Cookbook authors Cheryl and Bill Jamison offer 100 reasons why we should all be firing up the grill, whether it’s gas or charcoal.
Just as the upcoming July 4th holiday kicks the summer grilling season into high gear, the nation’s outdoor cooking authorities, Cheryl and Bill Jamison, have launched a timely and useful new cookbook.
“100 Grilling Recipes You Can’t Live Without” (Harvard Common Press, $16.95) is a collection of the Jamisons’ greatest hits, gleaned from a half-dozen previously published grill and barbecue titles that, collectively, have sold more than 1.5 million copies and represent more than 20 years of creative fire-roasted cooking.
Yes, the Santa Fe, N.M.-based couple know their stuff, and in a recent phone conversation, Cheryl Jamison shared grilling tips, debunked the gas-charcoal divide and explained why we all need to step away from the grill cover.
Q: How did you select just 100 recipes from six previous books on grilling and barbecue? Your extraordinary “The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining” [William Morrow, 2007] is packed with 850 recipes, and that’s just one title.
A: It was actually rather fun. The first thing we did was sit down and make a list, off the tops of our heads, of our favorites. Surprisingly, we came up with a good part of the book. Then we discussed flavor combinations, and balanced out the book with different techniques. Then we retested, and tweaked recipes to accommodate changing tastes.
Q: You are not fans of the grilling gadget, right?
A: Correct. All you really need is a sturdy spatula and a good set of spring-loaded tongs, especially the ones with heatproof inserts. OXO makes one [www.oxo.com], and it’s great. They’re really the most important tools.
Beyond that, we go for a grill mesh, one of those toppers you can place on the grate for grilling little tidbits, or a grill mesh basket, which make it easy to grill vegetables or stir fries.
Q: It’s the age-old grilling question: Gas or charcoal?
A: It doesn’t matter all that much. It’s more about which one fits your personality, and if your gas grill can give a range of heat.
The earliest gas grills tended to have low firepower, so the results were not nearly as good as any old hibachi or those braziers that people used to have.
When you’re buying a gas grill, what’s really important is where the fire is going to be, relative to the grate. For searing meats, you want access to high heat. If the fire is going to be 6 inches below the grate, it’s not going to work the same way as if it were 2 to 3 inches.
We think that if you have a gas grill that can give searing power, the results between gas and charcoal are fairly similar. There is a difference if you grill using logs, or large wood chunks that have been burned down to coals. You’ll get some good wood character with either one of those.
Despite what people think, charcoal has had its wood character already burned out of it by the time it turns to charcoal. We’ll use gas on any old Wednesday evening to get dinner on the table, but when we’re entertaining — and we’re not under drought conditions, the way we are right now — we’ll go to our wood-burning fireplace.