The Fearless Chef

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Andy Husbands' Seafood Grill Tips
From The Fearless Chef by Andy Husbands and Joe Yonan (Adams Media, 2004)

1. We know it’s tempting to use a gas grill – or even an electric one – but if you never use a good-old fire-burning grill, you’re missing out on one of the most important benefits of barbecuing and grilling; that smoky taste that you get only when you play with fire. But even once you commit to a real grill, let go of the charcoal-soaked-in-lighter-fluid approach. Instead, use dry wood or hardwood charcoal, which is free of all those fillers found in most briquettes. As a bonus, it also lights easier and burns hotter.

2. The easiest way to light a fire in a grill is to use one of those nifty chimney starters, which you can buy in any good hardware store. Or, to make your own: Remove both the top and bottom of an old coffee can and use an old skeleton key or skewer to poke holes into each side, near the bottom. Then, fill the bottom with balled-up newspaper and pour the hardware charcoal over the top. Light the paper through the holes in the side. The coals should be ready after a few minutes. Use a pair of tongs to remove the can and set aside. Continue to feed the fire by pouring more coal over the hot coals and adding chunks of wood if you’ve got them.

3. Seafood is quick to spoil or pick up flavors from other foods so it’s best to use it immediately. It can be refrigerated for a day or two, but you must make sure that you keep it at 34º to 36º (most refrigerators range from 36ºto 40º). One easy way to accomplish that is to lay your seafood on a bed of ice in a colander placed over another bowl to catch the water. Be sure to cover it with plastic wrap, and change the ice if it melts too quickly. If using within several hours, you can skip the ice, but make sure to wrap the fish in plastic before sealing in an airtight container. If you need to keep it any longer than a day or two, pop it in the freezer, sealed in plastic wrap and another container, such as a sealable freezer bag.

4. When grilling fish, make sure the grates are clean and well-oiled, and once you put it on the grill, leave it there until it has a nice golden-brown sear on the bottom, 1 to 3 minutes depending on the grill temperature. Then – and only then- use tongs or two spatulas to carefully flip it.

   Published: May 2006