Two new groups of graduates left Barbecue University earlier this month with diplomas in hand, and I'm proud to have helped them ascend the ladder of barbecue enlightenment. Here are some of the "secret" techniques from the school to help you up your game at the grill.
Keep it hot: Of course you light your charcoal in a chimney starter. When you pour out the coals, leave one or two burning embers in the starter, then add a fresh batch of charcoal. The embers will light the coals--no newspaper or fire starter needed.
Keep it clean: A clean grill grate is essential to prevent sticking and give you great tasting food. Ideally, you'll have a grill brush, but if you don't, make a luddite grill brush by crumpling a sheet of aluminum foil into a ball. Clutch it between the jaws of long-handled tongs, and use it to scrub the bars of the grate.
Keep it lubricated: One cool way to oil your grate is to impale half of an onion on a long-handled meat fork and dip in vegetable oil. Rub it across the bars of the grate. (I learned this tip from an Israeli grill master.)
Keep it lubricated 2: Grease your grill grate with a chunk of bacon or steak fat. Great smell. Great flavor.
Where there's smoke: Grilling on a gas grill? Don't despair--you can still add a smoke flavor. Place unsoaked hardwood chunks under the grate between the inverted V-shaped Flavorizer bars. Or make a smoking pouch by folding a cup or so of unsoaked hardwood chips in heavy duty aluminum foil to make a pillow-shaped pouch. Poke holes in the top with a skewer and place under the grate directly over one of the burners and start grilling when you see smoke.
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Steven Raichlen is the author of the Barbecue! Bible cookbook series and the host of Primal Grill on PBS. His web site is BarbecueBible.com.