Cooking outdoors, especially in pleasant weather, seems always to make food taste so much better than indoors, right? Gas grills have made this experience quick and easy, but there’s something special — ritualistic — and a lot more flavorful about cooking over charcoal.
The Cuisinart GrateLifter charcoal grill is not a backpacker’s dream at 25-plus pounds, but the car camper-day tripper chef should take a look at this little beauty.
Actually, compact would be more accurate description of its size. Including its built-in carry handles, it measures about 16 inches deep by 16.5 inches high by 25 inches wide with a cooking grate dimension of 17.25 inches by 13 inches giving a cooking area of 240 square inches, enough room to cook a few steaks or about a dozen burgers. There’s a temperature gauge in the hood to help you keep the cooking temperature regulated by using the adjustable vent and air intake grids. And a removable ash bin permits easy cleaning.
As the name says, the cooking grate (it is removable) can be raised when you lift the green hinged, porcelain enamel coated hood allowing you to add more charcoal during extended sessions without having to wrestle with hot metal. By moving levers on either side of the hood you can disengage the lifting mechanism if you’re simply checking on the food that’s cooking.
The metal charcoal tray has multiple rows of five-eighths-inch holes to allow for sifting ash down to the collection bin, and it is easily removed for a more thorough cleaning. I found an old paintbrush ideal for sweeping the ash into the circular bin.
Grilling steaks and hamburgers is a breeze, and cooking times are in the same range as those on a gas grill. To ignite the coals, I used one of those chimney-like starters and crumpled newspaper. Adding a few small pieces of kindling shortened the start-up time.
Shutting down the air intake and closing the lid vents did a good job of extinguishing the coals, some of which were useful for the next cookout.
The Cuisinart has found a home on my deck, maybe even on my next camping trip.
For information check www.cuisinart.com.
Cuisinart GrateLifter Charcoal Grill (model No. CCG-100) $149.99.
Charcoal grilling tips
Here are some charcoal grilling tips from Cuisinart.
To light a charcoal fire, place the coals in a pyramid shape 20-30 minutes before cooking. The pyramid provides ventilation for the coals to catch fire.
As a general rule, plan on using about 30 briquettes to cook 1 pound of meat. A 5-pound bag contains 75 to 90 briquettes. Make sure there are enough briquettes to cover the grill pan in a single layer, extending 2-3 inches beyond the area of the food on the grill. First, place the briquettes in the grill pan to check for quantity, then stack them for lighting or remove to place in a chimney starter.
- To start with lighter fluid, soak the coals with about a half-cup fluid. Wait 1 minute to let the fluid soak in, then light with a match. Never use gasoline or kerosene because either one can cause an explosion.
- To prevent food from sticking, the cooking grate should be lightly oiled before grilling.
- To ensure best flavor, make sure briquettes are ashed over before beginning grilling.
- Trim excess fat from meats. Meals will be more healthful and grill cleanup will be easier.
- Keeping the lid closed during cooking will enhance flavor, reduce cooking time and minimize flare-ups. Close the grill cover only when cooking. Closing the cover before cooking can cause an accumulation of lighter fluid fumes.
- The vents should remain open while cooking, but if the fire gets too hot, vent openings may be reduced to control cooking temperature. Closing the vents all the way will gradually extinguish the fire.
- Use tongs or a spatula when grilling poultry and other foods. Flavorful juices are lost when poultry and meats are pierced by a fork.