I think there’s a spectrum, if you will, of grillers.
On one end are those that light the charcoal or fire up the gas, throw on the food, and cook. Neat, sweet, done.
On the other end are those who take grilling much more seriously. They know how to use a grill as a slow cooker and as a smoker, and when, why, and how to use different kinds of wood. They know how to grill things like brisket or a whole turkey and regularly employ things like spice rubs and mops. This group considers grilling both an art and a science and themselves, its disciples.
Aaaand—then there are those of us in between.
I mean, I’m not committed to art or science when it comes to grilling. I just want to make delicious, outdoorsy, easy-to-clean-up meals—steaks, chicken breasts, burgers, yes, but sometimes something beyond that—with confidence, finesse, and semi-regularity.
Enter “Grill to Perfection: Two Champion Pit Masters Share Recipes and Techniques for Unforgettable Backyard Grilling” by Andy Husbands, Chris Hart, and Andrea Pyenson. (I don’t write about a cookbook unless someone I know and love wrote it. Andrea is one of those people.)
Relatively quickly and with little ceremony, the authors explain the ideas of direct grilling, where you cook your food directly over a low, medium, or hot fire, and two-zone grilling, where you sometimes start by getting a nice sear over a direct fire, then finish cooking with indirect heat, or you sometimes just do the entire cook with indirect heat—using your grill as an oven essentially (albeit a deliciously smoky one). The book’s recipes are then organized into these very straightforward techniques.
Just looking through the book, sort of by osmosis, you get it. A steak gets a direct hot fire—yes, obviously. Chicken thighs get a direct low fire, lest you incinerate the outside before the inside gets cooked—okay. Ribs and brisket, which need a long cook for their sinewy meat to become tender, get an indirect fire—ta da!
Besides this wonderfully springy Grilled King Salmon with English Peas and Mint, some recipes that caught my eye:
- Tamari-Glazed Steak with Sweet-and-Spicy Rice
- Curried Chicken Tenderloins with Coconut and Papaya Salad
- Grilled Striper Fillet with Summer Corn Succotash
- Lemon and Fresh Herb Grill-Roasted Leg of Lamb
Some other things I like about the book:
- Recipes include entrees, appetizers, sides, and other goodies like Honey-Grilled Hot Pepper Jelly
- A small handful of recipes don’t involve grilling, but they go with the outdoor cooking geshtalt, like an Arnie Palmer, Sorta
- The authors give equal weight to charcoal and gas grilling
All in all, “Grill to Perfection” is blessedly simple and obvious—not an attempt to turn anyone into a disciple, but an easily-digestible way to expand one’s grilling repertoire, confidence, and expertise.
For those of us in the middle.
(Disclosure—this post contains an affiliate link.)