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May 28, 2011 11:05 AM

Grilling Question

I have been grilling for countless years on a Weber 22 1/2" kettle and it seems that no matter what I am grilling, be it steaks, hamburgers, chicken, the coals get so hot that the outside quickly gets charred while the inside is not cooked through. I find it almost impossible to get decent grill marks because the outside seems to char so quickly. Putting the lid in does not seem to help because things like burgers, steak or chicken breasts cook so quickly, it's hard to keep the lid on for any length of time. I try to keep a cooler spot on the grill but that's not always possible if you are cooking a lot of food. Can anyone tell me the hell I am doing wrong?

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  1. FYI - PBS Create is running Steve Raichlen 's barbeque shows round the clock until 6a.m. Sunday. If you want more grilling ideas you may want to tune in. They repeat in 6hr blocks at 6pm and midnight. I don't grill but it sounds like you need to use less charcoal/wood.

    1. you're not doing anything wrong bakerboy, it's just like anything else, getting it just right is hard.
      I love my Weber and have used it for everything.
      a few secrets about using it that I'm sure you know but I'll say anyway.
      with chicken, any kind of chicken, bone in or boneless, if you want it grill marked but still have that great bbq flavor, spread out the coals and use fewer. gather a few more close together in the middle so you can move the chicken there to get the marks, but leave any sugary sauce off until you're almost done grilling because that sugar will burn every time. indirect cooking/grilling method works well too.
      meats, burgers, steaks, thick ham slices or the like, indirect is wonderful. wonder if you have the 'fences' that go on the side of the rack on the bottom so you put the coals to the far left and the far right behind the fence. cook your meat in the middle of the rack with the coals heating food up from the sides, a more even control of the cooking time.

      zap your steak or burgers or whatever first, quickly on top of the hot coals to get the marks, then move the coals to the indirect method behind the fences and finish cooking time there with grill marks now in place and no longer trying to achieve those pesky things without overcooking or burning.

      1. Thank you both for the answers. I actually have several of Steve Raichlen's books. My 1st cooking class was with Steve about 30 years ago in Cambridge, MA, when he was the food editor and reviewer for Boston Magazine. I just pulled out his book, "How to Grill" (which was a gift to me and I have never opened). Steve recommends a 3 zone fire: one section of the grill has a double layer of coals for a hotter fire and searing; the center of the grill has one layer of coals for a medium hot fire and then one end of the grill has no coals for the least hot or "safe zone" as he calls it. To sear, you would obviously start in the hottest zone and then move the meat to the center or the medium zone and then basically move the meat back and forth between zones as needed. He also gives good information on when to place the food on the cooking grid and also how to use your hand placed 4" over the cooking grid to determine how hot your fire is. Both Greygarious and iL Divo are correct, I have been using way too many coals and the fire is just getting too hot. I think I just need to use less coals and try the 3 zone fire that Steve talks about. Thank you both. For as long as I have been cooking and grilling you think I would have figured that out by now!

        1. I try to keep a cooler spot on the grill but that's not always possible if you are cooking a lot of food.

          That's your problem right there.

          Don't overcrowd your grill.

          Keep different heat zones -- hot and warm.

          When putting food on the cooking zone (e.g. hot zone) place the food -- whatever it might be -- so that there is at least 1 inch of space between each item. You want to grill, not steam your meats. This is especially true for things like steaks.

          Now, if you are cooking things that are very thin (like pre-formed hamburger patties) and you find they overcook on the inside without allowing for grill marks to show on the exterior, then try freezing them for about 1/2 hour before putting them on the grill.

          1. Sounds like you already know what the problem is. Not enough space to get what you need from the temperature gradient. Either cook in batches or you need a larger grill when doing larger quantities.