Throw a log on the fire and taste the difference

Published 10:26 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I’m sure you’ve noticed something by now.

It’s hot.

The real shame in weather like this is that far too many people retreat to the comforts of their air conditioning when they should be outside hovered over their grill.

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The great thing about grilling is that it basically involves one simple principle: Cooking meat with fire.

However, there are hundreds of ways to do it.

Grilling is one of my favorite pastimes; thus, I have both a propane-fueled grill and a charcoal grill.

Both do basically the same thing, but in completely different ways.

Fans of the cartoon “King of the Hill” will remember Hank Hill’s mantra, “Taste the meat, not the heat.” That’s because propane imparts no flavor to the meat. This is great for those of you who love the natural flavor of meat, typically beef.

Charcoal, on the other hand, transfers some of its smoky flavor to the meat in the cooking process. Also, there are hundreds of kinds or charcoal, each of which impart different flavors. Mesquite and hickory charcoal are both readily available at most any local store, and both transfer that smoky flavor into your meat of choice.

Picking the right charcoal and pairing it with the right piece of meat is almost like developing another recipe.

While I love how easy it is to use and clean my propane grill, on occasion, I like to cook over a hot bed of charcoal.

It presents a little more of a challenge, but when you want that “steakhouse-style” flavor, it’s hard to beat charcoal.

For some added flavor – and extra challenge – try dropping in a stick of your favorite smoking wood. Many times when I’m grilling chicken, I’ll throw in a small stick of pecan or walnut. If you’ll soak it in water for about two hours before tossing it on the fire, you’ll get a nice smoke going that both flavors and colors the meat.

I consider myself a grilling nerd so I keep several different types of wood handy. I like to use apple or cherry wood when grilling pork. A little sweet. A little smoke. It’s good stuff.

Hoarding wood doesn’t require a substantial financial investment, and many times you can find small loads of these kinds of wood free. However, if you can’t find the actual wood, you can get practically the same flavor from wood pellets, which are available in many different types.

A bag of pellets typically only costs $5, and a smoking pot costs about $10. If you have some commercial-grade aluminum foil, you can use that rather than the pot. Just fold the foil into about a 3-inch square, pour in about half a cup of pellets and poke a small hole in the top. The good thing about pellets is they work just fine over a propane flame, too.

The next time you fire up your grill, whether it be charcoal or propane, consider paying as much attention to what you put in your flame as what you put over it. I think you’ll notice a difference.

Jason Cannon is editor and publisher of The Demopolis Times.