Nobody knows who the first grill master was, but chances are he was wearing a bearskin and practiced his craft in a cave. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres were not on the menu, though the former occupant of the bearskin might have been. We’ve come a long way since then, and, though grilling is still all about cooking food over flame, the end result of even the most basic backyard barbecue would have our innovative ancestor thinking he’d died and gone to heaven. Apart from the attire and decor, perhaps the most striking difference between grilling then and grilling today is the variety of foods you’ll find being cooked and the spectrum of things available to help you cook it.
“Thanks to all the tools and techniques available today, pretty much anything you can cook in an oven, you can cook on a grill,” says Kevin Kohlman, a modern-day Grill Master for Weber grills. “And anything you do grill cooks faster and comes out more flavorful than cooking it in an oven.”
From steaks to stir-fry, oysters to osso buco, and Danish pancakes to pizza, we’re living in the golden age of grilling. And here are some of the new tools available to help you up your grilling game.
Nobody knows. Etymologists (word detectives) think it might be a Caribbean word barabicu—meaning “sacred fire pit.” When Europeans adopted the word, they changed it to barbacoa, which describes a framework of green wood used to cook food over hot coals.
Who Invented Charcoal?
Ellsworth B.A. Zwoyer of Pennsylvania patented a design for charcoal briquettes, in 1897. Henry Ford also made charcoal from wood scraps left over from building his cars.
Who Invented Grilling?
With the popularity of backyard barbecues skyrocketing in the 1950s, metalworker and inventor George Stephen inherited a controlling interest in the Weber Brothers Metal Spinning Company, best known as a maker of harbor buoys. He cut one in half, added a grate and legs and vents to invent the world-famous Weber grill.
Grilling has been a tradition of US presidents since Thomas Jefferson. Lyndon Johnson was the first president to hold a barbecue with Texas-style ribs. Noted presidential grillers also included Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and both George H. and George W. Bush.
The Right Way to Say
Grilling and barbecuing are not the same thing. Grilling is fast and hot, over a direct gas or charcoal flame at temperatures over 500 degrees. You grill steaks, hamburgers, and hot dogs. Barbecuing uses smoldering wood to simultaneously smoke and cook the food at temperatures between 180 and 250°F. You barbecue ribs, brisket, and pork shoulder.
Tips From the Masters
Cook to temperature, not to time. Keep the lid on, it keeps the flavor in. Use tongs to turn; poking holes in the meat with a fork lets the juices out. Pay attention to the vents; the coals under the top vent will burn hotter. Pre-heat the grill and let meat warm up to room temperature before grilling. After cooking, let meat rest for five minutes before cutting; it gives juices time to expand inside and improve flavor.