Archives for September 2010
How to Barbecue Better Using Cooking Grates
Cooking grates come in different types and materials, and each has its own advantages, depending on its use and the preference of the cook. Grill grates hold your food when you are barbecuing or grilling. So let us take a look at the choices available when it comes to outdoor cooking grates.
When it comes to popularity, cast iron grates seem to be the choice. The heavier wide cast iron grates can hold heat for a long time and cook evenly. As a result, you get well seared, quickly cooked food. The only problem with iron grill grates is maintenance. Apart from the regular cleaning, you must ensure that cast iron grills are well seasoned before you use them and this must be done periodically even when they are in regular use. They do come with manufacturers instructions on how to season them. While it is not a difficult task to season them, neglecting to do it can result in rust. If you do keep them well seasoned, cast iron can be as good as nonstick grates and appear to last longer than a lifetime.
A better option, if you want the advantage of longer heat but not the associated maintenance hassle with cast iron, you can opt for porcelain coated iron grates. These combine the quality of durability, as well as avoid the problem of rust as long as the porcelain coating is intact. Over time, the porcelain coating can crack, chip or wear off unless you are really careful when you handle it. At the time of cleaning, it is better to use brass bristles in place of metal scrapers with hard edges.
Stainless cooking grates for grills are less durable than iron; however, with good care, these can also last a long time. You also get steel grates coated with porcelain just like cast iron grates coated with porcelain. One problem, however, is that these grates are quite thin and too widely spaced to hold heat. While this does not really affect smoking or indirectly cooking huge portions of meat, beef, steaks and chops could pose an issue since you will not get those attractive grill marks. Serious chefs prefer wider grates.
If you compare stainless cooking grates for grills, porcelain enameled cast iron cooking grates and porcelain coated cast iron grates, porcelain coated cast iron grates let you cook at lower temperatures because there is longer retention of heat. Stainless steel grates come with the longest warranty followed by porcelain coated cast iron grates and the porcelain enameled ones.
Generally, it is better to buy stainless cooking grates for bbq grills so that they are not prone to rust. Often we find barbecue grills that are perfect with all the features we want at a price that is hard to refuse, yet does not have the kind of grate we want. In such cases, you can always check with the manufacturer. For example, you can opt for Weber porcelain enameled cast iron cooking grates that give you the advantage of long lasting grates that retain excellent heat and are supposed to be easy to maintain. But most weekend barbecuers feel that it is hard to keep it seasoned because they get so heated. This manufacturer also offers the option of choosing stainless cooking grates for the grills. These are easy to clean before cooking. By coating them with oil, you can keep food from sticking to it. Importantly, the grill marks are prominent. Another big advantage of stainless steel is its lightweight property making it easy to handle particularly while adding wood or briquettes to your smoker box. Stainless steel is also a good material for camping cooking grates.
About The Author: Jonathan Goodman is the owner of Market Merchants an online retailer specializing in home and garden products. My passion for bbq grilling and fireplaces is the core focus of Market Merchants. I am a member of the Hearth Patio Barbeque Association (HPBA), the National BBQ group (NBBQ), and the Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS). We sell these products because we love them and are passionate about consumer living needs. So whether its furniture and decor, home improvement, kitchen and dining, or outdoor living Market Merchants brings a dedicated commitment to the customer and a passion for high quality products. Visit Market Merchants for a wide selection of cooking grates from our grill accessories department.
The annual BBQ cook off came to town this past weekend and I decided to take a new angle at it. Each year I had been scraping together a team and spending upwards of four hundred bucks to compete for bragging rights and the hope to make a bit of the cash back (some guys do… I haven’t yet). There is definately some to that “thrill of the grill” but I wanted to try something different.
This year I signed up as a judge for the self sanctioned competition. First off… some of the big BBQ sanctioning groups (KCBS and Memphis In May) have training classes you need to take so you may not be able to jump directly in but it’s not difficult. My event was self sanctioned (they made up their own rules) and the group enlisted judges from other organizations. This is not uncommon and, in general, the attitudes around the judging tents seems to be fairly loose, laid back and ready to teach newbies. Don’t be surprised if it seems a bit chaotic.
I learned that being a judge was, for me, better than competing.
Judging bbq competitions may be right for you too if you are:
- Non competitive – I’m not selling a sauce a trophy isn’t that big of deal to me
- Hungry and love to eat – (yes despite taking only a bite of each item you will leave FULL)
- A foodie
- On a budget. I didn’t want to spend the $$ on meat, charcoal, extras and an entry fee. It adds up.
- Lacking free time – It takes two days to prep, cook , and compete. Judging just takes a leisurely Saturday.
- Wanting to feel important. Teams lacking sleep will act silly when they see you marked “judge.”
- Fond of sleeping in a real bed with air conditioning.
- Wanting to compete in the future
The last point is a good one. You get a whole new perspective on how serious (yes one cooker missed his turn in time and his chicken was eliminated) and sometime subjective judging can be.
BBQ Tricks and Tips I took away:
- Read the rules – you’re only judged on what’s listed.
- Appearance matters – it’s usually an individual point in the judging. I saw a few boxes smudged with fingerprints (yuck) and sloppy with sauce. Layout the food in the box in a clean, orderly and attractive manner. In my case they opened the box and we all looked at it and simply judged “appearance” from 1 to 9. That was almost a third of the total potential score.
- Keep it hot. The pieces that were warmer seemed to taste better.
- Stay away from lighter fluid.
- Judges expect some sauce, in general like sweet, NOT heat.
- Perfect ribs won’t fall off the bone (that’s overdone) but they should come off easy.
Overall I was surprised how similar all the ribs were and how everything was still warm. Judging was an econmical way to experience the thrill of the grill without touching any charcoal and still getting a good night’s sleep.
A kitchen would just not be a kitchen without a cutting board. In fact, the cutting board has become a main tool of our kitchens as it provides us a safe place for food preparation and cutting. In today’s kitchens you will find all kinds of cutting boards varying in size, shape and material. It’s up to you to decide which of them would be the best choice for your kitchen.
In the beginning most all cutting boards were made from hardwoods, like the butchers block would see in your local market. But in today’s kitchens cuttings boards are made of many different materials each one having their own advantages and disadvantages.
Wood has always been the overall best choice for your cutting boards. Wooden boards are made a couple of ways, end grain boards are thicker heavy duty boards made for heavy chopping and edge grain boards are thinner and lighter for everyday use. Wooden boards also come in many different patterns and wood spices, Maple, Black Walnut, Black Cherry, Sapele and the list goes on. The different patterns and wood spices are a personal and décor choice for you to choose, what looks best in your kitchen. But if you are the professional chef that uses your board every day under heavy use an end grain maple board will be your best choice. Also any end grain board will be easier on your knifes edges. Some disadvantages of wooden boards, they do require hand cleaning and sanitizing “no dishwashers” then treating with cutting board oil. If cared for properly they will last a very long time. The bottom line is wood is safe, simple and looks great.
Plastic cutting boards are generally the most affordable and you can find them in a large variety of different designs, sizes and colors. The plastic boards also come thick or thin, hard or flexible. The flexible ones are great for transferring food into pots and containers and they are also easy to store. The downside to the flexible ones is the fact that they will not last as long as the thicker boards. This is because sharp knives will eventually cut through the thin material. The hard thicker plastic boards are very durable. Plastic boards are thought of as being the safest board to use as they are easy to sanitize and clean. But just because they are plastic doesn’t mean you don’t have to sanitize, these boards can harbor bacteria in the cuts on the board therefore needing to be sanitized. Plastic boards do have the capabilities of being put into a dishwasher as long as they fit.
Glass boards are another popular type of board that can be found in many kitchens. These glass boards come in a variety of shapes and colors in order to suit your kitchens décor. They are also resistant to heat, very durable, easy to clean and they are very sanitary. However glass boards will dull the edges of your knifes very quickly and can even damage them. These boards also pose a danger as they can become very slippery during use creating a cutting hazard to you. They are also very heavy and more expensive than wooden cutting boards.
Bamboo is also a well known cutting board that is actually grass. They have become popular in kitchens today because of their inexpensive cost. The best feature of these boards is that they take it easy on the edges of your knife but they do scar, but you can sand them down in order to create a smooth surface. You will find that they can easily catch bacteria growth in the cuts, so you need to make sure you sanitize them each time you use them. One big disadvantage the vast majority of these boards come from China and there has been a lot of controversy over the resin holding these boards together is it safe or not?
It is recommended to have two or more cutting boards of any type to avoid cross-contamination. This means that you will have one for your meats and the others for your fruits, vegetables and breads. This will also make you more productive; since you want have to wash the cutting board thoroughly between items. If you’re having a hard time deciding on your cutting board choice just remember to select the largest size that will fit in your work area, but it should also fit into your sink for easy cleaning. Color, design and how will I use the board should also be part of your decision. You can never go wrong with a well made wood cutting board.