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Sunday, May 8, 2005
Grilling he who would be Barbecue King
This story is part of a package. To read the introduction, please click here.
Steven Raichlen, a.k.a. the Barbecue King, is an award-winning American author, journalist, cookery teacher and television host. He is the author of 26 books on international foods and grilling, including the "Barbecue Bible" cookbook series that has clocked up sales over 3 million. His show, "Barbecue University," is broadcast on America's Public Broadcasting System.
Born in Nagoya, Raichlen has appeared on Japan's "Iron Chef" program, and two of his books have been translated into Japanese, titled "Osama Barbecue" and "King of Barbecue.''
Despite his relentless schedule, the King recently granted this audience to The Japan Times.
Due to space limitations, few people in Japan can cook on the huge grills that are typical in America. Do you have any recommendations for cooking on smaller grills?
Much of the world grills on small grills, from the Indonesian satay grill (not much wider than the palm of your hand) to the Turkish kebab grill (small enough to carry into the woods on a picnic).
Here are some tips for successful grilling on small grills:
1. Start with small, tender pieces of food that cook quickly.
2. Cut all pieces the same size, so they cook evenly.
3. When you set up the grill, arrange the coals over two-thirds of the bottom of the grill, but leave the other third ember-free. This is your cool or safety zone, where you move foods if they start to burn.
4. Arrange the pieces of food on the grill in an orderly fashion in neat rows. They'll cook more evenly and it's easier to keep track of which pieces need turning and when they're done. Besides, you'll look more professional.
Ideally, for direct grilling, how far above the coals should various meats be?
About 7 or 8 centimeters -- roughly half a beer can high.
What's the secret to grilling salmon just right?
To prevent sticking, start with a hot grill. Clean the grate well with a stiff wire brush, or scour it with a crumpled ball of aluminum foil. Then oil the grate with a paper towel folded into a tight pad, dipped in a small bowl of vegetable oil, and drawn across the bars of the grate at the end of tongs.
This brings us to my Grill Masters Mantra: Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated.
Taking these simple steps will help prevent sticking and give you better grill marks. One final precaution -- you can lightly brush the salmon on both sides with a little oil just before putting it on the grill.
In terms of cooking the salmon through, build a two-zone fire, one zone with coals and another one without, as a safety zone. Position your fish over the hot zone, but near the safety zone and if it starts to burn, move it to the cooler safety zone.
Charcoal vs. Wood: Assuming you're cooking on a small grill like that mentioned above, which fuel do you recommend?
Wood gives you a richer, smokier flavor, which is very characteristic of the grilling of America and the Mediterranean, but not so common in Japan.
Charcoal has a more neutral flavor.
Wood burns out more quickly than charcoal, so most people will probably find charcoal a little more reliable and easier to use.
In your experience, what are the top five mistakes that people make when grilling?
1. Being impatient and starting to grill too soon. The charcoal must be completely lit and allowed to burn down to glowing embers.
2. Failing to practice good grill hygiene -- Keep it hot. Keep it clean. Keep it lubricated. If you fail to do this, your food will stick to the grill.
3. Not being organized. Grilling is easy, but it requires constant attention. You need to have all your foods, seasonings, sauces, flavorings, etc. ready and next to your grill -- before you start.
4. Overcrowding the grill. Always leave some open space on the grill, so you have some place to move the food if it starts to burn.
5. Confusing food being cooked versus being burnt. "Cooked" is food that tastes seared, smoky and delicious. "Burnt" is food that is black and tastes bitter. Remember, food will continue cooking even when you take it off the grill.
As someone who has sampled grilled food in every corner of the world, what is distinctive about Japanese BBQ grilling?
The one thing that distinguishes an American barbecue from a Japanese one is smoke. Wood smoke is the essence of an American barbecue, achieved by burning hickory, apple, oak or other hardwoods. Japanese grill masters prize a neutral-tasting cooking fuel. Bincho tan [from Kochi, Miyazaki, or Wakayama prefectures] is the charcoal of choice -- when price is no object -- precisely because it has no flavor. I'm often asked to name the top countries for barbecue, and Japan is always in my top five.
For other stories in this package, please click the following links:
Goodies just a click away By ERIC JOHNSTON