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Grilling - America's Passion Three Chiles

 

 

 

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This is where it all starts, with 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 Kettle Grillbison 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 Hamburgermosquitoes 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 suspendOpen Grill the fuel above the bed of ashes, and is 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  The native American barbacoa, a grid made of still-green wood, has been replaced by metal grids and coated with enamel so to make it easy to use and easy to clean.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 it, wipe it off and proceed to make history. 

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