Looking to become a grillmaster this summer? We asked the cooks at Death & Taxes, our wood-fire focused restaurant, for tips and tricks to harnessing the power of the grill. (Make a reservation at Death & Taxes here.)
Picking Your Fuel
Gas grills are great for quick, easy grilling in the summer, but they don’t offer the same flavor or intense heat that you get from grilling with wood or charcoal. At home, we opt for natural hardwood charcoal.
Lighting the Grill
The best way to light your grill quick is to put newspaper or cardboard under the charcoal and light it, let the coals turn gray and wait until they are mostly covered in ash before you start grilling. At home, use a charcoal chimney, which will help the coals ignite more quickly. Place your paper in the bottom of the chimney, pile the charcoal on top, and light the paper from the bottom end of the chimney. Do not use lighter fluid—it can affect the taste of the food.
Arranging Your Flame
Once the charcoal is going, carefully pour it out of the chimney and into the grill. We suggest pouring the charcoal into a pile on one side of the grill, so you have a hot direct heat zone, and a cooler indirect heat zone. This is sometimes called “banking the coals” to one side. Doing this allows you to char your ingredients on the direct heat side, then move them over to finish cooking them without burning them on the indirect heat side.
Or, ditch the grill grates altogether and try cooking directly in the embers, a technique we use often at Death & Taxes. This is where grill baskets really come in handy. Pile hearty ingredients (like oysters, for instance) into the grill basket, and then carefully nestle the basket into the embers of your charcoal. Get the recipe for roasted oysters here. Or, try cooking delicate vegetables in the grill basket, like corn kernels. See our recipe for embered corn below.
What to Grill
Classics are classics for a reason: we love to grill steaks, sausages, chicken thighs, and corn just as much as the next person. But if you want to get fancy and impress your friends, try grilling avocados or peaches. Wipe the cut surface of the fruit with neutral vegetable oil before you place it cut side down on the grill. Soft delicate ingredients like peaches only need a few minutes on the grill, so watch carefully. Serve peaches with ice cream, or as part of a savory summer salad.
Make sure your grill is set up away from the house, never leave it unattended, and always have a backup plan in case your fire gets bigger than you can control.
Lastly, cleaning your grill is very important. The most effective way to clean your grill is to use agrill brush and a hot fire. Let the grill get really hot so it burns off whatever's left on the grill, then use the brush on the grates to finish cleaning.
Embered Sweet Corn with Lime and Basil Butter
6 ears fresh corn, shucked
8-12 large basil leaves, torn
Fine sea salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Prepare a grill with charcoal; arrange the charcoal in an even layer. Place a grill basket with fine holes directly on coals to preheat for about 3 minutes. Add the corn kernels, and a few pieces of torn basil to the hot basket and season with sea salt. Roast directly on the coals until the kernels start to char, about 3-5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook, especially with fresh sweet corn.
Remove from heat and transfer the corn into a large metal mixing bowl. Toss with the butter (it will melt from the residual heat of the corn), more torn basil, and the finely grated zest and juice from both limes. Add more sea salt to taste, and serve immediately.