There are many monuments in the world to greatness. There are the great wonders of the world, structures of immense thought, diligence, and man’s fortitude to making his mark.
Ever since the invention of fire, man has been putting flesh to flame to intensify its flavor. Gaucho’s brought us Asado, Korea brought us Gogigui, and in 1952 George Stephen created the first Weber kettle to grill the perfect steak. We have evolved from beef, to chicken, fish, and vegetables. Everything we eat has benefited from fire, smoke, and grilling!
BBQ and Grilling has its great moments. The moment when you put your steak to the flame and the aroma hits your senses for the first time. The burger that exudes juice and drips down your chin. The sausage that pops when you take your first bite, and that piece of chicken skin that you sneak in your mouth when nobody is looking and titillates your tongue with crispiness and buttery flavor.
These are the moments when you know that all your hard work and diligence over the flame is making your monument to the grill.
So here are my Mt. Rushmore of Grilling!
Chicken is the most enduring and durable meat to hit the flame. On average 134,000,000 chickens are consumed daily worldwide. We roast, fry, bake, sauté, and grill amongst other techniques to make the bird tasty and juicy. Served whole, sectioned, or cut up into bite sized pieces, the chicken is the top of the list. Parts that were once thrown away and discarded are now getting top dollar in the grocery store because of demand. Wings (thanks to Buffalo) and thighs that we stayed away from for years now cost just as much or more than breasts. Let’s face it, Chicken is a blank canvas that takes on the flavor of whatever it’s introduced to or seasoned with, but with the addition of a wood fire and coals, the bland bird becomes stellar! My favorite is spatchcock over wood with garlic, oregano, and ricotta stuffed under the skin.
If chicken is the king, then beef is the president! (I couldn’t make it the queen because that just wouldn’t be right). We do more variations on the grill with beef than anything else. Steak, burgers, tenderloin, short ribs, heart, meatloaf, skewered, and stuffed. According to The Boondock Saints II, John Wayne died with 5 pounds of undigested red meat in his system. We eat a lot of beef. Good or bad it’s just a fact. It doesn’t need the internal temperature of pork or chicken when we consume it. Hell we can eat it raw if we want. But introducing that succulent piece bovine to a hot grill and adding a little char to it. A simple ribeye steak seasoned with salt and pepper over a high heat to sear the juices and served rare to medium rare. There’s no better experience in the world!
Pork is a tricky one to suggest on my part but I know that if I don’t give it a high rating that I’ll hear from the maddening throng. How could you not mention pork? How could you rate it low on Mt. Rushmore? So here are my thoughts.
Pork is a wonderful meat and needs love for it to bring it’s “A” game. Low and slow is what I think pork needs to accentuate its goodness. Grilling in my mind is not the way to go with pork in general, but, the smaller cuts and techniques do benefit from the grill. We’re talking chops, bacon, souvlaki (Shish Kabobs), sausages, and tenderloin. But when we’re talking shoulder and roasts, it needs time. Rubs, marinades, injections, whatever you want, but time and preparation is what’s needed to bring out its destiny.
Fish! I tire of people that think battered fish is fish. Don’t judge me! I like British style fish and chips but if you haven’t had a trout or salmon on your grill, you haven’t had fish. Picture yourself riverside, a little melted butter in the hot pan and dropping in your catch of the day. Now think about battered fish? No comparison. If it’s whole or filleted it doesn’t matter. Beer in hand straight out of the pan on your plate still sizzling. Everyone has their own favourite. Mine is catfish! Marinated in tequila and lime zest with a little hot chili flake on top. Butter in a hot cast iron pan on the grill. Spectacular!
Shellfish! Really, shrimp, clams and mussels are a great addition to your arsenal and are easy. Grilling over fire was a necessity and people have been doing it for centuries. You don’t need to boil water. Shrimp grilled over wood brings out a new dimension compared to the shrimp cocktail you had at the last wedding you were at. Deveined and shelled, skewered and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil. My favourite are mussels smoked on the Big Green Egg. They will open up the same as they would over a steam bath but this way they get a nice smoke sauna when they pop open. On the side a little reduced white wine with butter, garlic and shallot to toss them in. Haven’t tried it yet? What’s the hold up.
So your criteria, a grill! You’re limited only by your imagination.
Grilling food is an age old art. Backyard cooking and tailgating has taken over as one of the biggest pastimes worldwide.
Be well and eat well
The Artisanal Grill
On Twitter @artisanalgrill