Big Daddy’s Newsletter      


Number 5                                “Fire Up the Barbie”                                  April 28th, 2003


I do remember that I promised the next installment of my newsletter would be all about cooking and eating lighter, more diet-friendly fare.  And I have been working on it, but it's just not ready to go.  In the meantime, with spring busting out all over, I've been afflicted with a most serious bout of grilling fever.  In fact I've just finished reviewing my grilling notes, guidelines and recipes.  Since I've made some substantial additions and enhancements I thought I might as well share this with you while I continue plugging away on the other stuff.  So dust off your aprons, dig out your tongs and let's fire up the Barbie!!

All About Grilling - The most primitive and satisfying form of cooking.  

Thousands of years ago, before sautéing, before braising, before broiling, before any other cooking style you can imagine our ancestors squatted outside their caves and shoved a stout stick with a piece of meat skewered on the end, into the flames of their camp fires.  And there is a direct link between the grilled bison meat they were perhaps feeding on and the charred hot dog your dad shoved into a soggy bun on a steamy summer afternoon.  That link is cooking over an open fire.

Perhaps there is something in our genes that harkens back to an era when eating cooked meat meant eating grilled meat, and causes such great satisfaction now when we throw meat on a hot grill.  I know for sure it isn't simply the results because just grilling it doesn't ensure it will be good.  I've had meat off the grill that was virtually indistinguishable from shoe leather.  But if the cook can refrain from cooking it to death the results can be spectacular.  Why?  Because something very special happens when meat is quickly seared.  It becomes brown and crusty and flavor gets concentrated in wonderful ways.  You know that!  Simply think of burgers, that most American of grilled foods.  Can a burger cooked any other way taste as good?  Of course not!  And that is exactly why we will go to the trouble of cleaning the grill, buying the charcoal, waiting for the fire to get just right and swatting mosquitoes while we happily flip those wonderful creations.

So we know that grilling is an ancient cooking technique, but the specifics have been updated to reflect new technologies and the practicalities of modern living.  The pit, which holds the heat source, used to be a hole in the ground or an above ground rock formation.  Now it is a metal bowl with grates used to suspend the fuel above the bed of ashes and often vented to ensure proper air movement around the embers.  The native American barbacoa, a grid made of still-green wood, has been replaced by metal grids and coated with enamel so to make it easy to use and easy to clean.  Now electricity turns the spit that previously required constant personal attention.  But even as these modernizations make cooking on open fire easier and requires less time from us it can be traced straight back to the first ancestor to accidentally drop a chop into the campfire, retrieve, wipe it off and proceed to make history.

Grilling Methods

Direct grilling refers to the method whereby you cook directly over hot coals (see section below to determine how hot, hot, really is) usually with the cover off to maintain optimum temperature of the coals.  This is true grilling because the essence of grilling involves the quick searing of the surface of the food.  This ensures the charring and caramelizing that defines grilled food.

Indirect grilling is not true grilling, it's really more like oven roasting, but done outdoors in a grill.  For this method the coals are heaped on two sides of the grill with an open space between them and often separated by a drip pan. The food is placed in the center of the grill and cooks indirectly with the grill covered to build up enough heat to roast the food.  A general rule-of-thumb is that anything taking a short period of time should be grilled directly and anything taking longer should be grilled indirectly.  As with all rules there are exceptions.  Take for example beef steaks.  Steaks should be seared directly over the coals and then finished indirectly, off of the coals.  The charts below suggest which method to use based on the type of meat as well as the particular cut.

Multi-Level grilling means maintaining different levels of heat in the same grill.  This is accomplished by stacking the coals so as to produce two (or more) heat zones.  This is ideal for foods that need to be seared over very hot coals then moved to a cooler fire to finish off the cooking.

Grill Temperatures

Here is a tried and true technique for determining if your grill is ready to cook.  This terminology is widely accepted by grill chefs so now when the recipe calls for a "hot" grill you'll know just when yours is ready.

Doneness Temperatures

The temperatures in the charts below are generally lower than those published by the USDA.   This is due to their natural concern about food safety.  However, most professional cooks feel the higher temperatures are unwarranted and overly conservative.  The temperatures found here are in keeping with those used in fine restaurants.  For in between doneness, for example medium-rare, split the difference shown here.

As mentioned earlier the cooking times are approximate due to the differences in fire temperature from grill to grill.  I advise starting to check the meat with an instant read thermometer when you reach the low end of the cooking range.

Lastly keep in mind that the internal temperature of meat will rise after allowing the meat to sit for a few minutes after removing it from the grill (this is recommended).   The temperatures given here tell you when to remove it from the grill not the final temperature before serving.

Grilling Beef

Steaks:  Grill steaks for the time given in the chart or till desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Cooking Method: Multi-Level - sear over high heat then finish over medium heat.

For searing, allow 2 minutes for 1-inch-thick steaks and 4 minutes for 1½ - 2-inch-thick steaks. Turn steaks and move to a cooler medium heat to finish grilling, turning once halfway through remaining grilling time. The cooking times in the chart include searing.



Rare (125°)

Medium (140°)

Well (170°)

Flank steak 1-1½ lbs. 10-15 min. 15-19 min.
New York strip 1 in. 8-10 min. 10-12 min. 12-14 min.
Ribeye ¾ in. 5-7 min. 7-9 min. 9-11 min.

Porterhouse, rib, ribeye sirloin, T-Bone, tenderloin, top loin

1 in.

1½ in.

2 in.

6-7 min.

10-12 min

15-17 min.

7-9 min.

12-15 min

17-19 min.

9-11 min

15-19 min.

19-22 min.  

Roasts:  Place meat, fat side up, in center of cooking grate. Grill indirect for time given in chart. Use a meat thermometer to check meat for desired internal temperature.

Cooking Method: Indirect



Rare (125° F)

Medium (140°)

Well (170°)

Brisket, fresh 5-6 lbs 2½-3 hrs
Eye of round 2-3 lbs 50 min-1¼ hr 1¼-1¾ hrs 1¾-2 hrs
Rib eye 4-6 lbs 1-1½ hrs 1½-2 hrs 2-2½ hrs
Rib roast, small end 4-6 lbs 1¼-2¼ hrs 2¼-2¾ hrs 2¾-3¼ hrs
Sirloin roast, boneless 4-6 lbs 1½-2 hrs 2-2½ hrs 2½-3 hrs
Half Tenderloin 2-3 lbs 45-60 min
Whole Tenderloin 4-5 lbs 50 min-1 1/2 hrs
Tip 3-5 lbs

6-8 lbs

1-1¾ hrs

1¾-2½ hrs

1¾-2¼ hrs

2½-3 hrs

2¼-2¾ hrs

3-3½ hrs

Top round 4-6 lbs 1¼-1¾ hrs 1¾-2¼ hrs 2-2½ hrs


Grilling Pork

Chops And Steaks:  Place chops on cooking grill. Grill for the time given in the chart or till desired doneness, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Cooking Method: Grill directly over medium heat.  The thickest cuts may need to be moved off heat (i.e. indirect) to finish.




Medium (145°)

Well (170°)

Blade steak ½ in. 10-12 min. 12-14 min
Chops ¾-2 inches 10-14 min. 14-19 min

Loin, rib, and shoulder

1¼-1½ in.

35-40 min.

40-45 min.

Roasts:  Place the meat, fat side up, in center of the cooking grate. Grill indirect for time given in chart. Use a meat thermometer to check meat for desired internal temperature.  For best results cook to medium, not well done.

Cooking Method: Indirect




Medium (145°)

Well (170°)

Ham, fully cooked
Slice 1 in. 12 min.
Boneless portion ¾ lbs.

4-6 lbs.

50 min.-1 hr

1-2 hrs.

Smoked picnic 5-8 lbs. 1-2½ hrs.
Whole ham, bone-in 10-12 lbs. 2-2¾ hrs.
Loin blade or sirloin roast 3-4 lbs 1-2 hrs. 2-3 hrs.
Loin center rib roast, backbone loosened 3-5 lbs 1-2 hrs. 2-2½ hrs.
Rib crown roast 4-6 lbs ¾-2 hrs. 2-3 hrs.
Country-style ribs 3-4 lbs. 1¼-1½ hrs
Loin back ribs or spareribs 3-4 lbs. 1-1¼ hrs.
*Tenderloins (see note below) ¾-1 lb.
Top loin roast, boneless

Single loin

Double loin


2-4 lbs.

3-5 lbs.



1½-1¾ hrs.


1¼-1½ hrs.

1¾-2½ hrs.

*Tenderloins:  Tenderloins are the exception to these guidelines.  They should be cooked like steaks, seared over high heat and finished over medium heat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.

Grilling Poultry

Boneless breast, turkey patties and turkey tenderloin steaks:  Grill over medium heat for the time given in chart, turning once halfway through grilling time.

Cooking Method: Direct

Type Of Poultry


Medium (170 )


Chicken breasts, skinned and boned 4-5 oz. ea. 10-12 min.
Turkey patties (ground raw turkey) ¾ in. thick 10-12 min.
Turkey tenderloin steaks 4-6 oz. ea. 10-12 min.

Poultry pieces (with or without skin):  Grill over medium heat for the time given in the chart. During the last 10 minutes of grilling time, brush with sauce, if desired.

Whole birds:  Place whole chicken or turkey, breast side up, in center of the cooking grate. Grill for the time given in the chart or until registers 180°. When checking for doneness with a meat thermometer, insert in the center of the inside thigh muscle, making sure the probe does not touch the bone.

Cooking Method: Direct for pieces.  Indirect for whole birds.

Type Of Poultry


Medium (170°)

Well (180°)

Broiler-fryer chicken, halves 1½-2 lbs. 1-1¼ hrs.
Broiler-fryer chicken, whole 3-4 lbs.

4-5 lbs.

5-6 lbs.

1¼-1¾ hrs.

1¾-2 hrs.

2-2½ hrs.

Chicken breast halves, thighs, and drumsticks From 3-4 pound bird.  Adjust slightly for larger bird. 35-45 min.
Cornish game hens, halves ½-¾ lb. ea. 40-50 min.
Cornish game hens, whole 1-1½ lbs. ea. 45-60 min.
Turkey, boneless, whole 2½-3½ lbs. 1¾-2¼ hrs.
Turkey, *unstuffed, whole 6-8 lbs.

10-12 lbs.

14-18 lbs.

1¼-2 hrs.

2-3 hrs.

3-4 hrs.

Turkey breasts, half 3-4 lbs. 1½-2 hrs.
Turkey breasts, whole 4-6 lbs.

6-8 lbs.

1½-2¼ hrs.

2-3½ hrs

Turkey drumsticks ½-1½ lbs. ea. ¾-1¼ hrs.
Turkey hindquarters 2-4 lbs. ea. 1-1½ hrs.
Turkey tenderloin, whole 1 in. thick 14-15 min.
Turkey thigh 1-1½ lbs. 50-60 min.

*Be sure to fully defrost turkey before grilling. When defrosting turkey in the refrigerator, allow 24 hours for every 5 lbs.

Grilling Fish and Seafood

Cooking Method: Direct

Cooking time is gauged by the heat of the fire, the width of the fish at its thickest part, and the distance of the grill from the heat source.

To test for doneness, cut into the center of the fish at its thickest part. If it is opaque throughout but still moist, it’s done. Another test is to press the flesh; if soft, it’s not done; if hard and firm, it’s overdone; if firm but springs back, it’s done. Shellfish should also be just opaque and will be dry if overcooked.

These grilling times are approximate, so you need to keep a close eye on the fish to keep it from overcooking. Because it doesn’t hold heat, fish needs to be served immediately, hot off the grill.



Grilling Time

Whole Fish    
1 to 1½ inches ½ to 1 lb. 12 minutes
2 to 2½ inches 3 to 5 lbs. 20 to 30 minutes
3 inches 5 to 7 lbs. 30 to 40 minutes
Steaks and Filets    
½ inch   4 to 6 minutes
¾ inch   6 to 8 minutes
1 inch   10 minutes
Shrimp large 4 to 6 minutes
Lobster whole (1½ - 2 lbs.) 8 to 10 minutes
Lobster tail (10 ounces) 8 minutes
Crab whole (2 lbs.) 10 minutes
Clams medium 6 to 8 minutes


Cooking Method: Direct over medium heat

The trick with vegetables is getting them to cook through at the same time - not always an easy task since we frequently like to eat a variety of different veggies together but their grilling times vary widely.  Following these guidelines should help.  After a time or two you'll be able to judge how to apply them to your particular grill and preferred degree of doneness.

Make sure you marinade the veggies or brush them first with oil to prevent sticking.  You may thread them on skewers, use a grilling basket or place them directly on the grill.  Cook them in a closed grill and turn once, halfway through the cooking time.




Grilling Time

Scallions ends trimmed 5 minutes
Tomatoes ½" slices 5 minutes
Summer Squash ¼" slices 10 minutes
Zucchini ¼" slices 10 minutes
Eggplant ¼" slices 10 minutes
Asparagus thick end trimmed 10 - 15 minutes
White Mushrooms whole 10 minutes
Bell Peppers 1" wide strips or rings 10 minutes
Onions ½" slices 15 minutes
Potatoes ¼" slices 15 minutes





Big Daddy