The backyard barbecue is an American rite of summer and a Fourth of July party is ‘cue-ing at its best. But throw together hot coals, open flames plus We the People and a fair amount of celebratory booze and you have a recipe that doesn’t always make for a safe — or happy — party. We asked master griller Chris Douglass, chef and owner of Ashmont Grill and Tavolo, for some pro tips on grilling this holiday.
“The best way to stay safe while grilling is to prepare well,” says Douglass, who often gives grilling classes at his restaurants. “Before getting started on the cooking, make sure your grill is in good working order and is located in a safe, well lit area away from any flammable materials or strong wind. It’s helpful to have a clean work surface located right next to the grill.
“Gather everything you need before you start,” he continues, “all the food, oil, salt, pepper, tongs, paper towels, and a good grill brush for keeping your grill racks debris-free. Once you are all ready, light your grill.
“Whether using propane or charcoal, you will need about 20 minutes for the grill to get hot. After lighting the grill, and until you’re completely finished cooking, the safest practice is for the cook to stay with the grill,” Douglass advises. “Let someone else run into the house to grab you a beer.”
“To get the best flavor when grilling, I like using natural hardwood charcoal,” says Douglass. “To start the fire, use a charcoal chimney with some newspaper wadded up underneath. Do not use lighter fluid – ever. It is not only quite dangerous, but it leaves a bad taste on your food. Charcoal briquettes have chemical additives that also impart a bad taste. When the coals are glowing, spread them out a bit before cooking, but leave about a third of the grill with no coals at all on it. This allows for different temperature zones, ranging from very hot to low.”