Summer at its best: barbecue on the coals

For the past 10 or more years, I have been using my little Weber barbecue with natural charcoal and I totally forget that most everyone else is using gas or propane. What it lacks in convenience it makes up for in flavour.

So, I when I ask friends to go out and check the barbecue I forget they don’t have a clue what to do. Here are a few tips for grilling over charcoal.

Preheat the grill and scrub it clean of any residue before cooking. Leftover bits of food from the previous cooking may contain some nasty pathogens. This will also help sterilize the grill.

Be sure the vents on the bottom and on the lid are completely open. Fill the chimney starter half full of charcoal and crumple newspaper as the starter. Put the newspaper in the bottom compartment of the chimney. Place the chimney on the bottom grate of the barbecue and light the paper on fire. It will, in turn, ignite the charcoal.

When all the charcoal is burning dump it on the bottom grate. Put it to one side if you want both direct heat and indirect heat for cooking. Add more charcoal to the starting batch to get a nice bed of coals. Let it ignite and burn down until it is at the right temperature for what you are cooking.

Use the lid during cooking. Remember that the more oxygen, the hotter the coals. If the lid is on, the coals burn a little cooler and longer. And only open the lid as required. Adjust the air from both the bottom and the vent on the lid.

Start the coals at least 30 minutes before you plan to cook food.

Grilled steelhead trout

  • 4-5 lb. whole steelhead trout, gutted & scaled 2-3 kg
  • sea salt
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • variety of fresh herbs
  • olive oil, as needed
  • all-purpose flour, as needed

Prepare the charcoal grill with coals lined up so the fish will be grilled directly over them.

Prepare the fish by removing the fins on the spine, behind the gills and belly. Generously salt the cavity of the fish and all over the skin. Stuff the fish with onions, lemons and herbs. Tie butcher string around the fish in four or five places to hold the stuffing in. Then in the spaces between the strings slash the fish, almost to the bone, and put more lemon slices in each slash on both sides.

Brush fish lightly with oil and lightly dust both sides with flour. Place on the hot grill.

Grill over medium hot, direct heat, with the cover on and the vents open.

When the skin is browned on one side use two large metal spatulas to loosen the fish from the grill and carefully turn. Continue cooking until just cooked through and an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 135–140 F (55-60 C), about 35 to 40 minutes total cooking time.

Remove fish from the grill and place on a large platter. Let it cool for five minutes then remove the butcher string and serve. Serves six.

Grilled stone fruit

  • 2 lbs. assorted plums, peaches and nectarines, halved and pitted 1 kg
  • olive oil
  • liquid honey
  • yogurt

Heat grill to medium high. Drizzle fruits with oil and grill, cut sides down, until juicy and charred, two to four minutes. Remove with a metal spatula and serve with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of honey.

If cooked too long, they get jammy. They really only need to be licked by the flames on high heat, get some grill marks and it’s done. You may choose to do the fruits first before the coals burn down to the temperature you want for meats.

Grilled green beans

  • 1 lb. fresh green beans 500 g
  • olive oil and sea salt

Trim the beans and then blanch in rapidly boiling water for one minute. Immediately chill them in an ice bath. Drain and dry on a kitchen towel.

Toss the beans with olive oil and season with sea salt. Place on a grilling tray directly over the coals. Turn them occasionally and as soon as there are a few grill marks they are ready to serve.

Charred chicken with carrots

  • 4 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • kosher salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, divided 60 mL
  • 1/2 c. olive oil, divided 125 mL
  • 1/2 lb. larger carrots .5 kg
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 15 fl. oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed 445 mL
  • 1/2 c. green olives 125 mL
  • 1/2 c. feta, crumbled 125 mL

Place chicken in a large bowl and season with salt. Add garlic, two tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice and two tablespoons (30 mL) oil and toss to coat.

Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes or cover and chill up to 12 hours. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Set chicken aside.

Peel and cut carrots into largish pieces. Blanch in boiling water until just barely tender. Drain and drizzle with olive oil.

Finish them on the barbecue until there are grill marks and are tender. Use a grill basket so none fall into the coals. Set aside.

Cut thick slices of orange with one of the oranges. Grill them over hot coals and set aside. Use these as garnish.

Put chicken on the barbecue, skin side down. Cook until skin is charred but not burned. Turn over and move to a cooler spot on the grill.

Cover grill and cook until done, about 20 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

Meanwhile toss chickpeas, olive and feta with remaining olive oil and lemon juice in a large bowl. Season with salt.

Place chicken and carrots on serving plate along with any juices.

Top with chickpea salad. Cut the other orange into wedges and squeeze orange juice over all. Serves four.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at Contact:

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