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Let the Flames Begin

Let the Flames Begin
Photo by Andrew Cebulka


Each year when my family asks my dad what he wants to do for Father’s Day we always get the same response: “I want to have a backyard barbeque with my family.” A lover of good food, and more importantly delicious wine, my dad’s absolute favorite culinary indulgence is simply lighting up the grill and being surrounded by his wife, children, grandchildren, and anyone else we can wrangle up. This summer will be different, however—with his children scattered across the country, he and my mom have planned a spontaneous trip to California to visit his brother for the celebratory weekend.  And while I won’t be able to spend this special Sunday with him, I can say with certainty that on that day a grill will not be far out of reach.Keeping this in mind, I began to think about grilling up some favorite treats on my own but quickly realized my flame-fueled skills are severely limited. For my entire life my father securely manned the helm of the grill; therefore, I have hardly any experience to speak of, save one lucky attempt at grilled chicken. With no dad to bar my way this year, I expect it is high time I learn the art of masterful grilling.

To prevent the experience from turning into a mass catastrophe I looked to the expertise of Chef Ted Dombrowski from Ted’s Butcherblock, one of my favorite places for top-quality cuts of meat. Below, Chef Ted shares some answers to essential grilling questions.

What’s the proper way to clean the grill?

The best way to clean a charcoal grill is to simply burn off any residual fat by heating to a temperature over 600 degrees. After it cools down, wipe down the sides and clean out the ash. Clean the grate with a sturdy wire brush.

How do you keep consistent heat?

Temperature is controlled by air flow. The more air flow, the hotter the temperature, so you need to pay particular attention on gusty days. Opening and closing the bottom vent is for larger temperature changes. Adjusting the top daisy wheel is for slight temperature adjustments.

How do you keep food from drying out on the grill?

It depends on the cut of meat and the cooking style. There are different techniques depending on whether you are grilling or smoking for a long time. For grilling, which is going to take much less time, it depends on the type of meat. For something with very little fat content, such as chicken breast, I suggest brining ahead of time to ensure good moisture content. Otherwise, for steak or burgers, it is all about proper cooking temperatures and times. A good instant-read thermometer takes a lot of guesswork out of knowing when something is done.

Now that I have a handle on some of the basics, I anticipate I will be slashing grill marks on anything I can get my hands on. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Father’s Day!

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