frying, and broiling. Based on present research findings, eating moderate amounts of grilled meats like fish, meat, and poultry cooked -- without charring -- to a safe temperature does not pose a problem.

To prevent charring, remove visible fat that can cause a flare-up. Precook meat in the microwave immediately before placing it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals. Cook food in the center of the grill and move coals to the side to prevent fat and juices from dripping on them. Cut charred portions off the meat.

Building The Fire

Choices For Charcoal

Choose the best fuel to fire up your grill!

Charcoal Briquettes are the most popular fuel for grilling. Their uniform shape distributes heat evenly.
Hardwood Charcoal burns hotter than briquettes. These include mesquite and hickory.
Mix-it-up with a combination for briquettes and hardwood to tone down the distinctive taste of the hardwood charcoal. Experimentation will help you find the right combination of hardwood charcoal and briquettes to suit your taste.

Flavor Options

There is a lot of experimentation going on these days with combining traditional hardwood charcoal, briquettes, and wood chips or chunks. Wood chips or chunks can add loads of flavor to whatever you cook on the grill. Mesquite and hickory chips and chunks, as well as alder, oak, and fruit woods such as apple, cherry, and peach are some of the varieties you'll find available. Read the directions on the package labels thoroughly before using them. Chances are the chips or chunks will have to be soaked in water and drained before used for cooking so that they will smoke and not flame. For the really adventurous, try soaking the wood chips or chunks in cooking wine or one of your favorite beverages. Be sure to drain well and use caution when lighting because alcohol is flammable.

It's All In The Wood

One memorable camping trip I took years ago brings to mind one of the best tasting meals I think I've ever eaten. A few weeks prior to the camping trip I had gone on a fishing trip and caught a load of Atlantic Mackerel. I brought some of the mackerel along on the camping trip to cook on the camp fire. At that point in my life I had never eaten food cooked on a campfire. So this was a first for me. I built a fire with pine wood, which is pretty much all I had to use for fuel in Wharton State Forest in New Jersey. I put some oil in a pan and proceeded to pan fry the mackerel. Mackerel is a very oily fish that isn't really one of my favorites It was truly some of the best fish I had ever eaten The smoke from the pine wood flavored that fish so that the end result was very delectable.

Adding Herbs To The Fire

Water soaked herbs such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil can be added directly to the hot coals. There are also prepackaged dried herb packets that look like tea bags that can be added directly to the fire. Herb packets are custom-blended to enhance the flavor of meat, poultry and fish.

How Many Briquettes?

To get your fire medium-hot, spread coals in a single layer just barely touching each other. Let the coals extend approximately 2 inches beyond your cooking zone. For a hotter fire, mound the coals closer together. For lower heat, spread your coals farther apart. Once you've decided the right amount of coals to use. Push them into a mound for lighting.

Lighting The Fire

Several methods can be used to light a charcoal fire.

Liquid lighter fluid is the most popular fire starter. Pour fluid over the briquettes soaking them. Light with a match. Follow manufacturers directions.
Jelly and solid-cube starters are premeasured and take a lot of the guess work out of how much starter to use. Once they're lit, they burn slowly igniting the briquettes around them.
Chimney starters are tall cylinders with a metal grate in the bottom for air to circulate. To use them, place crumbled newspaper or a solid-cube starter in the bottom of the chimney and stack briquettes on top, then light them. When the coals are ready, carefully spread them out in the grill bed.
Once lit, standard briquettes take about 20 to 30 minutes to burn. The coals should be ash grey in daylight and glowing red at night.

Safety First

To reduce or eliminate flare-ups, try raising the grill rack, covering grill, arranging the coals with more space in between, or remove some of the coals.
Keep a water bottle handy to sprinkle flames during cooking.
Never use gasoline or alcohol as a substitute for lighter fluid.
Never pour liquid lighter fluid onto burning coals.
Keep young children away from open flames or a hot grill.
Place the grill on a level surface away from any flammable or combustible materials. If barbecuing on a deck, use a flame retardant mat or pad under the grill.
Never barbecue indoors with a charcoal grill or a gas grill. Always cook outdoors and make sure you grill in a well ventilated area.
Before using a new grill always read the manufacturers instructions.

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