We Must Condemn This Attack on Grilling, One of Our Oldest Independence Day Traditions

Andrew Yang Campaign Photo/Andrew Frawley

My friends, there are anti-American forces within our own borders working constantly to undermine some of the very oldest of American institutions. I am sure this comes as no surprise, but we must always expose them for the hateful terrorists they are.

Over at Business Insider, columnist Josh Barro has written one of the worst of these attacks and it cannot go un-rebutted. The title of his piece, “Admit it: Grilling is bad,” is bad enough, but the content of the column is so much worse. The opening gives away the hate and ignorance.

There’s a reason you do most of your cooking inside: Grills are impossible to keep clean, they lack good temperature control, and they make worse food than what you can prepare in your kitchen.

From the start, the writer displays a superficial knowledge of the art of grilling. The column only gets worse, and it is clear the Barro is writing out of fear of the grill rather than with any rational understanding of how grilling works.

To the first point, grills being “impossible to keep clean,” the writer says this:

You don’t even really try. You turn the heat up high, you scrub the grates with a brush so some soot falls into the fire, and you call it clean.

Indeed, many people do practice grill upkeep this way, and if they are just brushing the grills, there is very little risk of cross-contamination that would actually affect the food. But, there are many very easy ways to actually, properly clean the grates on your grill in order to have a successful July 4th cookout (or any cookout, really).

Light up the grill with as much heat and fire as you can get. Scrub every charred bit off as best as you can. Understandably, there will be some that doesn’t come off, but we will take care of that. Remove the grate from the grill and let it cool. If you have a container big enough, put the grate in it and soak the grate in white vinegar overnight. If you don’t have a big enough container, carefully set the grate in a garbage bag and pour the white vinegar in it.

The vinegar will get the remaining charred bits off and add a little shine back to the grate. Finish the cleaning with some soap and warm water and put it back on the grill.

To the next charge Barro lays out, temperature control, he writes a few different things. The first is about the sear and doneness of the food:

Meats need to be seared to develop flavor. Grills do this, but not as well as a heavy skillet on a hot burner does, since the skillet contacts more of the meat’s surface area. But once you have achieved a sear, more high-heat cooking is just a way to toughen and dry out your meat.

This is clearly written out of ignorance, because preparing the meat (and also sides!) for grilling would eliminate the toughness and dryness in the food. For the idea that searing developing flavor, this is true but there are solutions that are not at all difficult to understand.

First, the “searing is flavor” line is really just a very basic understanding of the Maillard reaction that occurs when the amino acids and sugars in foods make contact with a hot surface, which causes a chemical reaction that results in the browning that occurs. Yes, more of this is preferred, but to say that grilling doesn’t do enough is to admit that you put too much stock in grill marks. Admittedly, this is a result of a lot of bad cooking television. They focus a lot on appearance and very little on the actual taste that those marks add.

You don’t need to actually just get the little grill lines on the meat. You can move it around and get that sear on a lot of the surface area. Alternatively, bring that heavy skillet out to the grill and let it get hot over the fire to get the sear you want.

The writer’s complaint about tough and dry food comes from a distinct lack of understanding about preparing food. He specifically mentions chicken being tough and dry, meaning he has never actually tried to cook chicken properly on the grill, which requires brining it. The bird rests in a saline solution for a few hours, drawing in moisture and flavor, and then is grilled to temperature. But the greater sin here is a lack of understanding about hot and cold zones.

When grilling, you shouldn’t light up the whole damn thing and burn all your food on it, as he has undoubtedly done several times, or else he would not be writing this horrendous take:

Unlike skinless chicken, fatty meats can withstand the grill’s heat because the fat keeps them moist. But there’s a problem: Grease from the meat drips down into the heating element, causing flare-ups. Or God help you if you put a sugary barbecue sauce on the meat — it’s just going to drip into the fire and burn.

This is just bad grilling, which does not prove grilling is bad. You establish two zones on your grill. The first is directly over the fire, and the second is away from the fire. When you get the sear you want on the food, you can move it to the zone away from the fire and cover the grill, allowing it to bake in the heat without getting burned.

This also allows you to rearrange food as you need to. If one section of the grill is cooler than the rest, you can move the food around so the meats or sides that are closer to being ready won’t end up overcooked while you’re waiting for the rest of it to finish. What’s more, if you’re using a charcoal or wood grill, you are allowing it to cook evenly while picking up the flavor of the smoke.

If you have a gas or electric grill, you can get wood pellets or chips, wrap them in aluminum foil, and put them over the heating element in order to create enough smoke for flavor. Smoke, like that searing, is a wonderful flavor that can add great notes to your food.

I hope you, my dear readers, are preparing to grill or barbecue something extraordinary for your family and friends tomorrow. Do not let this anti-American journalist fool you into thinking what you’re doing is bad or wrong. He is just confused and possibly afraid of grilling. As long as man has existed, man has been afraid of fire. For some, it is a fear that disrupts both logic and good taste. It is a pity to see.