Gas grills make no sense to me at all. I find little or no difference between them and the gas stove I have in my home. I can make a perfectly acceptable steak by grilling it on my stovetop cast iron griddle...or I can sear it in a pan and pop it in a hot oven. If the real reason for grilling is flavor, why wouldn't you want something that makes a real difference?
A hardwood charcoal grill is the way to go. Besides the quality and source of your beef, wood and smoke are what makes the difference between a good steak and a great steak.
I know the #1 argument for going with gas over hardwood charcoal is time. "It takes too long to start a charcoal grill." That's a load of crap. I've convinced many friends over the years by showing them that it takes no more time to light a charcoal fire than it does a gas grill.
Here's what you need: Get yourself the charcoal grill you like...the classic Weber is still an awesome choice.
Get a bag of hardwood charcoal. I'm not talking charcoal briquets, like Kingsford, that have a ton of additives in them. And definitely don't ever use crap like Match Light. I'm talking pure hardwood charcoal, easily found in many stores.
Get a charcoal chimney. It's a metal tube with a handle and a grate at the bottom. You crumble a couple of sheets of newspaper into the bottom, pour charcoal into the top, light it, and you have hot coals in 10 minutes without lighter fluid.
And DON'T EVER use lighter fluid! Why would you spend good money on a steak and then want to make it taste like gasoline?
The variety of wood chips available for smoking is another flavor factor when it comes to grilling with charcoal. My personal favorite is hickory, especially when I'm cooking pork or chicken. But apple, cherry, oak, mesquite: they all impart their own unique flavors. I have apple and cherry trees in my yard. So whenever they need a little pruning, I save those cut pieces of wood and use them to smoke with.
You don't need to buy a separate smoker. Simply soak some wood chips in water for about a 1/2 hour before grilling (I've found that hot water speeds the process up), drain the water, and then sprinkle the moist chips on the hot coals in your grill. Throw your meat on the grill, close the lid (opening the vents, of course) and off you go.
So now in 10 minutes, you've got a grill ready to cook a steak with...about the same as gas.
"I don't cook with charcoal because it's so messy!" So what are you...a girl? You probably have one of those fake gas fireplaces in your house, too.
Because I'm using a small amount of hardwood charcoal for the average dinner, I don't have to clean out my grill every time I use it. After a while, yes, some ashes pile up in the bottom of my grill and I have to dump them. Because they're pure wood ashes, I dump mine into my strawberry or raspberry patch. They love the stuff.
You still have to clean a gas grill after a while, and it always runs out of propane halfway through cooking when you have guests over for dinner. So where's the convenience in that?
Charcoal grills give you everything you could ask for: low maintenance...ease of use--no stupid propane tanks, valves and igniters...real wood flavor--not lava rocks, whatever the hell those things are...and the thrill of cooking meat over a real fire--bonding with the caveman in you, not some pussy with an umbrella drink and his shiny chrome gas grill with a thermometer that doesn't work and burners that don't cook evenly or get hot enough.
Time to be a man again! Ditch the gas grill. Get the hardwood charcoal. Find out what a really good steak is supposed to taste like this Memorial Day weekend.
Travel + Leisure came out with their top 10 most affordable getaway cities list, and Providence is the only one from the Northeast!
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The Mint Julep is such a perfect, classic and historic bourbon drink, I really don’t know why I wait until Derby day to have one. Of course, as any aficionado of spirits will tell you, there are as many right ways as wrong ways of making one, depending on who you talk to. This is true for any classic cocktail, from a Sazerac to a Manhattan.
The first step in my Mint Julep is making the simple syrup. I use the standard ratio of 1 cup of clean, filtered water to 1 cup of sugar, but I use an organic product like Woodstock Farms Organic Pure Cane Sugar. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until just boiling. I’ve found that it needs to reach this stage for the unbleached sugar to really dissolve. As soon as it starts to boil, remove the saucepan from the heat, and throw in a handful of freshly picked mint leaves. Stir to make sure the mint gets in there, and then leave the saucepan to cool to room temperature. Once it’s at room temp, strain the simple syrup into a bottle with a tight sealing lid, and place in the refrigerator to cool. It will keep for about a week.
The next step is the tough part: the battles of the bourbons! The recent explosion of choices on the bourbon market has make it all but impossible for the average imbiber to know which bourbon is best for their tastes. My suggestion for this is to go to a trusted bartender and explain that you’re new to the bourbon world, and could you have the tiniest of tastes and sniffs of what he’s got at his bar. Chances are, you’ll get a sampling of some of the better known brands: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, perhaps Buffalo Trace or Bulleit, and the standard Jim Beam. This is a very good start.
If you have deeper pockets, go to the manager of a trusted higher end liquor store and explain that you’ve had all the rest, now what does he think is the best? This is how I came across a fabulous 17-year-old bottle of Eagle Rare, my choice for my Mint Julep. And of course, hinting to wife and friends that “I’m trying new bourbons” around your birthday or the holidays inevitably gets you a few bottles as well, like the very tasty 15-year-old high-alcohol Pappy Van Winkle, excellent for special sipping occasions (when you don’t have to operate heavy machinery for a while!)
Other ingredients for my perfect Mint Julep include crushed ice from clean, filtered water. Don’t even think of using tap water for any cocktail much less this one. Why ruin an expensive bottle of bourbon by going cheap on the ice? I make my own ice cubes, then put them in a canvas ice bag and bash them to the perfect crushed size.
And a Mint Julep needs a metal–not glass– Julep cup. Made of pewter or aluminum, it frosts on the outside as you stir your drink, keeping your beverage ice cold on even the hottest of days. You simply need to have one to make the perfect Mint Julep.
So here’s my recipe…
ALZ MINT JULEP
3 oz bourbon
1 oz mint-infused simple syrup
Fresh mint for garnish
Crush the ice and pack it into the Julep cup, even letting it dome slightly over the top. Don’t worry…the alcohol will melt it.
I like to add 1 jigger of bourbon (1.5 oz), then the shot of simple syrup (1 oz), then another jigger of bourbon on top. Break off a few mint leaves from the stem and push into the ice. Using a long spoon, stir the drink well. A beautiful layer of frost will form on the outside of the cup. Top with more crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint.