Although the outdoor grilling season is almost finished for us New Englanders we wanted to write about a fun and different way to kick up your next barbecue. Joe has done this several times when he realized all too late that he was out of charcoal (kind of like Justin forgetting to charge the camera battery for Meat the Press Mondays 🙂 ). It is simple but requires a bit of time and a few tools, however the rewards are worth the work. Just about all New England folk who have a yard and have a fireplace in their home have some type of wood pile out behind the house and most people who have ever barbecued outdoors before have an old charcoal grill, or at least the frame to one. If this is you, grilling the Argentine way is easy.
The few tools required are a small tree saw and a hatchet or axe, and that’s about it. Start by completely cleaning out the charcoal grill and removing all but the bottom most grate. Next you will need to examine your wood supplies, what you are looking for are two things: some small dry kindling wood, and some nice hardwood pieces that are not buggy, rotten, or moldy. You won’t need a lot of the latter as proper hardwoods burn for a long time. Our favorites are cherry, oak, and apple, but just about any non-evergreen wood will do, and if you are in doubt whether it’s a good cooking wood, give it a sniff…if it smells pleasant, and not rotten, chances are the food you cook over it will taste good too.
Next, you will need to get a base fire going in the grill. You don’t want it to be huge but at the same time it will burn down and reduce in mass, so you don’t have to worry too much about this step. While your base fire is burning down, split some firewood sized logs into 1/4’s or smaller, if theses will fit in your grill with the cooking grate on top, you’re good to go, if not, that’s what the tree saw is for, just cut ’em in half. When the base fire has burned down to coals, add your nice cooking wood, not too much – two to three pieces should do for most charcoal grills. Wait for the fire to catch, flame up then reduce in size and intensity typically taking about 15 minutes. Place the grill grate back on top, let it heat a few minutes, brush it to clean, wipe it with a vegetable oiled towel and you’re good to go. Cook over it just like you would a charcoal grill, only before you place any food on it, give a quick feel about a foot over the top of the grill to locate your hotspots.
When adding more wood fuel to the grill, add small amounts at a time, and remember they will flame up at first so don’t add wood directly under your food. Master the art of cooking over a wood fire and you will quickly notice the sweet difference in flavor that hardwoods add, especially to steak.
Try a perfectly cooked, wood-fired steak just once and we guarantee you will be hooked!
What innovative cooking methods have you tried before? We’re very interested in hearing your stories!
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Contributing Writer: Joseph M. Gionfriddo
Photo by: Munkchip