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Grilling and Barbecuing

Preparing food outdoors over a live flame is one of the oldest and most enjoyable methods of cooking. And for good reasons: Flavor and convenience. A hot fire caramelizes the natural sugars in foods, coaxing out incredible flavors. And charcoal or hardwood lends a wonderful smoky taste. Plus, there are no pans to clean up. Technically, grilling is defined as cooking relatively tender foods quickly over high heat, while barbecue refers to fairly tough meats cooked slowly over low heat. But in the real world, the term grilling is used to describe just about anything cooked on a grill.

How to choose a grill
There are many styles of grills ranging from tabletop hibachis to expensive, elaborately designed models that will take over your backyard. They're all essentially fire containers, so choosing among them is a matter of deciding what appeals most to you, to your pocketbook, and to your backyard. Consider the options. First, consider getting a cover for your grill. It will give you more control over the fire and allow you to do some low-heat barbecuing as well as high-heat grilling. Second, keep in mind that a large grilling surface can be helpful. It not only lets you prepare more food at once but also allows you to move food from hotter to cooler parts of the grill, a great help when you dinner starts looking charred before it has cooked through. Finally, consider your fuel options. Charcoal takes longer to light and is more finicky when it comes to heat control, but it imparts incredibly smoky flavors. Propane is ultra-convenient, minus the smoky flavor. You can also get a gas/charcoal grill, which gives you both flavor and convenience.

To control the temperature of a charcoal fire
To make the fire hotter, open all the grill vents, push the coals together, and tap the coals to loosen the insulating cover of ash. To make it cooler, partially close the vents or spread the coals apart.

To season a grill to keep foods from sticking
Heat the grill rack over a hot fire. Wearing mitts, remove from the fire and coat with cooking spray, or rub oil in with a kitchen towel. Place the rack back over the fire.

To clean a grill
On a charcoal grill, just let the fire burn as hot as possible. On a gas grill, close the cover, if the grill has one. If it doesn't, cover the rack with heavy-duty aluminum foil, shiny side down. Then, crank up the heat to high and cook the empty grill until any debris clinging to the rack carbonizes. Scrape off the remaining stubborn particles with a wire brush or a crumpled piece of foil.

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