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Two Cooking Options With Covered Charcoal Grills

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite increased sales of gas grills, many people still choose to use charcoal for outdoor cooking. It imparts a distinctive flavor to foods and charcoal grills are typically less expensive and more portable.

The simpliest charcoal grills are uncovered, with shallow fireboxes appropriate only for direct heat cooking. Covered charcoal grills offer two cooking options--direct or indirect.

Direct heat, when hot coals are placed directly under the food, is used either for searing or for foods that cook in 30 minutes or less. For indirect heat, the coals are placed on two sides of the grill and a drip pan is positioned in the center. This slower method cooks food by reflected heat.

With either method, standard charcoal briquettes should be ignited 25 to 30 minutes before cooking begins. Use charcoal lighter fluid, a charcoal chimney or an electric starter.

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Coals are ready to be used for cooking when they’re covered with gray ash and glow red. A guideline for judging the temperature is to place a hand, palm side down, above the coals at the height food will be cooked (Step 1). Count the seconds before it’s necessary to draw the hand away:

Two seconds: hot

Three seconds: medium-hot

Four seconds: medium

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Five seconds: medium-cool Six seconds: cool

DIRECT HEAT--used to cook steaks, chops, hamburgers, frankfurters, sausage, chicken parts, fish and some vegetables.

For uncovered grills, the firebox may be lined with heavy foil and/or gravel to protect the grill from high temperatures, reduce flare-ups and supply air under the briquettes so the coals burn better.

In covered grills, the briquettes are placed on the lower grate.

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Pile the briquettes into a pyramid (Step 2) in the center of the firebox and ignite. When the coals are ready for cooking, spread in an even layer (Step 3).

Determining the amount of charcoal:

As a general rule, use enough briquettes to spread in an even layer, extending about an inch beyond the food to be cooked. Cold or humid weather conditions and different brands of briquettes affect the amount needed.

INDIRECT HEAT--for cooking larger or thicker cuts of meat, poultry and game with more fat.

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Use a disposable foil drip pan or shape one from heavy foil. It should be slightly larger than the food being cooked.

Place the drip pan in the center of the lower rack. Pile the briquettes on both sides, between the drip pan and the sides of the grill, ignite and begin cooking when coals are ready (Step 4). The grill is always covered for indirect cooking.

Determining the amount of charcoal:

For a 26 3/4-inch-diameter grill use 30 charcoal briquettes on each side the first hour, then add nine briquettes to each side every additional hour.

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For a 22 1/2-inch-diameter grill use 25 charcoal briquettes on each side the first hour, then add eight briquettes to each side every additional hour.

For an 18 1/2-inch-diameter grill use 16 charcoal briquettes on each side the first hour, then add five briquettes to each side every additional hour.

For a 14 1/4-inch-diameter grill use nine charcoal briquettes on each side the first hour, then add four briquettes to each side every additional hour.


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