We love to get photographs of vacationers enjoying their Cruise America motorhomes. A large number of these pictures seem to involve outdoor mealtime fun, and they almost always feature two things: A Cruise America RV and a barbeque grill!
Camping and barbequing have always gone hand in hand, and so we figured you may enjoy some barbequing tips. Actually, these are not so much “tips,” as they are suggestions on how to avoid the most common cookout sins that novice campsite chefs commit on a regular basis.
The art of barbequing is so much more than throwing some steaks on a hot grill; in order to reap the flavorful rewards of campfire culinary success, you must follow a few tried and proven techniques (although, any meat cooked over a grill is sure to taste delightful). Take a look and see if you have been committing any of the most common barbeque transgressions:
Sin #1 – Using Lighter Fluid or Match Light Briquettes
The Issue – Many are the beginner grill masters who believe that if you douse your charcoal briquettes thoroughly in lighter fluid, they’ll be ready quicker. It makes sense, right? If you’ve ever held a match under a regular briquette without any kind of starter, you know how long it takes to ignite.
But the truth of the matter is that once the lighter fluid burns off and the huge flames subside, the fire can begin go out. Of course, what the griller tends to do is put more lighter fluid on, causing what could be considered a mushroom cloud of flame! Not only does it get the fire going again, it’s just plain fun to do!
So eventually you get the meat cooked, and take a big bite of what can only be described as lighter-fluid-flavored meat, and it’s not very appealing.
The Solution – The Chimney Starter. This device looks like a metal pitcher with a handle, but it makes it simple to get your charcoal started without the nasty taste that comes along with lighter fluid. With a chimney starter, you simply place a wad of newspaper or other flammable paper underneath it, and pack the charcoal briquettes on top of it. Now light it up and let it do its thing. As the oxygen is drawn up through the coals, they light right up, and soon will be ready for grilling … without the added fuel flavors!
Sin #2 – Spreading the Coals Before They Are Completely Gray
The Issue – We know, we know, you’re hungry and you want to eat 10 minutes ago! When you see the charcoal looking like all of the briquettes are lit, you may think that you have the “go-ahead” to start cooking. But not so fast, grill warrior! That can cause uneven temperatures, not to mention strange flavors and inconsistent and unpredictable cooking times.
The Solution – You must have patience. When it comes to grilling your dinner, temperature control is one of the most important factors to consider. Even though it feels hot when you hold your hand over the grill, if you can see black on the coals, they will not be hot enough for proper grilling. That’s why it says on the charcoal bag to wait until all the charcoal is covered in a gray ash! Once the coals are stabilized, you will eliminate the surprises that come with uneven cooking.
Sin #3 – Not Preheating the Grill
The Issue – You place your hand over the coals and they seem scorching hot, so you throw the meat on.
While it’s true that the fire is producing a good amount of radiant heat, it’s not the heat that you are going to cook with; it’s the infrared heat that you feel on your hand. If you were to place your hand on the grill (and don’t!) you may find that the grill itself isn’t very hot yet. This is a good indicator that your food won’t get much conductive heat (that’s the heat that’s transferred to the meat by the grill). If this is the case, you will find that your meat sticks to the grill, and tears off when you try to turn it.
The Solution – Once the fire it lit, you should cover the grill by lowering the top and allowing it to preheat for at least five to ten minutes. If the grill is truly hot when the meat is placed on it, you will make a masterpiece that has dark, attractive grill marks, and in most cases, can be easily turned and removed. This is because the shape of the proteins is altered before the meat even touches the metal grill.
Sin #4 – Not Cleaning the Grill
The Issue – You’re tired of standing there, waiting for the coals and the grill to get hot enough to cook. Nobody wants to lengthen the wait time any longer than necessary by taking the time to clean the grill, too. Sure, it’s still dirty from the last time you barbequed, but the heat will kill any germs, and nobody will ever notice the carbonized bits of last night’s burgers stuck to tonight’s pork chops. And who cares if tomorrow night’s corn on the cob sticks to the leftover pork chop shreds?
The Solution – It’s so simple … just clean the grill! You don’t have to clean it right after barbequing; just wait until the next time, when your grill is preheated, then use a grill brush and a very small amount of elbow grease to make it shine! If the grill is hot enough to cook on, the old debris left over from the last cookout will come right off. Your steaks will thank you, your guests will be appreciative, and you can pat yourself on the back for taking care of the small details.
Note: If you are at an RV park, and you will not be using the grill again, then please leave it clean for the next guest that will be using it. They don’t want to see your leftover charred shreds.
Sin #5 – Cooking Over Too Much Direct Heat
The Issue – You like the looks of a roaring fire, and you love the sizzling sound of the meat as it hits the grill. However, you find that your steaks are becoming quickly dark, even charred, on the outside, yet the inside hasn’t had enough time to cook. You desperately look for somewhere to place the steaks to get them off the direct, fiery heat, but your coals are evenly spread over the entire bottom of the barbeque. Your meat ends up crispy on the outside, raw on the inside; not a grilling success story!
The Solution – When you build your fire, make two different zones: One area with hot coals, and one area with no coals at all (or a thin layer of them). If you are using a gas grill, then only ignite half of the burners, leaving the other burners off for a zone with no direct rising heat. This gives you options, and provides better control over the temperature with which you are cooking. The fire zone is great for searing meats and veggies, and the cooler side is better for keeping things cooking without searing them any further. It provides somewhat of a roasting effect.
Sin #6 – Lifting the Lid Too Much
The Issue – We self-proclaimed chefs are way too curious. We tend to continually lift the lid to see how our project is coming along. We simply cannot fight the urge to keep looking to see if the meat is done yet.
The problem with too much “lid lifting” on a gas grill is that each time you do it, it releases the heat that has built up inside the cooking area. The opposite holds true when you cook over the coals. When you lift the lid, it allows oxygen to rush to the coals and cause them to become too hot.
The Solution – It just takes a little patience and trust. You can flip the meat over as much as you desire, but every time you do, you’re either letting the heat out, or messing up the consistency of your coals’ temperature.
This blog has covered half of the 12 most common mistakes that barbequers make. We will go over the next half next month. Until then, keep cooking like a happy camper, and remember to reserve your Cruise America RV for this fall if you haven’t already!
Comments are closed for this blog post