JOURNAL: Grumpy Non-Griller

I spent most of last week camping at Big Basin with a half-dozen other people. I brought a huge pile of tri-tip to grill on “our night” to do dinner, and I was looking forward to it. I bought the meat, TSB marinated it, and then I totally got bumped off the grill when it was time to cook.

I’m not the territorial type, so I tried to let it go, but these guys had absolutely no idea what they were doing and it was killing me to watch them butcher my meat (figuratively). I thought I could step back, but I found myself hovering, saying things like, “you really don’t need to flip it so often,” and, “you want coals under the grate, not flaming, smoking logs,” but to no avail.

Here are a few tips for campfire grilling. Please memorize them if you ever want to go camping with me and intend to hijack my tongs.

  • Coals, not Carnage:Let the wood burn until the flames are gone but the coals are hot. You want the heat without the sooty deposits that seriously spoil the flavor.
  • Flip a steak ONCE. No more, no less.
  • No stabbing: Don’t poke it, squish it down with a spatula, or cut into it. Squeeze it if you need to see how well done it is.
  • Let it rest: Don’t cut into the meat until it’s been off the grill for 10 minutes. You’ll survive the wait and the meat will be juicier for it.
  • Bank the coals so that there is a hot side and a cooler side so you can seer the meat and then move it over, but not immolate it.
  • Relax:There’s no hurry. You’re in the woods. There’s nowhere to rush off to after dinner, so relax and let the meat cook a little more slowly than your primal instincts drive you to do.

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