Barbeque is something really special for me. I will never forget these long evenings spent with my friends while trying to perfect my tender ribs.
If you're serious about grilling and making awesome BBQ, jumpstart your experience by watching the meat master, Aaron Franklin. Check out the trailer now:
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If you have time today, practice getting the grill to temp and getting it to hold steady. Each grill can have its own quirks, not to mention the fuel and the weather of the day you're cooking. The best thing to do is use the same grill every time so you're familiar with how to coax that grill into behaving. But for working on a new (to you) grill, here's my go-to set up that I usually start with and modify as needed to account for how the grill is performing.
If you don't have a solid grill, I recommend Z Grills:
|Z Grills ZPG-450A 2019 Upgrade Model Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker, 6 in 1 BBQ Grill Auto Temperature...||457 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
If you're looking for something smaller that will last for years, get a Weber:
|Weber 15502001 Performer Deluxe Charcoal Grill, 22-Inch, Copper||628 reviews||Check Price and Reviews|
Set up the grill for 2-zone indirect cooking by pushing all the charcoal to one side of the grill so it takes up about 1/3 of the space (~30-40 briquettes), then put a water pan next to it, taking up the rest of the space. Fill the pan to the top with water. Light ~15 briquettes (in a chimney starter ideally, but if you don't have one, do the best you can. Drop the lit coals on the rest of the charcoal (after they've been burning ~15 minutes). Close all the bottom vents to about 1/2-1/3 of the way open, leave the top vent all the way open.
Unless you can get a grill probe, it'll be difficult to get exact temps using the dome thermometer. They tend to be somewhat inaccurate. Shoot for 225-250 on the thermometer. If it gets too high, close one of the bottom vents. If it gets too low, open up one of the vents. Etc. Always leave the top vent open.
If you open the grill the temp will drop, and if you leave it open it may even spike for a while after you close it. Just ignore the temp for a bit when it does that until it stabilizes again.
Honestly though, if you don't want to or can't take the time to practice/learn, or just don't feel confident in getting the ribs cooked this way, what I'd recommend is just cooking them in an oven. Follow this recipe. It's really easy and makes fantastic ribs. The only difference between doing them in an oven over doing them on the grill is you won't get the smokey flavor. That's it.
Grill your chicken. Chicken is easy on the grill, especially if you have a digital meat thermometer.
Good place to start is Amazing Ribs. Recipes, techniques, and reviews for everyone from beginner to pro. Meathead knows his stuff and shares everything you'd want to know, plus the science behind it, and the myths about BBQ/smoking.
I got a this one from ThermoPro and it's been pretty great so far:
Bought it 2 years ago and have used it at least a hundred times already. This was the fourth remote thermometer I bought for my smoker, obviously not happy with the first three. Today I put all four to the ice water test and it read 32 from both probes.
I also tested a non remote digital thermometer which also hit 32. The closest any of the others got was 37. I am very impressed with the quality, packaging as well. I don’t usually rave about cheaper products, but in this case you can really get a good remote thermometer at a reasonable price.
Whatever you choose, go for wireless like the one I've recommended!
My go to is flank steak seasoned with salt and pepper. Dice up some onions, tomatoes, green and red peppers, then season that with kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, and lime juice. Heat up some tortillas and make into tacos. Also, do a very simple mix of mayonnaise and sriracha. Very good.
Don't be afraid to cook ahead of time either. For example, I've cooked chicken the day before, refrigerate overnight, then toss it on the grill at party time to re-heat, crisp up, and imbue with the bbq flavor. The result can be as good as chicken cooked solely on the grill, and is so much easier if you're trying to serve a big group. I wouldn't recommend this with burgers, but then I've also never tried it.
This might be helpful.
Farm out some of the labour for make ahead, treat it like a pot luck and ask your siblings to bring a dish to pass. Confirm ahead what everyone is bringing so you can get a variety of dishes rather than have everyone show up with potato salad... If someone makes a killer cheeseball or taco dip... make a special request. And be willing to share your budget.
Pulled pork shoulder and pulled chicken can be made ahead and kept warm in slowcookers etc. Keep the seasoning simple and let people choose their own poison for bbq sauce.
Chicken drumsticks etc. can be made ahead and served cold.
Make a fresh slaw with a light dressing and it can accompany pretty much anything.
That way the only thing that would need cooked are burgers, steaks and dogs. You're not keen, but people expect them, and you can make it easy on yourself by having all the toppings and fixings on the side. Restrict the grilling on the day to plain patties, cheeseburgers and dogs to order...they can fancy them up at the buffet. Remember dogs/brats/polish sausage can be precooked and held warm in a pan of water .. so they would just need a few minutes on the grill to put some colour on them.
It also means that the grill is a simple enough job that it can be passed off every hour or so to someone else (even if you've not arranged it, someone will almost certainly volunteer themselves within seconds of meat hitting the grill), that gives you a chance to enjoy the get together too.
You can also look to costco for pre-prepped buffet platters etc and restrict your actual 'work' to the preperation of meats.
If you drunkenly boast to all the guests that you can drink the cooked beer/brat juice after all the sausages are gone, boast you can do it in, say one minute and not puke, they might start slapping money down on the counter. You might make $100 chugging that juice down. You might even make a few friends. Either way, it'll be a cool party.
You don't need to grill hamburgers in a closed grill. Just leave it open. Close it when the coals flare up. (or use a squirt bottle to blot out the flare-ups)
If you want it hotter, give the coals more access to more air. So, completely open all vents. More air = hotter.
Also - not sure how thick your burgers are, and what internal temp you are aiming for, but 4 + 3 seems like a very long time.
My burgers are about 1/2 inch thick, and I grill them at 2 minutes a side to leave them pink in the middle.
You want to grill them over direct heat to get the sear.
To me, burgers are quick little things that should be seared then flipped. I leave indirect heat for other larger cuts of meat.
Don't worry about the internal temp of the grill itself. The coals are going to be hot, and that's what matters. In this situation, you're not going to be using your closed grill as an oven, after all.
I use a Weber kettle, but the process should be the same. When I pour my coals out, I use grill tongs, to spread them/ gather them evenly on one side, then I put the grill grates over them and leave it open for 5 minutes or so, so that the coals continue to get hotter, and the grates heat up nicely. Some people prefer cold grates. You'll figure out which one you prefer with time and experience.
Ever had grilled octopus?
I've only sauteed baby octopus in the past, but I'm actually grilling a fresh 3 lb one this weekend (for frozen, thaw in the fridge for a day or so, finish under cold tap water if it's not done in time). Clean/remove beak/etc. My plan is to brine is: Pot of water with a hand full of kosher salt, pour of white vinegar, and juice of a 1 lemon. Brine in fridge for 8ish hours.
Cooking: Boiling pot of water deep enough to submerge the whole octopus, blanch the tentacles a few times, drop the whole thing in and boil for 25 mins. When done, remove, cover in a bit of chimichurri (see below, keep extra for topping), grill until nicely charred.
Finish: Chimichurri - equal parts chopped cilantro and parsley, a hand full of minced red onion, juice of half a lime, pour of EVOO (enough to make it soupy and not just a paste), a cap full of cider vinegar (very technical, I know), few shakes of red pepper flakes to taste, salt & pepper.
Update: The grilled octopus was a big hit! The chimichurri was very good with it. The only thing I would do differently is cook it slower and longer before grilling. It was a little tough, so, not ideal. I'm going to research some other methods.
My favorite is Kamado Joe channel. They use a KJ in all the cooks, but you can do it all on a charcoal grill.
BBQ Pit Boys is a close second.
Another good one I saw is T-Roy Cooks.
AmazingRibs.com is an excellent resource as well.