Memorial Day

The Great Grilling Debate: Gas vs. Charcoal

by Anne Maxfield on May 20, 2013

Accidental Locavore Gas GrillThe Accidental Locavore knows this is going to ignite (pun intended) a controversy, but since it’s almost Memorial Day and the start of the grilling season, let’s talk about gas vs. charcoal. As it happens, we have two grills, a massive gas one that takes a rotisserie (more about that later) and a smallish Weber kettle.

Most people have the perception that gas is faster. Light the burners, close the lid, and in about 10 minutes you’ve got a nice hot grill. Well, if you think about it, charcoal isn’t too far behind. If you use a chimney, it generally gets all the charcoal (real charcoal, not briquettes) going in about the same time (and without the use of lighter fluid which is not a flavor profile you want to strive for). Yes, you then have to dump them out and wait for the grill to heat, probably another 10 minutes but that gives you a few minutes more prep time.

The one big difference for me is how you cook the food, closing the lid on the gas to generate maximum heat, while leaving the lid off on charcoal to keep it searing. With charcoal, in some ways, you have more control over the heat, direct, indirect, combinations – just not the finesse on the level of heat you have with gas.

Accidental Locavore WeberIf I’m cooking for one, I’ll use the gas grill (or super lazy, the grill pan indoors). Beyond that, it depends on what we’re making.  If there are a lot of people, we stick to the gas – it’s a much bigger grill.  Same for using the rotisserie – that’s strictly for the gas grill (just because we don’t have one for the Weber). Other stuff, it depends on the mood and the food. Steaks can go either way. Since I like my steaks rare, they don’t usually spend enough time on either grill to make much of a difference, ditto hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages.

When you get into chicken, for pieces or butterflied, charcoal rules! Grilled pizza is much better on charcoal (think wood-burning pizza ovens). Whole birds go on the rotisserie, where they get done to golden perfection. And for something like grilled artichokes, or for that matter, most veggies, charcoal just gives them that much more flavor. I love to grill corn, straight in its husk and since that’s where most of the flavor comes from, gas is fine.

What do you think? Are you a sworn charcoal aficionado? Do you hate getting your hands dirty, so gas is the only way? Or (and you have my sympathy/empathy) are you a city dweller who can only look at all the grilling issues of the food magazines, drool and pull out the grill pan?





7 Reasons Why Memorial Day is a Great Holiday!

by Anne Maxfield on May 28, 2012

Accidental Locavore Grill

Memorial Day would be a lesser holiday except that the timing of it is just too perfect! Without it, how we would ever figure out (without a calendar) when summer starts? As you and the Accidental Locavore know, the weather certainly can’t be trusted!

  1. According to popular media, we wouldn’t know when to start firing up the barbecue…OK, if you have to wait till now to grill, you must live in a very cold place (in which case, is Memorial Day celebrated there?). The Locavore and her husband barbecue pretty much year-round, the only exception being if we have to shovel snow to get to it. I don’t really know why but my favorite food to do on the grill is chicken. Steaks and burgers are great, but there’s something about grilling chicken that really makes it wonderful! What do you most look forward to grilling?
  2. Now that you’ve got the grill going in its official capacity, you need something to put on it, right? Isn’t it convenient that it’s also the start of a lot of farmers’ markets? Asparagus are great now and work really well on the grill. I’ve read a lot lately about grilling lettuce but haven’t tried it, have you? Ramps are on their way out, however it doesn’t take many to put on a grilled pizza…And local strawberries just need a quick rinse to make dessert (although a little vanilla ice cream never hurt). Accidental Locavore Strawberries
  3. We can wear white. Now most people are way more evolved, but I was brought up that you couldn’t wear white before Memorial Day (or after Labor Day) and some traditions just stick with you.
  4. Smart companies start summer hours. I’m not sure if this is a NY thing, but try to find a fully-staffed office in this town on a Friday after 2:00. Half-day Fridays; great idea!
  5. The reason for summer hours? They go hand-in-hand with summer rentals. How boring life would be if holiday rentals simply started on June 1st…
  6. Fleet Week in Manhattan. No matter how many times you’ve seen the ships come in, it’s always amazing to see them up close, to see how massive they are and how easily they maneuver their way up the Hudson River. Many years ago, my friend Laura and I got a personal tour of a destroyer and it was pretty impressive! Between the joy-sticks (that fire actual missiles!), the food choices and even ATM’s on every level, it was a memorable tour!
  7. Which leads to the real reason to love Memorial Day. Just seeing the sailors and soldiers on the streets of New York is the best reminder of what the holiday is all about; honoring those who have served. Thank you!




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