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Chow Confessions

I must confess. Tonight was the first time in my life , I turned 63 a week ago, that I have ever used a gas grill! Last autumn I found one by the road side for free and walked it back through the drizzle to our house. We cleaned it up and tonight I grilled a porterhouse steak and some lamb chops. I was under impressed. Do I need to work on my technique or is charcoal just superior? Brilling/BBQing is my weakest cooking skill. Forgive me father for I have sinned. What's your confession?

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  1. takes some time buddy. jfood grilled a nice rib eye tonight, all burners on high, great crust and perfectly dark pink inside. jfood has used for ~30 years and ask some questions and he'll try to steer you in the right direction.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jfood

      I dunno, this may be your 1%. There is something intrinsically I didn't care for. I'm sure I can learn. I'm not posting about how to grill, but common cooking techniques that are not part of our expected repertoire. I have trouble w/ soft boiled eggs too.

    2. The shortcut is the long way home, my grandfather said. Gas is easy. When you relocate to NM, you will have access to mesquite, and you will be home again. You will miss the Maine seafood, but it will be the time to perfect your grilling skills. Smothered quail and dove breasts included.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Veggo

        Ah, yes mesquite and pinon pine. Free for the harvesting in the Nat'l forest. Now, New Mexican food is my comfort zone. Summers, seafood, winters mesquite grilling! Hee haw!

      2. The boyfriend's mother sent along a pork roast. It was on sale, she knows we love pork, and she is just the kind of fantastic lady that gives you a large slab of meat. Confession? I can be . . . lackadaisical/remiss/careless in learning all there is to know about meat. I took the pork and stuck it in a crockpot. I thought, 'Well, this is going to be a lovely stew.'

        The boyfriend came home, sniffed the air once, and yelled, "YOU PUT THE PORK IN THE CROCKPOT?!?!" I had to endure a lengthy lecture concerning the superiority of this particular chunk of pig, and how the crockpot is for 'bad' meat, not 'good' meat. I can't even remember what the cut was. Tenderloin? Center loin? Top loin? I don't remember. He claimed it was the best, ever in the history of the pig.

        25 Replies
        1. re: onceadaylily

          I'm a living anachronism. I've never used a crock pot either, and I've done all the cooking for a family of 7 for the last 30 years. Cast iron dutch ovens.

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            Where were you when I had that beautiful loin in my hand? My dutch ovens are all cheap aluminum with stainless bottoms. They work, but they neither impart flavor nor give up the goods without a lot of fat and scraping.

            Your post caught my eye because we are buying a new grill this summer. He's holding out for a gas grill, but I can't see spending that kind of money on what is, really, an oven that stays outside. I just need a metal pit for the fire.

            1. re: onceadaylily

              I'm with you on the gas grill...I've used one before at other people's houses but I own a charcoal grill; sure, it's easy to light up & cook on a gas grill but the flavor is just not the same as charcoal. I also own a electric counter top grill that I use once every year or so but as my son says, "what's the point", the food doesn't taste grilled?

              1. re: Cherylptw

                I can *taste* the components of a built fire in a meat. Gas grills do have some excellent features (usually extending themselves to controled cooking of the side dishes), but if I can duplicate those inside, then I don't want to sacrifice the main course. Perfect world? I'd have both, and strictly regulate what dishes go where.

                I'm probably going to show the boyfriend this thread. He lightly mocks my discourse with, what he calls, 'the food people', but when I talk of a dish, and mention advice from Chowhound, he perks right up. He's all ears.

                (I have, perhaps, begun to use a Cliff Notes version of the advice, as edited by me, in my reports to gain ground when we differ.)

              2. re: onceadaylily

                A good gas grill is a very versatile cooking device. Definitely not just an oven that stays outside. And for that matter, you can use a good charcoal grill as an outside oven, too.

                Blind taste tests indicate that even people who think charcoal is superior can't taste the difference between a burger cooked on a good gas grill and one cooked over coals. I use both, and prefer gas most of the time.

                That said, a charcoal grill will give you a lot better bang for your buck. Comparing apples to apples (or Webers to Webers), a gas grill costs about four times as much as a comparable charcoal model. In an either/or situation, at almost any price point, a charcoal grill is the way to go.

                ETA: you'll ruin a pork tenderloin by slow-cooking it in a dutch oven just as sure as you'll ruin it with slow-cooking in a crock pot. It's a cut of meat that wants hot, dry cooking to medium-rare or medium. But now that you've got what my wife calls "imaginary friends" online, there's always good cooking advice close at hand.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  You managed to say just what I was meandering at, minus the tongue that calls upon memory for sustenance, and less clarity of thought. The majority of what I want to cook on a grill is done quite well on charcoal, and anything else that *could* be done on a grill is done just as well inside, to my experience.

                  I think the boyfriend is just scarred by the . . . hibachi period. What man wants to squat as they grill in an alley?

                  You had to bring up the pork.

                2. re: onceadaylily

                  Lily, I would have loved to have had your "beautiful loin in my hand".
                  This thread was not meant to be an indictment of gas grills. J is correct, that I will learn to do better. Al is correct as well, as usual.(Do not read sarcasm, I'm sincere.)
                  I love to cook, but I think as a result of living outside the US for so long, that I just don't grill well. It is my weakest cooking area and I need to learn. I have been makeing great strides w/ my Brinkman smoker. (Also found by the roadside.) We have 3 old apple trees behind the house and I feel their wood is beautiful for smoking.
                  I think it was Al that said in another post that "a crock pot does nothing well". I have little desire to use one.

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    go for it buddy. next time jfood cooked up a good looking chicken or steak on the gas grill he'll post a picture for the naysayers. Happy Fathers Day

                    1. re: jfood

                      Happy Father's Day to you as well, I just wish my kids weren't so very far away.
                      I think I need to let it heat up more ahead of time.

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        jfood turns on and goes inside and sets the timer for 10 minutes. If the thermometer is not 450 he does not start. And this may cause others to cringe but he does not wash the grates but lets the heat "melt" the previous leftovers and he just scrapes. Those grates are VERY well seasoned.

                        1. re: jfood

                          Sam wouldn't have to dive your dumpster, only chew on your grill, he jokes.
                          I agree.

                          1. re: jfood

                            JFOOD doesn't wash the grates???????????? I think Sam has taken you over! I don't wash them either but I'm not jfood. I also preheat, depending on whether it's summer or winter, 10-15 minutes and also go for at least 450, 500 is even better. We use our gril 4-6 times a week probably and find charcoal generally a PITA. We're staying in a friend's house in Sonoma this week and they only have a charcoal Weber. For that reason, we've only grilled twice.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              True confessions are tough sometimes, he has also taken more Sammy advice and not wash the meats and chickens either, baby steps to living on the edge. insert colon dash closed parenths.

                              1. re: jfood

                                Woohoo. Don't forget though, you're gettin' on up there and your immune system may be weakening :) (Just turned 63 myself) A few times a year, I put the grates in the oven during the cleaning cycle. I'm sure the manufacturer of neither the grates nor the range would approve. Got a new range a few months ago and haven't gotten up the nerve yet.

                                1. re: c oliver

                                  I still embrace the concept that exposure to hostile little living things, in measured doses, builds resistance and a stronger immune system in this antiseptic nation.

                                  1. re: Veggo

                                    Oh, lordy, so do I. I was just teasing j. My daddy always said "you gotta eat a little dirt in your life." Having lived with horses, dogs and cats, I've had more than a little. I've lifted meat off the grill and had it fall to the deck. Three second rule, ya know.

                                    1. re: c oliver

                                      As Nietzsche said, "That that doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

                                    2. re: Veggo

                                      jfood grew up in NJ in the shadow of the Esso factory and the landfills. His immune system was built of oil fumes and garbage, plus eastern european peasant stock. couple of 3 day old burnt edges ain;t hurting him. Knock on wood.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        Hey Jersey Boy, you forgot the chlorine cocktail that came out of the faucet, that we were weaned and raised on.

                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                          In New Jersey, only the strong survive. :D

                    2. re: onceadaylily

                      Lily....that cracked me up. I would have thrown a can of cream of mushroom soup into the pot, so it could have been worse.

                      1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                        I actually did that with pork chops a few months back, based on my mother's hand-to-god-you-have-to-try-this testimony, and it was my first cream of mushroom soup used outside of Thanksgiving since 1993 (damn GBC). It probably would have been better with the soup (the boyfriend loved the pork chops). But I tried to go all greens and white beans on the whatever-cut/loin. It was dull, and expensive, and flavored with resentment.

                        1. re: onceadaylily

                          lol...I tend to flavor mine with a suggestion of shame.

                    3. Well, if you dragged the grill home you might as well learn to use it well. If not, you can always freecycle it back to somebody else.

                      When it comes to direct, high-heat grilling, charcoal-cooked and gas-cooked meats are very nearly indistinguishable if your grill and technique are both good. How hot did the grill get? My guess is that either (a) you didn't let it warm up enough before applying the meat or (b) the burners aren't capable of putting out sufficient heat. Maybe they're plugged up, or maybe they were always underpowered.

                      Nothin' wrong with charcoal. And it's a whole lot simpler than gas. But in answer to your question, while your charcoal grill may be inherently superior to the gas grill you rescued, charcoal is not inherently superior to gas.

                      1. Sorry about the grill Passadumkeg - I've become the grill queen at SO's home.

                        BUT! You asked about confessions - well here we go - I confiscated SO's huge cast iron skillet. He doesn't know and I use it on a regular basis. It's probably been four years - he hasn't missed it yet.

                        I bought one of those "only on TV" grill pans that has failed miserably and for some odd reason, I haven't tossed or recycled yet. I don't have a grill at my home.

                        Made soft boiled eggs with toast, for my sis that was sick. The yolk thing TOTALLY quesed me out and I threw the rest back into the boiling water. I still feel bad about that.

                        1. I think it's just a matter of practice and a bit of adjusting your technique from charcoal to gas.

                          Also, it might help us if you told us what you found that made you "under impressed" with the gas grill. Was it the flavor? The char? Something else?

                          1 Reply
                          1. I don't know how to make coffee. There. I said it. I mean I know the ingredients (at least I think I do) but haven't a clue on what to do with them. Luckily, I have mad tea skills.

                            2 Replies
                              1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                Oh my god thank you. I can't either, and I never do. I also burn food in the microwave. My kids have to tell me cooking times.

                              2. Buddy,

                                When you said you were under-impressed, what exactly were you compared the gas grill to? Charcoal grill? Pan frying?

                                My confession? I have a lot.
                                1) I cannot and have never made a pizza though I enjoy it a lot.
                                2) I cannot and have never made a yeast bread
                                3) I cannot brew any alcoholic drinks

                                I can go on and on

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  I can't bake, either. Luckily SO makes pretty good pizza (take out is better) and great pie and bread. I don't even like cake, but one does need to make it once in awhile. SO usually does that, too. The last cake I made was for his 26th birthday. (He's now 45.) I still have the scar on my wrist.

                                2. There are some differences between gas and charcoal. The first thing you need to know about a gas grill is that there are two critical factors in gaining good results. One is BTUs. If you don't have the power, you'll never get the char. The second th8ing is that the older the lava rocks, the better the flavor. All those fat drippings of years gone by build up and start to give an "authentic" flavor.

                                  All that said, the bottom line is that gas, or the new modern super hot gas/infra red broilers/grills all lack one thing, no matter how sophisticated they are. That is the smokiness of real charcoal. You can chemically approximate this with "genuine mesquite barbecue flavor," or other smoke flavorings, but it really isn't quite the same.

                                  My flavor preference is REAL charcoal (toss the damned briquettes, they don't deliver any more than a gas grill!) that is really hot and gives that wonderful carcinogenic flavor that our far distant ancestors loved so much to everything from hot dogs to a porterhouse. BUT....! It *IS* messy. You have to disppose of the ashes, You have to start the charcoals with a chimney instead of "starter fuels" so the food doesn't taste like licking the driveway of a diesel truck stop. And it's expensive. But I will say it is getting easier to find real charcoal instead of the pressed and powdered stuff. Really good quality charcoal can cost as much as the steaks, depending on the quality of the steaks, and even more if you go with the special Japanese charcoals.

                                  Bottom line for me for years was convenience. I had a well broken in, properly aged lava rocks with ample BTUs in a cast iron Charbroiler that was pretty damned good! Took me twenty plus years to get that kind of flavor! Then someone climbed over the rock wall around my backyard and stole the damned thing! Left lava rocks spead across the back lawn that played hell with the lawnmower! But such is life. When you get old enough, it's just a hell of a lot easier to go to a restaurant that uses real charcoal and have them take care of hauling the ashes.

                                  Oh.... And my guess is that if you found your gas grill free by the side of the road, there's probably a reason. And now you know. '-)

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Girl, yours is going to be one of the carefully selected 'expanded' posts that support my charcoal grill plea. All contrary posts, zippered shut with their single line user names, will be explained as 'locked by mods for various infractions'.

                                    But no confession? :)

                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                      Caroline1, will you marry me?

                                      Today I will use the grill to make shshliki or lamb shish-ka-bobs.

                                      Our youngest has been coming home from college on the weekends. He said last month that he wanted to learn to fish, so we go fishing. For a 20 year old, he's a pretty damn good cook Funny all 4 boys are, but my daughter phones and we cook "by wire" as Dogracs put it. I have a set of Hoyang cast iron cook ware that I bought in Norway, while living there. They have lovely mahogany handles w/ a brass knob at the end.He observed that, Why don't all cast iron pans have wooden handles?" They don't get hot. I digress. I usually pan fry my steaks in a smoking hot cast iron pan and they turn out well?
                                      What are your cooking weaknesses?
                                      Huevos rancheros for breakfast; can't wait.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        "Why don't all cast iron pans have wooden handles?" -- Lots of cast iron pans do oven duty. Cornbread, upside-down-cake, Yorkshire pudding, roasts and braises, etc. Don't want a wooden handle in the oven.

                                        1. re: Sharuf

                                          I just take off the brass nut, the wood slides off and into the oven she goes. Next time one of my Norwegian friends visit, I'm going to have them bring more for Littlest Dumkeg.

                                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                                          What are MY cooking weaknesses? You jist hadda ask, dincha? Well, to be perfectly honest, my biggest shortfal in the kitchen is age and osteoarthriis in my hands. Can no longer cook without a "sous chef." And that's what housekeepers are for! As for the rest of it, I had that wonderful three years of private training by a retired master chef of French and Byzantine cooking that has seved me very well for lo, these nearly sixty years! But there is a downside to being a really good cook. It means that eating out in restaurants is almost always dissappointing. BUT...!!! I NEVER EVER EVER judge a friends cooking when I'm invited for dinner. It honestly never occurs to me. I'm just so grateful for the invitation. But when I'm eating the food of a well reputed cheff, hey babe, s/he damned well better deliver! But they rarely do. <sigh> I'm gonna hate myself for answering this question.

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            Oh! Oh! Oh! SHAME on me! I lied! There *IS* one thing that is always always always a TOTAL disaster for me in the kitchen. So much so that I haven't tried to make one in at least forty years. That's MEATLOAF! No matter what I do, no matter how delicious it tastes, no matter what the recipe, ANY meatloaf made by me will give everyone who eats it terrible gas and a tummy ache for at least a day. I don't know why. I tried everything that I and all of my friends at the time could think of. That's just the way it is. Soooooo... You will NEVER find meatloaf on a menu in my house. I just let the meatloaf devil sleep.

                                      2. I've always wanted to learn how to can fresh fruits and vegetables for the winter, but am terrified I'd screw it up (and kill someone trying). :)

                                        1. Since this ain’t supposed to be another one of those “Gas v. Charcoal” Steel Cage matches, I will refrain from championing a real wood fire as the ultimate way to bring animal protein to temperature . . .

                                          That being said, I confess my shame – I cannot make decent rice in a timely fashion. It don’t matter what kind, brown, basmati, jasmine, wild, call it what you must, mine is never ready when it’s needed and my attempts to salvage it always fail. I even f**k it up with an electric rice cooker! Ahhh, the humiliation.

                                          21 Replies
                                          1. re: MGZ

                                            Hey MGZ,

                                            I was in your shoes for years, but now am a master (lol!), at rice cooking. I am happy to pass my researched efforts on to anyone within shouting distance! ;)

                                            1. heavy bottom medium sauce pan (even cooking).
                                            2. 1 cup of rice, with 1&1/2 cups of water, chicken stock (your preference).
                                            3. 1 tablespoon butter.
                                            4. Bring water/stock/butter to boil.
                                            5. Add rice, stir.
                                            6. Turn stove to low.
                                            7. Take two paper towel sections (I use bounty), place over top of pan.
                                            8. Place tight lid over paper towels.
                                            9. Turn timer to 18 minutes.
                                            11. When timer goes off, take off lid and paper towels and fluff with fork.
                                            12. Place paper towels and lid back on for 5 minutes........ voila!

                                            I have done this for months now and have been so happy to overcome my soggy, uncooked or hardened rice......

                                            1. re: mcel215

                                              I do pretty much the same, but use a clean dish towel and do 20 min. I think the 1 cup rice to 1 1/2 cup liquid is the key.

                                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                Hey Keg!

                                                Here is a picture of my fluffy rice (YAY)...

                                                And a friend told me about the dish towel yesterday ~

                                                1. re: mcel215

                                                  I think I'm correct that I learned this method from the good ol' Joy of Cooking.
                                                  I'm moving from 200 yds from the Atlantic to over 8000 ft in New Mexico in Aug. Going to be time to recalibrate cooking time and ingredients for high altitude cookin. The water boils at 178 F.

                                                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                    You are........... leaving Maine? Oy vey. ;)

                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                      Wow, you're moving? Cool.

                                                      I have always sucked at making rice and at 6200' it became even harder. A Chow-buddy who's an outstanding cook said he'd had that problem also. Until he bought a rice cooker. I got one for $15 and it's been great. Plus it's one fewer thing on the stovetop and one fewer thing to pay attention to.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        $15? That is cheap. Imagine what you can get if you have a $150 one or better yet this one:


                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                          OMG, that's up there in the Dyson stratosphere. I'd want more from it than good rice.

                                                          1. re: c oliver


                                                            Mine is not cheap. I think I spent $120 for mine. I figure I eat rice very regular in my meal (50-75%). It does have a lot of neat features which I don't use.

                                                            I just find this one. It just looks so cool, like a spaceship. I want to get it, but mine is not broken. Ha ha.


                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          Plus a rice cooker is multi-functional and doesn't heat up the kitchen like my gas range does.

                                                          We actually use our rice cooker more often to cook polenta or as a steamer.

                                                        3. re: Passadumkeg

                                                          Yes, you will have to recalibrate your brain when cooking at attitude. I lived there (Santa Fe) for several years, after living in California and had to readjust what I did by rote in CA to NM time. Baking was a challenge to say the least. But you'll love it, wait for fresh Hatch chile pepper roasting season coming up shortly after you get there.

                                                          1. re: lrostron

                                                            Thanks, I used to live on the shoulder of Mt. Taylor where I still own 7 acres of land. It is at 9000 ft. Baking was a challenge . I'm returning to where I began teaching 39 years ago to the month. (Damn! I sold my 5 acres outside Sante Fe, 25 years ago to buy my first house in Maine.) I am a chile addict.

                                                            1. re: lrostron

                                                              "Yes, you will have to recalibrate your brain when cooking at attitude"

                                                              An amusing but mostly profound typo.

                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                Must of been Freudian on my part ... not a good day at work that particular day, full of attitude (or altitude?).

                                                          2. re: mcel215

                                                            beautiful! Thanks I'm changing my rice ways. 2-1 ratio 20 minutes doesn't work for me/

                                                          3. re: Passadumkeg

                                                            I agree. I've been getting much more consistent results after having reduced the about of liquid I use from my previous 2:1 ratio.

                                                            Also, thanks for reminding me about using a dish towel - I had been doing that, but I think at one point I didn't have a clean towel and used aluminum foil instead. - Then I just sort of forgot about the towel method and kept on using the aluminum.

                                                            1. re: Bryan Pepperseed

                                                              Yeah, 2:1 has never really worked for me, and I couldn't understand for a long time why my rice was always soggy and gross. I don't entirely understand why 2:1 seems to be the widely quoted ratio. I usually do 1.75 cups of water for one cup, or 3.25 for two. That's for jasmine rice though-I still haven't mastered brown rice. It's on my list.

                                                          4. re: mcel215

                                                            I thank you very much. I will try this in the next few days. First, however, I have to buy rice (my skills are so weak that I don't even keep the foul grain in the house). Is there a remedial type I should select?

                                                            You know, if this works, I can stop having to serve stir fry over couscous or soba noodles (or even worse, buying rice from the Chinese restaurant in town - Can you imagine how pathetic it feels to just buy a pint of white rice? I actually ordered a couple of egg rolls on one occassion , though I had no interest in eating them, simply to mitigate the embarassment!).

                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              I have used clay pots for rice cooking, but mostly rely on rice cookers because they are very easy to use and I can have it cooks rice while I am cooking the other dishes. Get yourself a decent rice cookers, follow the instructions and then play around with it a bit. I am sure it will work out.

                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                I use a very inexpensive (I think, lol!), from my local Indian store. The brand is Dehraduni and it's Basmati, 4lbs, @ $5.99.
                                                                But, I used to buy a box of basmati at the grocer's, don't remember the brand.
                                                                And have fun! If it takes you one to two times to get the feel of it, don't worry.
                                                                You will have dry, fluffy rice soon ~ :)

                                                            2. re: MGZ

                                                              MGZ, I too, am a Natural Enemy of Rice, in fact of any starch. Just like the photocopier at work, Starch knows when I am approaching and refuses to behave itself. Luckily, I found a cost-effective solution: His name is J, and I am married to him. He is the King of Starch. All carby cooked things bow before him -- basmati, spaghettini, you name it. No towels, no butter, no stock -- just him, the pan, the starch and water. I live starchless when he travels for work.

                                                            3. OMG. And I was just about to ask you how to grill the two 2-lb lobsters I just bought and split, on my gas grill since your the main (no pun intended) lobster man.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: junescook

                                                                That I can do. It is truly funny that I can grill lobster better than a burger (they always seem to fall apart and fall through the grill and into the coals. First take a cleaver and whack that bug in two, length-wise (2 identical halves). Brush the exposed half w/ olive oil, brown the flesh side down for a couple of minutes and then turn shell side down for 10 min or so depending on the size of the lobber. If you are not faint of heart, and have a grill w/ a cover, just chuck the vicious bastards (make sure you take the rubber bands off the claws) onto the grill and lower the top quickly and listen to the fun inside. Cook about 10-15 min. depending upon the size of the brute.

                                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                  They are cloven and seem to have just about stopped moving. How high do you set the heat, hot for the sear and then medium for the cook? These are 2# each.

                                                                  1. re: junescook

                                                                    Shit, that I don't know. I just used a gas grill for the second time of my life a hlalf hour ago! The souvlaki was excellent! I just used to throw them lobbers on the charcoal grill when the coals were gray. But if they are getting lifeless, cook 'em quick!

                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                      Thank you Pastor. They tasted better than any boiled or steamed lobster we've ever had. Thank you.

                                                                      1. re: junescook

                                                                        Did you half them or throw them on whole?

                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                          I halved them. Actually I cooked the claws by themselves first so DW could pick out the meat while I was getting everything else ready, and then did the bodies and some corn as everything else was getting put on the table. They were escellent. I loved the flavor of the lobster, much better than steamed, though the claw meat got somewhat dired and stuck to the shells. I had left them on till they turned red, apparently too long? Maybe steam them next time? But thanks so much for your help.

                                                                          1. re: junescook

                                                                            When you remove the claws the natural liquids, ie seawater drains out and the meat becomes dry and tough. Keep the claws on next time. I also sometimes cover the bugs w/ seaweed, but wet news paper works as well, I hear.

                                                              2. How is this a confession? Charcoal is superior. This is like "confessing" to never having eaten Velveeta or something.

                                                                36 Replies
                                                                1. re: John Manzo

                                                                  >>"Charcoal is superior."<<

                                                                  What, you're speaking ex cathedra now? Blind taste tests have established that people can't taste the difference between a burger cooked on a good gas grill and one cooked on a good charcoal grill. If it makes you feel better to be a charcoal snob, then more power to you. But if you actually care about how the food **tastes**, then you may actually want to pry that closed mind of yours open just a little.

                                                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                    The last leg of lamb I did with my rotisserie on the Weber 22" using lump hardwood charcoal had a very nice smoke ring - even though it had not been cooked low and slow. So if you're saying that you can get the smoke flavor and ring on gas, I'd say you're using not only blind but tasteless, noseless people for that test of yours... Seeing as how most of us have eyes, tongues and noses, I think most of us could tell the difference between what's been cooked on a gas grill vs. over real charcoal. In fact, I think lump hardwood vs. that fake pressed stuff is an even bigger difference than gas vs. charcoal. Was that test you mentioned done with chemically enhanced presswood by any chance?

                                                                    Having said that, they are both useful - I say buy one of each. Just know which one you ought to use for what. In fact I said that a while ago:

                                                                    1. re: applehome

                                                                      The blind taste was done on burgers. That makes it a bit suspect in me 'umble opinion.
                                                                      I will now use both as well.

                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                        Actually, I can get a great smoke ring and flavor with my gas grill. I put a small cast iron skillet full of wood chips over one burner and cook with indirect heat. But that's a whole 'nother cooking method.

                                                                        When you're cooking on an open grill with direct heat, both charcoal and gas burn very clean. You may get some smoke from the drippings, but the fuel itself is going to impart little to no flavor. Certainly not enough to notice in the short period of time it takes to cook a burger.

                                                                        I'm a big fan of charcoal and of gas. Each has its place. And anybody who claims that one is inherently superior to the other doesn't know what s/he's talking about.

                                                                        PS - I agree with you about lump vs. briquette charcoal.

                                                                          1. re: EWSflash

                                                                            He may or may not be correct. But apparently, the only way to get meat to look and taste as if it was cooked over wood while using gas, is to use... wood!

                                                                            You don't always want or need grilling to look and taste like it was cooked over wood. That's where gas excels - quick, clean, hot enough for some cooking - chicken and veg come to mind; hot dogs and burgers, etc. But Passa's Porterhouse deserved wood - real hot, real wood. You can't get the gas grill that hot and the touch of smoke is impossible without... wood.

                                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                                              I am under the impression that gas flame (methane) is burned at a similar temperature as charcoal flame, but I guess it depends on the situations. If we are talking about wood-wood, then wood flame should be at a lower temperature than gas flame.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                We're talking about hardwood charcoal - which ought to burn much hotter, especially heaped up on the side of the Weber kettle (glowing orange!). I've never seen a gas unit that can come anywhere close to this kind of heat. Gas flame is methane? Is that the main component of LNG? Most backyard grilling is over propane, using the regulated tanks where burners rarely get over 15-20,000 BTU. The surface temp using direct or radiant heat is usually about 400F, although you can get higher temps by closing the lid and increasing the convective component. Hardwood charcoal is much hotter - well into 600F and above.

                                                                                Clearly, commercial kitchens get much hotter flames from gas - including 200,000 BTU salamanders that can sear at 2000 degrees. I don't know how hot the wok burners are in Chinese restaurants, but they have to be up there. So the gas itself isn't the issue as much as the configuration on most home gas grills.

                                                                                1. re: applehome

                                                                                  Hi apple,

                                                                                  You are probably right. I have never did any comparison. I just thought they are heated to about the same temperature because I read conflicting things. As for gas flame, I think there are the natural gas which is mostly methane and the propane. Propane should a bit higher if I remember right. I think you are probably correct about the overall configration.

                                                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  Methane? I was sure gas grills used propane- and the men doing the grilling had the methane.

                                                                                  1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                    Ha ha ha. Are you telling me that women does not produce methane? That is worrisome if that is true.

                                                                                    I believe there are natural gas grills, but you are right that most gas grills are propane. Nevertheless, I intentionally picked natural gas because it has a slightly lower flame temperature. In other words, I didn't want to pick best of the gas grills to compare to the worst of the charcoal grills.


                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                      After years of dealing with propane tanks, when we remodeled and added on to our cabin, we ran a natural gas line out to the deck for the grill. Boy, is our life easier.

                                                                                3. re: applehome

                                                                                  The pros and cons of gas and charcoal/wood are fairly even at sea level, but change considerably at altitude. My mountain house was at 9000 ft, similar to where Passa will be, and a charcoal/wood fire takes an hour to get going, and never reaches that nice high temperature for a good sear. Air is 14.5 psi at sea level, only 10.5 psi at 9000 ft..30% less air is significant and after 2 years of patience and frustration I bought a gas unit and it became the go-to.

                                                                                  1. re: Veggo

                                                                                    Veggo, good to know about a gas grill.

                                                                                  2. re: applehome

                                                                                    AH, funny, the grilling I have been doing at home is from the same hardwood I cut and split to heat my home; oak, maple, beech and apple for smoking. (I just came in from pruning the ancient apple trees to try and get a decent yield.)

                                                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                      I smoke all the time, so I use a lot of these woods - but not for grilling. But I've always wondered about turning them into charcoal - some sort of oxygen starvation process that burns off the esters and the other non-carbon materials. I know you can use the Weber for hardwood, but I haven't done a lot of that - just sticking to the store-bought hardwood lump.

                                                                                      1. re: applehome

                                                                                        Charcoal kilns were once big business in Maine. I just let the wood burn down to nice hot coals.

                                                                                    2. re: applehome

                                                                                      >>"You can't get the gas grill that hot"<<

                                                                                      Well, that depends on the gas grill. Some get as hot as 1200F, which is plenty hot enough, and every bit as hot as charcoal (unless you've installed a bellows on your Weber kettle).

                                                                                      >>"the touch of smoke is impossible without... wood."<<

                                                                                      Yes and no. Yes, the touch of wood smoke is impossible without wood. Not gas or charcoal, wood. The other fuels emit little to no smoke when they burn. Just look at a chimney starter full of charcoal - once the newspaper's gone, the smoke is, too.

                                                                                      But you can get smoke from other sources - most notably from the food you're cooking. When fat drips onto the coals in a charcoal grill it generates far more smoke than the coals ever will. But you get the same result when fat drips onto the hot "flavorizer bars" (or equivalent) of a gas grill.

                                                                                      The big difference, in my opinion, is that a low charcoal fire vaporizes drippings that might flow through a low gas fire and end up in the drip tray. So while burgers are the same regardless of the cooking fuel, chicken just tastes better cooked over charcoal. Seared tuna or a black-and-blue steak? If the gas grill gets hot enough, it doesn't make a difference. A thick ribeye cooked medium-rare? Break out the lumps.

                                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                        Lately on really thick steaks, I've been deeply searing on both sides in a CI skillet and then into a 400 degree oven. It's been knocking our socks off. We get that deep char but have complete control over the internal temp, usually take it out <120. jfood taught me this and I just love it --- for those 2+".

                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                          Other than the bringing in to the oven part, that's the ultimate steak cooking technique, indeed. But, why not just leave it out on the grill off the flame? Indirect heat on the grill works fundamentally in the same way.

                                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                                            Sorry. I wasn't clear. I put the CI skillet on the stovetop and then into the oven. Yours is a great idea also. Fortunately we live where an average July or August day only gets to about 75 so I never have to worry about heating up the kitchen. It hasn't always been that way and I was using the gas grill for the whole meal.

                                                                                        2. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                          "But you can get smoke from other sources" - totally agree, as seen in the smoke detectors going hog wild with noise the first time jfood made a Zuni Chicken in the oven.

                                                                                          And little jfood's bedroom is above the gas weber and she will testify under oath that it does produce smoke.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            Well - the first time I see smoked salmon being done without wood, I'll buy into this crazy theory y'all have. Of course, grease fires have smoke. That doesn't mean you'd want that particular flavor in your meat or fish. Wood smoke is wood smoke. I understand that we're talking about grilling, not cold or even hot smoking (although the pan of wood gets into that). Nevertheless, it's the wood smoke that gets into my rotisserie meat done over hardwood charcoal - especially since I use no dripping pan and the coals are over to the sides. Whether its chicken, lamb or beef, there is a unique flavor profile that can only come from some level of wood smoke, which is coming from the hardwood lump charcoal since I use no other wood.

                                                                                            If I really want deep smoke flavor, I'll use the smoker, of course. But the flavor that develops in the Weber is much more than the smoke from the oils dripping off the meat. At least it is for roasts. For quicker cooking, broiled items (hamburger, hot dogs, etc) I doubt that they're in there long enough to pick up the difference between gas and charcoal.

                                                                                            Also @AB - the first time I see a gas grill that does 1200 at the surface with the top open (in other words, direct, radiant heat) that is not a salamander or otherwise in a professional kitchen... I'm buying it. I've had Webers and everything else and never, ever gotten anything close to that. AFAIK the main limitation on how hot I can get my Weber kettle is whether I want the sides of the kettle to melt or not. And that's not using any hair blower tricks or anything - just open up the bottom vents and let her fly - add more and more charcoal piled onto a side.

                                                                                            I was thinking that it's interesting that with gas, internal pressure fuel delivery, you want to close the top to develop more heat. With charcoal, that needs air to get hot, you put the top on (and shut down the vents) to reduce heat.

                                                                                            1. re: applehome

                                                                                              This one's only claiming 1100F (1800F at the surface of the burner), but you get the idea. It is exactly the same technology they use in salamanders in professional kitchens, but built into a residential grill: http://www.napoleongrills.com/Gourmet...

                                                                                              And not ridiculously expensive, either - just over $300.

                                                                                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                Wow, that's NOT a bad price. I'm guessing it could be converted to natural gas. I need to study that some more. AB, you make my life expensive :)

                                                                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                                  Are you sure that isn't with the lid closed? 14,000 BTU's isn't that much - perhaps it's counting on the convection from the sealed lid to bring it's temp up that high. Personally, I can't grill opening and shutting the lid all the time.

                                                                                                  1. re: applehome

                                                                                                    The whole point of the infrared burner is that it uses radiant heat, not convection. With a burner face temperature of 1800F, 1100F at the grate with the lid open sounds about right. Maybe even a little conservative.

                                                                                                    14,000 BTU isn't a barrier to those temperatures. It isn't much for a tubular burner (which is typically less than 50% efficient), but infrared burners can be upwards of 80% efficient; you get a lot more heat output for the same gas input.

                                                                                                    Looking at commercial applications, a 36" Wolf IR salamander has a 30,000 BTU burner. http://www.katom.com/290-IRB36NG.html So does the 36" Vulcan. http://www.katom.com/207-36SBI3NG.html For its 34" IR salamander, Garland uses a pair of 14,000 BTU burners. http://www.katom.com/451-MSTSR16ng.html A residential grill that's about half the size of one of those commercial units could certainly achieve plenty of heat with just one.

                                                                                  3. re: alanbarnes

                                                                                    Now, I will accept the notion that most people, I’ll even grant you, let’s say for the sake of friendly discourse, that 19 out of 20 people cannot discern the taste difference between burgers cooked over different fuels. But, let us keep in mind, that most people, certainly significantly more than our 19 of 20 assumption: don’t spend days considering where to go to eat, don’t think about what to make for dinner when they wake up, don’t grind their own meat, share their thoughts about food, on a daily basis, on the web, read cookbooks like novels, . . . (I could go on). No, alan, my friend, most people are not food geeks like us. And, I say, most people, be damned - I’m not most people and I can taste the difference.

                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                      I for one appreciate the fact that you have bothered to actually participate in a blind taste test. Good for you. There are always exceptions and you are clearly exceptional :)

                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                        Thanks, but it's not a time I talk about much. Mostly, I just needed the money. It was just a couple weeks after I had lost the Pepsi Challenge. The only work I could find was part time in the office of the only Dentist in 5 who didn't recommend Trident to his patients who chewed gum (he suggested grape Bubble Yum, believing that, in the long run, it would result in more return business). . . .

                                                                                    1. re: John Manzo

                                                                                      I confess to not knowing how to grill well at all, charcoal or gas. I feel inept, very un-American and unmanly. My wiener is shrinking!

                                                                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                        Like the man said when asked how to get to Carnegie Hall - practice, practice, practice. And FWIW, if your wiener is shrinking, you've left it over the heat too long.

                                                                                    2. I read down this thread fairly carefully, and nobody seems to have mentione this possibility-

                                                                                      Maybe the reason you found the grill by the side of the road is because it's a piece of crap grill and the owner finally got sick up and fed with it?

                                                                                      The first gas grill we got (in addition to having a ton of various litte oddball grills and a couple of Webers that we just wore out) was one of those not-so-hot-literally- grills. Good for hot dogs and disappointing for most other uses. So we got a good one. I usually prefer charcoal but when it's over 100 out and you just want to quickly cook something they're pretty great.

                                                                                      Sounds like your grill doesn't get hot enough.

                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                        I preheated the grill today, It worked well enough.The shashliki were great. I just feel like I don't know what I'm doing.

                                                                                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                          Then practice, practice, practice... you're too much a chowhound to not learn and conquer. But you might want to start off with lower-priced cuts until you start to get a feel for it.
                                                                                          One thing I do if I'm going to moist-cook a lesser cut of meat is sear it good on the grill for a lilttle char and then moist-cook it the rest of the way to whatever doneness depending on what I'm making.
                                                                                          we've gotten some of our biggest raves cooking that way.

                                                                                          1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                                                            good new, bad news...it takes about 100 burgers to get it right and at 2 burgers per day you better get hoofin' before you leave our neck of the woods lose that Yankee accent. :-))

                                                                                          2. re: EWSflash

                                                                                            What EWSflash said. Some grills are junk.

                                                                                          3. I was reading this thread to my TX born and raised husband. I finished by saying I thought gas grills had a place in the world. To which he replied Yep! In a landfill....oy vey! that said growing up in IL all we or any of my friends had were gas grills.

                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: pickychicky1979

                                                                                              Sheesh- can't we all just get along and have a big parrillada mixta?

                                                                                              1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                                Udderly delicious. No we must have a churasco instead, he says in a joking voice.

                                                                                            2. You know, looking back over this thread, there's a lot more preachin' than confessin' . . . .

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                I feel a chowhound should have no less than 3 grilling/bbq machines. I have the pleasure of 5. A trailer mounted bbq/smoker for going whole hog, a stainless propane 450deg. tailgater, A weber kettle, which I use hardwwod lump charcoal or true hardwood . I have a source at a local Carrabas Rest. that i obtain. A brinkman bullet smoker, And A Weber Genasis. It will reach 600deg. I love them all. Each has its own purpose, and practice is what it takes. And yes MGZ I too am not most people there is a difference in not only taste aroma as well. I cand drive down the road and smell a grill going and usually am able to tell what they are cooking. Family and freinds think Iam nuts. Passa throw one of those cast irons on that grill for 10/15 min toss some salt in it, throw a skirt steak in the pan about 4min a side, awesome!