Late last summer, my gas grill finally died. It was, however, a slow and painful death for a trusty grill, but with gas knobs melting, hoses cracking, orifices clogging, and critical transplants unavailable . . . it was time. That old grill had been with me for nearly ten years and served me well, but I really had a yearning to go back to charcoal and hardwood grilling.
And yet, I didn't want to get too committed to charcoal grilling, as a couple friends lamented that charcoal wasn’t practical (it takes too long to start up, and it’s messy). I still wanted to try but didn’t want to spend a lot, in case they were right. So, after doing a fair amount of research, I went with the trusty standard—Weber. The Weber One-Touch Silver to be precise. The One-Touch is the model that made Weber synonymous with backyard barbecues; it is also very well made and sells for less than $80.
The immense and complex flavor that charcoal lends to anything put on the grill is so far superior to that of gas that I wonder why I waited so long to make the switch. That flavor enhancement so outweighs the hassles that some folks warned of. Those hassles are now part of my lighting ritual and have taken on a ceremonial element that I have come to enjoy.
Early on, I swore off the use of lighter fluid as my search for flavor had been marred by the gasoline flavor of the fluid. I just get a few sheets of newspaper and some plum or maple kindling from the trimmings of our trees and a lighter, quick and easy. For the charcoal, I quickly became a purist and did away with briquettes for the hotter burning and cleaner flavored natural lump charcoal (Mali’s or Kingsford Charwood).
There is a small learning curve when you switch to this kind of grilling, the main element of which is mastery of airflow. This kind of grilling is really about oxygen management: low oxygen for lower heat used with larger or tougher cuts and higher air flow for greater heat when grilling steaks and fish or thinner cuts.
I have been so enamored with charcoal grilling, I was even able to persuade the most vocal of my anti-charcoal friends to hop on the char-wagon, and he hasn't looked back either.
So, if you need a new grill or are just ready for the best in grilling flavor, head to charcoal, and start grilling for real.