When the weather heats up, it’s time to get outdoors. For many of us, that includes cooking. Instead of heating up the kitchen, people flock outside, ready to grill the perfect burger or steak.
While many of us have experience with basic grilling, some people take it to the next level, spending many hours enjoying the outdoors, channelling their inner caveman as a hunk of meat broils over the fire. Read on to learn why they think this style of cooking is best and how you, too, can become a grill master.
Fixin’ the grub
Tina and Jim Bishop have both been into cooking, but they claim they’ve found a piece of equipment that will turn anyone into a chef — the Big Green Egg, which was derived from an ancient clay cooking device known as a “kamado.” Originally a clay vessel with a lid, today’s Egg is a modern ceramic marvel known for producing consistent results for novices and experts alike. The Egg is grill, smoker and oven in one.
“We’ve always been backyard grillers, but we were turned on to the Green Egg through a neighbor of ours, and we ended up getting one,” Jim says. “We’ve been cooking on it ever since, and that was 10 years ago.”
Since then, Eggs have become more and more popular. The Bishops say they love it because of its versatility and fool-proof cooking methods. The Bishops have made smoked meats to feed hundreds of people for parties, and they’ve used the Egg as an oven to make pizzas and pies. For them, it’s the best of all worlds.
“The thing sells itself,” Jim says. “You just have to get past the initial cost, and it surpasses the gas grills to no end. You replace one of those like every four years, and I haven’t had a thing wrong with this grill. You go to a high-end restaurant and it’s got a clay oven, and that’s what this is.”
When asked what their meat of choice to cook is, the answers vary. They say each family member has his or her own favorite. For the kids, one loves smoked chicken, and another prefers pulled pork. Their son loves wings. For Tina, it’s all about the steak, and Jim loves the brisket.
They say fish also cooks well on the Egg. It keeps the moisture in so it doesn’t dry out, a big problem with most seafood. The best thing about the Egg though is its lifetime guarantee, so it’s something that will last.
For those who are interested in getting started with some sort of outdoor cooking but aren’t ready to shell out the money required for an Egg, Jim recommends doing some research on the type of equipment that will best serve their needs. He also says it’s better to use some type of hardwood charcoal over regular charcoal. Food will taste better without a burned flavor or the taste of lighter fluid, he says.
They also like the fact that they can cook a lot of food at one time and freeze it for when it’s rainy, they don’t feel like cooking, or they have a craving for something. It’s more cost-effective in the long-run and certainly cheaper than ordering take-out on those nights you just don’t want to cook.
Ultimately for the Bishops, though, food is what brings people together, and that’s what they love about outdoor cooking.
“We really enjoy cooking something really long on like a Saturday or Sunday where it’s a 10-hour cook, and you can smell the smoke and food cooking,” says Jim.
Tina adds, “The thing about cooking that we enjoy is that it brings our family and neighbors together. It’s giving love to them and having great times together in the presence of the food.”
Drew Porter got into smoking after living in Texas, the land of barbecue. He says he grew to really love that style of food, and he figured he could try his hand at making it himself. His equipment of choice is a Weber upright smoker.
“Of the different kinds, I like this one because it’s a charcoal-based smoker so you can also use wood with it, too, but you get an authentic flavor instead of an electric one,” he says. “I like it because it’s easy to use, and I can start it at midnight and stoke it up and let it go all night and have lunch ready the next day.”
Like Jesse, he also does a little bit of everything when it comes to meat. Ribs, chicken and brisket are all fair game. When cooking for a crowd, though, his favorite is pork shoulder that he turns into pulled pork sandwiches. He also loves to do smoked pulled chickens. They take about three and a half hours, and they’re a family favorite.
When it comes to getting into grilling, Porter says it’s best to start with people you know. Ask them what equipment they’re using and how they like to cook and see if you can learn from them. Do some research and start out small.
“Find out the pluses and minuses of different kinds of cooking,” he says. “Electric or gas powered is easier to use since you don’t have to start a fire. The trade off might be the flavor or style points. Test drive equipment like you would a new car. Figure out how much you want to spend.”
Dave Jesse says he got into outdoor cooking about five years ago when his son was 3 and gave him the gift (with his wife’s help) of a Big Green Egg. The gift worked out well, as Jesse now owns six of them and proclaims them the best cooking piece of equipment one can own.
“The Egg is the best, but I have a gas grill that I use a lot, too,” he says. “Basically, anything that you can make outside is better than inside. It tastes better. You get that grilled or smoked flavor, and it’s just better to be outdoors.”
Jesse says they are equal opportunity carnivores at his house. From chicken to steak to ribs to brisket to pork, they do it all. He says he’s probably best known for his steak, and that’s their favorite. His cut of choice is a ribeye while his wife prefers a New York strip.
When it comes to grilling the perfect steak, his method is easy. Get the Egg good and hot — it will reach temps of more than 700 degrees — and sear the steak then let it cook out a little bit on the grill to finish.
For those who are grilling novices, he recommends going slow and keeping the temp low.
“Basically what you need to do is get a fire going and keep it low,” he says. “Low heat will never screw anything up. You can always make it hotter. Take your time. Have a cold beer and take your time while you’re grilling, and life will be good.”
For Jesse, anything made outdoors is the way to go. Even if it’s 20 below and snowing, you might see him outside with meat on the smoker because for him, it’s worth it.
Ultimately, though, outdoor cooking is simply plain old fun. Don’t be intimidated — just give it a try.