Grill Seekers Transcript, Inc.

The Kitchen


    Meet my neighbor, Bob: loving husband and father, scratch golfer, backyard cooking enthusiast, and I might add a darned fine rocket scientist. Now from a distance, it looks like Bob's having some trouble with his Delorean. But look closer.

    Behold, Bob's new grill. That fat four-figures worth state-of-the-art technology is currently applying 6,000 BTUs to a leg of Tasmanian lamb Bob had over-nighted in just for those diners assembled inside. Now with its ancient origins and primitive components, grilling is child's play for the likes of Bob. [Bob throws flaming lamb into the kiddy pool] Talk about a fiery reentry. Hope they can recover the black box.

BTU = British Thermal Unit

    I guess in the end, what separates grilling grief from gratification is are not MIT diplomas, from 2,000 dollar grills or costly cuts of meat. What it really comes down to is old fashioned know how and a good fire.
    Join us as we ponder the world's oldest cooking method. We'll find the right gear, fire the right fuel, employ the necessary tools and implement the elementary principals necessary to produce a great piece of grill roasted meat without dragging you or your guests over the coals. Sounds like fun? Sounds like good eats.

Kroger: Alpharetta, GA - 9:01 am

    Like my neighbor, Bob, I'm a leg-of-lamb man. No other chunk of beast is better suited to cooking over coals. It's mouth- meltingly tender and flavorful enough to stand up against a host of after market seasonings. Alas, it is a big hunk of meat. Which is why, unless I'm serving 8 to 10 people, I go with half a leg of lamb. Now, there are plenty of old-world butchers out there who'll do custom cuts for you, but at the average American market, bisect is king.


Professional band-saw operator. Do not
attempt at home!

    Now, the half that was furthest from the hoof is called the sirloin-cut end because it actually still has a piece of sirloin connect to it.  The end that was closest to the hoof is called the shank-cut end.

Sirloin end
Shank end

    Now, there's really no such thing as a tough piece of lamb. But since it contains less connective tissue, the sirloin cut end is better suited to cooking to medium rare, which is how I like it on the grill.

better for grilling

    Now a lot of markets carry legs of lamb that have been boned, rolled and tied at the factory and then sealed into cryovac bags. Since you're paying partially for a bag full of liquid in that case, I don't think you get as much leg for the loot. So, buy whole and let your butcher do the work.

BRT in butcher speak

Sometimes a boneless leg of lamb is only mostly boned ...

The Kitchen

    So, flip it fat side down and take a look. There. We've got an end of a cut bone and if you dig down a joint.

 Cut end
Joint end

    Just take your knife and just kind of cut right down the through that joint and you'll be right on top of the bone. There. Now, just open that up with your fingers and with the end of your boning knife or even a paring knife, just kind of peel the meat off the bone. Boning out gives you access to the inner sanctum of the meat which we'll take advantage of soon enough.
    Just kind of grab it, there, and scoot your knife down around that joint. Don't worry about getting every little bit of meat off of the joint right there, because most of it's connective tissue anyway. There.

    Now, while you're in here look around for any really big chunks of fat or gnarly connective tissue. But don't over trim because, see, this roast is actually several muscle groups held together by connective tissue. If you over trim, it's going to literally come apart at the seams. I'm going to open up this one big muscle right there where the bone was just so we can get some, get it more even later on. A little bit of fat there but leave that. Okay, that looks good.

individual muscles

    Now, flip it over and take a look at the fat layer. Now I'm not worried about the fat because most of that is going to melt away. But there is a thin membrane called the fell which can get kind of thick. So, I'm just going to go right under there. It's an impermeable membrane, you see. It's almost like a duck's webbed foot. You just want to cut off the main part of that. But you don't want to go through the fat if you don't have to. You see that? That's like a big rubber band on top of the meat.


    Now you can trim off extra fat while you're here, but it's going to render off during cooking, so I really don't worry about it. And again, if you over trim on this side, the roast will fall apart.
    Before we close, time to add some flavors.

[these ingredients are shown being blended in a food processor with music]

4 cloves garlic
8 mint leaves
1 Tbls brown sugar
1 Tbls kosher salt
2 tsp. black pepper
5 Tbls strong mustard
2 Tbls Canola Oil

    [voice over] Now, take cotton twine, butcher's twine, and cut about 5 pieces, ehh, approximately 17 inches long. It's about the width of my board. Just cut them into individual pieces. And you're also going to need one piece that's double that length.

5 pieces cotton string 17 to 18 inches each
1 piece 36 inches long

    Now, smear the wet stuff on the red stuff, everywhere that you can see. Believe it or not, you will get it all on there. Now, the idea is to look at the roast and figure out a way to get it into a capsule or tube shape. It doesn't have to be perfect and every piece of meat is different.
    Now start your trussing by putting one string right in the middle, bone-side down. Now, to close, you're to start with, uh, well, like you would a square knot, but you're going to go under two more times. Two. Three. This is a surgeon's knot. Now not too tight, just snug. There. Now finish just like you would a square knot, just one underhand. It's the same knot they use to close you up when you have that triple by-pass. Repeat as many times as is necessary to kind of secure a tube shape. And not too tight. You've got to remember that the meat's going to expand. You don't want to give it a Barbie waistline.
    Now, take the long piece and place it underneath the center string. Hold up the ends until it is of even length in both directions. Now, you're going to take one end and just loop it underneath the middle string so that you've kind of got it captured in a loop. Just like that. There. Now, you're going to repeat that around every string across the roast. Now, again, you're not trying to get anything tight here. This isn't rigging sails on a yacht. This is just to hold all of those strings in place during cooking. So loop it under and pull.
    Now, once you've got it trussed all the way from one end to the other—there—now just gently take the roast and roll it over. And now you're going to repeat the same process moving from the fat end down to the pointy end. Just go underneath and pull. There. And again in the middle. You don't have to do this on every single string, but every place where you can get at it.
    Then loop it again, around, one more time once you get to the small end just to make sure it's secure and perform the exact same surgeon's knot. There. Again, not too tight. There's the finishing knot. And then just trim up all the loose ends. And don't worry, the moisture from the meat will keep the string from burning during cooking. There. That's it.

The word "truss" comes from the Latin torsus, or "twist".

Barbeques Galore: Atlanta, GA - 1:22 pm

GUEST: Jim Weatherly, Barbeque Purveyor

    Today's grill seeker has a lot of decisions to make. For instance, you going to buy gas or charcoal? Now born during the barbeque hay-day of the 50's, gas grills combine two favorite American obsessions: convenience and setting things on fire. Now, I can dig the convenience angle, but you just never hear anybody waxing lyrical about the good ole propane flavor.

    Of course, the world of charcoal grills is just as daunting. You've got ceramic cookers, open grills, table grills, steel drum grills, smokers with exterior fire boxes, and, well of course, the American kettle developed in 1951 by Illinois metal worker, George Steven, who fashioned his prototype from Marine buoy parts that he assembled down at the Webber Brothers Metalworks.

ceramic cookers
open grills
table grills
steel drum grills
kettle grills

    But, what really does constitute a great grill? Well, we might as well ask Jim Weatherly. Because until somebody buys them, all these are his.

JIM WEATHERLY: Well, first thing is size. You want to get something the right size for your family. Generally speaking you're going to have a couple of big cookouts a year, probably, so you want to get something with a good size, more than just enough to feed a couple of people.

AB: So, this would be good size.
JW: This would be a good size.
AB: How many square feet of cooking here?
JW: This is about 600 inches. This is a big one.
AB: Good deal.

size matters

JW: So, that's important. Second is the hood. I'd get something with a thermometer in the hood.
 AB: Right.
JW: If you're cooking chickens or turkeys, it's great to be able to control the temperature inside this big cavity here.
AB: Right.

hood with thermometer

JW: Also, I'd avoid something with the window. The window's will break. Sometimes they get smoky. It's just not a great idea for grills.
AB: Chicken doesn't need to see out anyway.

Say "No" to windows

JW: Next with the cooking grills, the heavier the better. These are cast iron. Feel how heavy they are.
AB: So, these wider cast jobs are actually better than those little, uh, chrome guys ...
JW: Much better. Especially for steaks and chops.
AB: ... heat faster and hotter.
JW: They're hotter.
AB: You want to mark things.
JW: That's right.
AB: These you can just pop in the oven on the self-clean, right? Oil them up.
JW: That's right. That's right. Put some oil on them.
AB: Great.

heavy grates
"wider is better"

JW: So.
AB: What about underneath those?
JW: Underneath those you need some way to control how hot the fire gets. You can either do that through raising and lowering the fire, which is how this grill works.
AB: A little charcoal elevator. Sweet. But you don't see that too often, right?
JW: A lot of grills don't have that. Other grills they control by controlling how hot the fire gets. And that's by how much air gets in there.
AB: Convection.
JW: More air makes a hotter fire. Less air cools it off.
 AB: Okay.

heat control

JW: So and finally it's important to have an ash drawer to clean things out. The ashes aren't great in there especially when they get wet, they'll corrode the bottom of the grill and wear it out much faster.
Because they're acidic, right?
JW: Because they're acidic, that's right.*
AB: Got it. So, clean your grill often as far as the ashes go. Is this just a charcoal access?

ash catcher

JW: That's access to charcoal or to add wood chips while you're cooking. If you want to smoke something, it's great for that.
AB: Ah. If you've got a grill where the grate's down over the charcoal and you don't have access, then you can't add any heat during the cooking ...
JW: You've got to lift all of your food off and everything. It's really a hassle.

coal access

83% of American families own grills, which
they use an average of 5 times per month.

    As with any quality tool, simple is not synonymous with cheap. All cheap buys you is a hunk of uselessness that will quickly morph into a Sanford and Son set piece. Of course, even a great grill will de-evolve into a rust bucket if left exposed to the elements. So, build a shed, keep it in the garage, or buy yourself a cover.

Back Yard

    One's definitely two ... ah, there we go. Now, let's say that you took a nice big hardwood log and you burned it in a low oxygen environment. Whoa, you say. Wood won't burn in a low oxygen environment. Well, not all of it, maybe, but some of it will. For instance, water will boil away, uh, tar will definitely cook out, volatile oils which don't taste very good cook away, and, of course, there's just other stuff in wood. Then, what you're left with is about 70 to 80 percent lighter than this, and it's called charcoal. Break it up into chunks and you've the most popular cooking fuel on earth, chunk charcoal.

    Chunk charcoal is the fuel of choice for grilling aficionados because it's almost pure carbon. It lights faster, burns cleaner, burns hotter, and produces better flavors than briquettes which have to be bound together with vegetable starch, borax, limestone, sometimes even yummy petroleum by-products.

briquettes burn longer than chunks, but not as hot

    Now, this stuff does take just a little bit of getting used to. But believe me, it's worth the effort. Of course, if you've just got to go with briquettes, at least buy all natural briquettes. And make sure that they are fully lit before you put food to fire. Well, now that we have the fuel worked out, time for ignition.
    Here are the options. The ever popular electric coil. Extremely effective but, you know, there's something about having to plug in your grill just seems wrong, somehow. Then, of course, there are these little high-tech paraffin tablets. The problem is, is that they only ignite a very small space and the fire never really gets even. It never really fulfills its thermal potential. Then there are your various fire-in-a-tube products, very mission impossible. But you know, if you mistake this for your toothpaste just once and, yuck, it's bad. Then of course, there's the old standby, lighter fluid. Some folks just swear by this stuff like my neighbor, Bob. I don't know. Some how it just makes me nervous.

BOB: Aaaaaahhh!

    Me, I'll stick by the old standard chimney starter and a copy of yesterday's paper.
    Now, chimney starters have lots of unique advantages. For instance, you can be firing up your charcoal over here while you're still fuztin' around with your grill over there. Also, during long grill sessions, like, say, Thanksgiving Day turkey or Christmas roast, you can have a nice big stash of hot coals standing by. All it takes is filling it up and putting in one nice big chunk of newspaper. Then put the fire to it. I like to use a hot dog fire stick, but that's just me.
    Now, the big question that everybody always asks is, "How much charcoal?" Well, unfortunately it's not an easy answer, you see. It's got to do with the size of your grill, the material of your grill, and of course, the material that you're going to be putting on the grill to cook. Now, we're cooking lamb which is pretty bulletproof. It doesn't mind really, really high temperatures. So, I'm starting with a jam packed chimney full of charcoal, I'm going to get it wicked hot in there, and I'm going to sear the meat and then let it finish cooking as the heat just dies from the embers.

    Do me a favor. Don't do this on a wooden surface. Don't do this on your deck, or a wooden patio. This is going to get really, really hot. So do it either on concrete, a cinder block or, what I like, an upside down galvanized bucket. In 15 minutes this is going to be Dante's Inferno.

cinder block
galvanized bucket

Henry Ford is credited with inventing the charcoal briquette.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Paul Merchant

    Now, all that white ash lets you know this charcoal is ready. Now, you might see a little bit of fire, but not a whole lot. And that is because most of the compounds that create fire—and smoke for that matter—aren't there anymore.

    Now, I usually put on a little bit of fresh charcoal just to buffer this up a bit. Just enough to kind of cover it with one layer.

Don't try this with
instant light briquettes.

    Now, despite what all those TV commercials tell us, charbroil food is evil. Why? Well, for one thing, soot is not a valid flavoring and number two, some recent studies suggest that actual flame char on food can cause cancer. Doesn't matter, really, because I'm not going to give it the opportunity. The reason why is we're going to use indirect cooking which is the way I do every big roast or large piece of meat that's going to take more than a few minutes.

Indirect heat is best for big hunks of beast which require longer cooking times.

    Now, if you don't have ... if you do have baskets, just split them apart. Push one to one side and one to the other. That will provide the indirect heat. If you don't have baskets, just split the pile down the middle and shove them to each side of the grill.

    And now, the final checklist. It's important to have a checklist when you're grilling, because it's not like you can just stop in the middle and go get things. So, first and most importantly, a table. [table is placed next to grill] Check. Whoa!  Corinthian. Nice. Of course, Ionic or Dorian would be fine.
    Next up, a clean work surface. Splendid.
    Flame tamer. Squirt bottle for flame-ups. Very good.
    Spring loaded tongues. I've already got them. Very good.
    Uh, grill swab. With a little canola oil for rubbing down the grill. Very good. A little faster please.
    Heavy-duty aluminum foil drip pan. Got that.
    Probe thermometer. Probe thermometer. Probe thermometer!  Very good.
    Let's see. A clean platter for receiving the finished goods. Very important. Very good, very good.
    Comfy chair. I've got that.
    Uh, a lovely beverage. Lovely beverage. [handed a beverage] Yes, that is lovely. Thank you very much.
    And then last but not least, let's see, we've got a fire extinguisher. By the way, these are required by law in a lot of cities, so don't get a ticket. Keep this around.

Grilling Check List

spring loaded tongs
flame up tamer
clean work surface
grill swab
probe thermometer
h. d. aluminum foil
clean platter
comfy chair
lovely beverage
Fire Extinguisher

    Oh, and of course, you have to have clean grill grates. Right? Perfectly clean ... [opens grill to dirty grates]

AB: Paul!  Get over here!
PM: [runs over and picks grate up with bare hands] Ahhh!  Ow, ow, ow! Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!  Ow!  Ow!  Ah!

    Paul has learned an invaluable grilling lesson which is this. Just because you don't see pyrotechnics doesn't mean that it isn't ...

PM: Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot. Hot.

    In fact, charcoal can burn about 200 degrees hotter than wood with no discernable fire or smoke.

charcoal burns 200°
hotter than wood

PM: Hot. Hot. Hot.
AB: Hey, you going to dance or you going to clean?

    If your grates look like something they pulled out of the Titanic, throw them away and buy new ones. If they are just plain old gunky, save your arm and send them through the self-cleaning cycle of your oven. If the goop is marginal, take a wire brush or pumice stone to them. They're available at your local hardware store.

"Buccaneer" comes from boucan, the old Caribbean word for barbecue.

    Our onboard thermometer says we're topping out at about 500 degrees, our custom drip pan is in place and the last of the grates, clean, is flying in.

AB: Thank you very much, Paul.

    Now before we use these, you must give them a rub down with a little canola oil. I've just got a little towel rolled up like a roast. Just rub it down. This is one of those things that's kind of like honing your knife. You need to do it ever time you use the tool. Just enough to keep things from sticking.

light canola rub down

    Now. The roast. Ah.

skin side up

    Right in the middle. Right in between the two piles of coals. And the lid goes down. Now keeping this covered is going to do two things. One it's going to help to concentrate that indirect heat, get it moving around the roast which is good. And it's also going keep the O2 level down and that is going to prevent flare ups. As we've said, flames are not a valid flavoring. But, smoke on the other hand is.

closed lid:
concentrates heat
reduces flare-ups

AB: Rosemary. Maybe you should see the medic about that [indicating Paul's gauzed hands]

    Now, we could take about smoking agents all day. Mesquite, hickory, corn cobs, wet tea bags but smoking's another show. As for lamb a couple of rosemary twigs will do the trick nicely.

    Now, set your timer for 20 minutes and go enjoy that lovely beverage.

20 minutes

Thyme, oregano and basil can also be used as smoking agents.

The Kitchen

    Time to turn. Now  you want to do this as fast as possible so you don't waste your heat. First flip it over once and then turn it end to end like that. It's a complete rotation. Now, take the probe from your trusty probe thermometer and insert it down at and angle so that your probe is not in the direct line of fire. And then plug that in to your thermometer.

Always move meat with tongs. No Stabbing!

    Now, uh, lamb can be cooked to any temperature—rare, medium, well, whatever—but as far as I'm concerned it's either done or it's not done. And done for me is a 140 degrees. Now, a piece of meat this size will easily carry over five degrees after you remove it. So, I'm going for 135 degrees. Probably take another 25, maybe 30 minutes.

medium rare = 140°

pull at 135°

    As far as the fire? Ah, forget about it. It's going to go out. That's what fires do. But that's good in the case. Because you see, you've had so much heat pushing in on that meat, that you've got a great char on the outside. If that same heat were to keep pushing on it, then by the time the middle was nice and medium rare, the outside would be charcoal.
    As the heat goes down on the outside, the pressure gently, gently cooks through to the middle. If you've ever seen a roast beef recipe that called for starting in a 500 degree oven and finishing in 300 degree oven, same thing.

Every time you flip your lid, you add 5 minutes to the cooking time.

    Now proper resting is crucial. Takes 15 minutes minimum for the juices in that roast to redistribute. Twenty wouldn't be a bad idea.

cover & rest 15 minutes

    There. Now, you've noticed that the strings have already been cut off. Always take the strings off before letting the meat rest. It kind of helps those juices redistribute.

remove strings pre-rest

    Now, slice with a nice long action and there, perfectly grilled lamb. Those little smoke ring, little pink ring if you look closely, that's caused by a reaction between chemicals in the smoke and protein in the lamb. Barbequers kill for that sight.

    Now,  we hope that our little demonstration here has fueled up the primitive pyro in you. Just remember, always buy good gear. Keep it clean. Do not skimp on fuel. Uh, use tongs. Never poke at the food while it's cooking. And consider using a marinade or a paste to enhance the flavor. And when it's all said and done, give it a rest and you will be rewarded. Above all, you're playing with fire so be careful out there.

buy good gear
keep it clean
don't skimp on fuel
use tongs, don't poke
use marinade or paste
give it a rest
be careful!

    See you next time on Good Eats.

*Astute transcript reader, Elan Ruskin, pointed out that ash is really alkaline (ph Above 7.0) and not acidic. The effect is still the same, it will corrode iron.

Proofreading by Anthony Foglia.

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010