Master the Grill with These Outside-The-Box Techniques

Today's New York Times Dining section had two great articles about grilling. One was all about campfire cooking which we covered last week, and the other was about fire. More specifically, author Steve Raichlen-who literally wrote the book on grilling-took an in-depth look at how a few chefs around the world have been doing some really interesting things to take grilling to the next level.

Even though the article featured techniques from very talented chefs, there are a number of really great ideas that you could take and use for your summer grilling, especially on this upcoming Fourth of July weekend.

One of the simplest and coolest techniques in the article was how chef Peter De Clercq of the Elckerlijc restaurant in Belgium "flavors" his fire. At his restaurant, Chef De Clercq will throw a handful of spices on the flames to infuse flavors into the fire under the grill. De Clercq uses things like junipers berries, coriander seeds, olive pits, and chips of beer barrels to add new dimensions to the food on the grill. This would be a great healthy grilling alternative (link here), since you could add a lot of flavor to your food without packing on the calories. In fact, De Clercq can add so many flavors through his fire seasoning, that he rarely flavors the food with anything other than a spritz of olive oil or a dash of sea salt.

The article also highlighted how different chefs using different fuels and amounts of fuel for their fire. Victor Arguinzoniz, the chef and owner of Etxebarri in the Basque region of Spain, uses very delicate heat produced by wood and not charcoal and a precise amount of coals to perfectly control his cooking. Chef Arguinzoniz also uses homemade tools like a metal steamer or a pan with wire screening to delicately steam his foods. If you were cooking something delicate, this would be a good way to avoid overcooking your food on the grill.

Another part of article that really interested me was how the culinary-forward iNG restaurant in Chicago serves edible charcoal. Along with a number of other crazy creations at his restaurant, chef Thomas Bowman makes edible charcoal by dipping bread in squid ink, pan-frying it in oil to get a crisp texture, and then plunging it in liquid nitrogen to give it the appearance of white ash. This might not be something you'll do at your next barbecue, but it definitely can inspire you to think outside the box with grilling and try something completely new and different.

Do you have any outside-the-box grilling techniques?