This is not another debate on grilling versus barbequing or which coals to use or how to start your grill. It is how to respect quality food with a few simple steps using indirect heat. We in Washington should barbecue all year long, as there can be little difference in our seasons any given year.
Generally, most people who barbecue, whether gas or charcoal, can throw a couple of steaks, burgers or hot dogs on the grill, put a char on it and call it good. But that’s not good enough for us who live in the Northwest with quality salmon in our reach. Here are a few of my lessons to grill flawless salmon, chicken and flank steak.
On the charcoal grill, start by lighting about three-quarters of a chimney of coals. Dump the lit coals on one side of the grill. For gas grills, light only half the grill. On the charcoal grill, make an aluminum foil drip pan, or use an old cake pan, and put some water into it. Place this opposite your coals to provide moisture and also serve as a drip pan.
With fresh salmon, season lightly with salt, lemon juice and olive oil and let the fish do the talking. The trick to cooking fish on the grill is to put it on a cold grate. On charcoal, just leave the grate off until you are ready to cook. Put the fish skin side down, opposite of the hot coals and open the top vent above the fish. For a light smoke, put some wood chips on the coals. Cover for 12 to 15 minutes, then check for preferred doneness. Fish continues to cook once you pull it off the heat, so taking it off the grill slightly underdone will ensure a perfectly cooked fillet.
This is the same for a gas grill but it will cook a little faster because the grate will already be warm. Use foil if worried that the fish will stick, but this is not necessary on a well-seasoned grill. I cook all fish using indirect heat. Try your favorite teriyaki or other sauce of your liking.
Chicken thighs are also another go-to favorite. You can use cut-up chicken parts, but bone-in chicken thighs are a no-brainer that is almost impossible to overcook. I call this recipe “Yard Bird” style, as coined in the South. Take all your spices out and line them up. I use salt, pepper Johnny’s Spice, paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion powder, dry mustard, ginger powder, chili powder and olive oil.
Using a microwave-safe bowl, put a layer of the thighs down and then add spices, another layer of chicken and then spices, so you season throughout and then mix together. This is best done at least an hour before cooking and can be refrigerated overnight. Before you place on the grill, cover the bowl and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir the thighs and microwave for another 3 to 4 minutes. If the thighs start to cook, pull them out.
Grill chicken skin side up, opposite the coals. Cover and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. This method doesn’t get the skin real crispy, so at the end turn the chicken skin side down over the direct heat. Watch very carefully because the skin will crisp quickly and will burn if you walk away.
The last recipe is for flank steak. For best results, prep this the day before. I have tried this on my gas grill, but it works best over charcoal. You can use London broil, skirt steak or flank steak for this recipe. Place the steak in a shallow pan and add one tablespoon of lemon juice or about half a lemon. Rub in a tablespoon each of fresh crushed rosemary, parsley and crushed garlic. Add salt and pepper and two tablespoons of olive oil.
Using a meat tenderizer or a fork, tenderize the meat really well. Flip over and repeat seasoning and tenderizing. Refrigerate overnight or up to two days. Pull out meat one hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Place on heated grill over indirect heat and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Do not flip. When done, pull off and cover. Let rest for at least 20 minutes. Slice thin against the grain and serve with your favorite horseradish sauce.
As with all recipes, adjusts seasonings to your taste and grill with confidence year round.