The most common mistake is the desire to cook meat as quickly as possible. “Many people throw firewood into a traditional barbecue and, before it turns completely into embers, put skewers on it. Meat burns, drips, drops of fat rise with noxious smoke. And the baker makes sure to push the coals with a stick, creating a cloud of ash – these settle on the steak … but the meat Does not cook well or fast – it only burns from above and the inside remains green. , – they warn. – If you want to eat a tasty, high-quality dish with a special taste and smell instead of burnt or half-cooked, be aware that slow cooking requires low heat and at least three hours. .
Firewood or Coal?
When burning charcoal, the process is easier to control, and they emit more and more constant heat. Charcoal is basically a single piece of wood, only heated to a higher temperature, so starting a barbecue with it is quick and easy. You put the coal in, light it, let it get a little hot, and after about half an hour you should be cooking with the right coal.
Wood-burning food has a more subtle smell of smoke, more nuances of flavor.
Firewood takes a long time – first it has to burn, then you need to find the right moment to start cooking so that you do not run out of fire and heat. However, wood-burning food has a more subtle smell of smoke, more nuances of flavor. I found a middle ground: I light coals and throw in 1-2 small wood chips – for smell, smoke and good taste.
Photo by Robert Daskevicius/Wilius Blauzdavicius
Which coal to choose?
Coarse charcoal is more suitable. Crumbs or dust do not heat properly, are not suitable for long cooking, and clog the openings of the grill.
Avoid “spiced” charcoal with added flavorings – they can ruin the taste of the steak. Barely lit charcoal emits a lot of black smoke, so you need to let it burn well first. It takes about half an hour.
When the coals become thin, light and start emitting great heat, it is time to cook. If you rush, you will damage both the taste and appearance of the dish – the meat will absorb the first smoke, turn black and get an unpleasant, synthetic burning spice.
PERSONAL ALBUM PHOTO/”Viking the Chef” at Vilius BlouzDavisious Grill
Which firewood to choose?
The most important thing is that the firewood is dry. If you get it wet, with a thick skin, surrounded by sap, the fried meat will not taste good. It is better to choose deciduous firewood, it is not very suitable for cooking conifers.
If you buy cut quarters, cut the quartered pile in half before starting the fire – you’ll have the lumps faster and the heat will be higher. Firewood should be removed – it is the bark that gives black smoke and an aftertaste of pitch.
I avoid any flammable liquids. I roll a fine paper towel into a ball, pour a drop of oil on it, tuck it under some small wood chips and light it. Burns well and quickly.
Properly burned firewood is when there is no direct fire left and it crumbles into pieces when struck lightly.
Birch, black alder or …?
Many people choose birch firewood, but I prefer black alder – it is very hot. If I have it, I occasionally throw a small peeled piece of dry oak next to the black alder, which gives the smoke a special taste.
Fruit trees give off a distinctive aroma when burned. After cutting down an old cherry, plum or apple tree in the garden, lay out the firewood for grilling the barbecue. It is only important to dry it well and peel it, because when wet, this tree emits a sap-like liquid – when it burns, it burns and smokes black smoke. Fruit tree smoke is usually more intense, so you shouldn’t cook on it alone. Just throw in one more splash to intensify the taste and aroma. Just like experimenting with spices when cooking pilaf – by adding different woods, you give the dish a new smell and aftertaste.
How to cook?
Meat is not usually cooked over a fire, but over the heat given off by the flame. The cooking method depends on the result you are aiming for.
Cooking directly over coals is rare. This method is suitable, for example, for steak. You can put it directly on hot coals, then fry for a couple of minutes on both sides. The meat is suddenly exposed to extremely high temperatures, the crust is pulled away and the juices are “locked” inside. You can put a cast-iron pot on the coals, its heated walls distribute the heat evenly to the entire dish.
Curing or smoking is a slow and long process, when the meat is kept high enough or away from the embers and is not affected by heat, but by heat.
A personal album photo/meat made by Vilius BlouzDavisius
What to cook near embers, and what is better to catch some?
Direct heat – when cooking directly on a heat source (embers). The goal is to roast, burn, deep fry. Steaks and vegetables need direct heat (just oil before cooking) to stay crisp. Even a thin cut of meat must be cooked quickly, otherwise it will dry out. You can first sear the meat over direct heat so that the juices are “locked in” and finish cooking slowly over indirect heat.
Indirect heat – when the heat source is at a distance. It’s a long, slow process. Indirect heat is very suitable for meat products such as sausages. They should be cooked more slowly and longer, otherwise they will crack, the juice will leak and the meat will dry out.
How much fire do you need?
How much coal is needed depends on the size of the dish and the cooking time. If you plan to cook for two or three hours, you should burn wood or charcoal so that the layer of embers is about 15-20 centimeters. It is also necessary to assess the weather conditions: if it is windy, you will need more coals and you will need to protect them, maybe cover them with metal foil and keep the meat close to the heat.
How to understand that it is ready to prepare?
The optimal distance between the embers and the steak is between 15 and 25 centimeters.
If you can bring your palm to within about 30 centimeters of the embers and keep your hand still for three seconds, they are suitable for grilling. In the same way, you can judge with your hand which place is the hottest – place the prepared meat there. The optimal distance between the embers and the steak is between 15 and 25 centimeters.
When cooking on a traditional or covered grill, I let the fire die down and push the embers to the sides of the grill. I put the skewers or grills with the prepared meat in the middle. There is a lot of heat from the sides: if I put it directly on the coals, the meat cooks at about 130-150 degrees, instead of 250 degrees. In the fireplace, it is convenient to push the lumps in a circle, and hang the grill or meat in the middle – it is cooked evenly from all sides in a convection oven.
Determining whether heat is appropriate is not difficult. For example, you put a chicken on the grill and you see that it browns quickly – it means the heat is too high. The chicken will definitely not cook in five minutes, so you should move the embers to the side, if there are a lot of them and they can be covered if they are still hot.
If you are cooking a large amount of meat, the heat is likely to be unevenly distributed. So, the grates or grates need to be replaced, the embers in the barbecue need to be moved, maybe moved a bit.