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Breaking Out The Grill

June 29, 2012

If all goes according to plan, today will be the maiden voyage of my new grill.

It has been years since I’ve had a grill to call my own. In fact, I left my old grill in California back in June 2007. You may ask how I could possibly have gone without a grill for so long. The answer probably won’t surprise you: a stubborn unwillingness to compromise.

Gas grills are little more than outside stoves where you cook right on the grates. And while that may appeal to me on hot days when I don’t want to cook inside, that’s not really what I want from my grill.

But a charcoal grill did not really fit into our lives when Little Miss Fussy was born. When she was a toddler it seemed like a bad idea to have such a potentially dangerous cooking implement around. However, now she’s a good bit older, and the kids can be trusted around cauldrons of smoldering carbon.

Still, inertia could have taken hold, and another grilling season could have passed me by. But thanks to Jon In Albany and Burnt My Fingers I’m ready to go.

These two gentlemen helped me out immeasurably.

All charcoal isn’t created equal. I have a prejudice for all-natural lump charcoal versus briquettes. And I never use lighter fluid. Surely none of this is surprising.

Well, I was spinning a bit. Because Adventure in Food has a variety of woods for smoking food, but no lump charcoal. They did give me a name of a regional producer who might be able to sell direct. This is how I came to know Mali’s.

After a quick call, I learned that indeed I could order direct, but I’d need to get a full pallet. That would be twenty twenty-pound bags. Yep. Four hundred pounds of awesome (mostly American oak) charcoal. The funny thing is that I wasn’t concerned with the quantity. I figured I could unload extra bags on some of you food lovers out there. It was the logistics of delivery, storage and distribution.

Alas, my sideline black market charcoal business never happened.

Jon In Albany alerted me to the fact that at Walmart of all places, they have Royal Oak hardwood charcoal. And I could buy it in much more modest ten-pound bags. Later I would find individual bags of Mali’s at Price Chopper. A bit more expensive than buying it wholesale, but without the muss and fuss.

Burnt My Fingers helped me decide which grill to actually get. He endorsed the mini-Weber Smokey Joe. And honestly, even though I bought it, I’m still a bit unsure about the decision.

His argument is that it’s all the grill you need for a family of four. History actually supports his argument. When I was living with Raf, ADS and this other fellow out west, it was a little grill just like this that powered our cookouts. Ultimately this little bugger is only about thirty dollars, so even if it does prove to be too limiting it can be used as a secondary overflow grill.

Still, I like that the full size Weber kettle comes on a stand. I will need to find someplace to put this little guy so I’m not stooped over like a jerk the whole time I’m cooking. But I’ll worry about that later.

For now I’m just happy to be in the possession of tools required to make it happen. And tonight I’m going to grill vegetables. I’ve got summer squash, zucchini, and spring onions. I’m hoping that this preparation will finally entice Little Miss Fussy into eating these damn things. But I won’t hold my breath. I’m also going to grill some hearts of romaine for me and the missus.

If this maiden voyage works well, I’ll soon be off to Adventure in Food for something more meat-like to break in the grates properly. And when this first bag of Royal Oak runs out, you can bet I’ll be looking forward to getting my hands on a bag of that Mali’s stuff.

Yea grilling!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. ginamodschooler permalink
    June 29, 2012 10:45 am

    Mali’s is great, and you can also find lump hardwood charcoal at Lowes on occasion. I can’t remember the brand, but it was of excellent quality and had nice sized lumps, not all dust and shards. I’m still wondering where I could find a stainless steel chimney starter though. The regular steel ones get rusty due to my lax efforts to keep them out of the weather. I’m glad to have a fellow traveler on the lump hardwood road – briquets, lighter fluid and gas just ruin the whole process as far as I’m concerned.

  2. June 29, 2012 11:01 am

    The problem you’re going to run into with the Smokey Joe is that you’re going to be limited to direct-heat grilling only. You can get by with the 18″ for indirect, but if you want to get serious with some fire bricks and keeping the charcoal to one side and smoking on multiple layers on the other side, then you’re going to need the 22.5″.

    I’m in the middle of trying to get rid of my 1000 sq inch 5+1 burner grill so I can upgrade to the Weber Performer with Touch-N-Go propane-ignition. They can be had in good used condition for about $150-200 on Craigslist, but my other grill has got to go first.

    I have a smaller Weber Q for taking camping and quick weeknight grilling, but my weekends will soon be filled with low and slow smokey goodness.

  3. Angelos permalink
    June 29, 2012 11:08 am

    The Smokey Joe can feed a family of 4 easily. I own two of them, and 5 Webers overall.

    You can always upgrade to the 22-inch kettle later, and use both for larger productions.

    I assume you got a charcoal chimney?

  4. llcwine permalink
    June 29, 2012 11:18 am

    You can find Chimney Starters at Lowe’s, Home Depot..etc….I love my Weber Kettle and have used a combination…hardwood and Kingsford…and I have a good selection of various wood chips for smoking, depending on what I’m grilling that day.

  5. June 29, 2012 11:29 am

    Daniel, I think you’d be best with a cast iron grill. They’re effective, and hold heat very well. You can use a combination of charcoal and wood chips – quite nice.

  6. The Profussor permalink
    June 29, 2012 12:14 pm

    This is a test of the Fussy commenting system.

  7. June 29, 2012 12:21 pm

    Congratulations on the Smokey Joe! you will never regret that decision. And seconds on the charcoal chimney. I inherited one (also a Weber) from my dad and it is amazing how fast it gets the charcoal ready to grill… easily as fast as using lighter fluid with no hydrocarbon guilt and no worry about off tastes in your food.

    The one thing I’d urge you to add to your setup, since you are about to grill up vegetables, is some kind of perforated sheet or basket to put on top of the grate so the smaller pieces don’t fall through the cracks and you can easily stir and turn them while they’re cooking. These simple should be available at your better BBQ outlets everywhere.

    You go grill!

  8. June 29, 2012 1:09 pm

    Isn’t it amazing that with all of the modern BBQ gizmos and $ pick-a-number-with-a-comma “outdoor kitchens”, we all still prefer to fire up a charcoal fired Weber Kettle. Tis almost the weekend. Gentlemen (and ladies) – Start your chimneys!

  9. June 29, 2012 7:13 pm

    What kind of grill did you get? My husband and I are thinking about getting my mom a Weber charcoal grill for her new backyard. (The motivation is partly selfish, though I know my mother won’t mind if we come over and grill for her!)

    *It’s been too long since I’ve been in an Ask the Profussor. Spring of endless nonsense is over, and I have my life back. Yay, blog-reading! :)

  10. June 29, 2012 10:44 pm

    I’ve bought Mali twice. Once was fine, the second time there was a lot of small chips and dust. Haven’t bought it since. I’ve been having good luck with Royal Oak. Deleah’s might have been before your time in Albany, but they sold Humphry’s and it was always good.

    I always thought the Smokey Joe was for tailgating. Maybe that’s why I weigh too much.

    Happy grilling.

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