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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

Chargrilling outside

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You can even cook cheese over an open fire. Kat Harvey, gourmet cheesemaker, in 2018 at an NRF event, demonstrating correct open-fire stance: well back to ensure your chilled white doesn’t overheat.

Sandra Haslam

With the lockdown extended in NSW for another two weeks (at least) it might be time to expand your food and creative experiences, whilst staying in your backyard, by creating a chargrill area. Many vibrant food cultures have embraced techniques for chargrilling, and it may be much easier than you think.

Chargrilling releases a depth of flavour and accentuates the taste profile of food, creating more complex layers of flavour and even aiding in the aftertaste. Ultimately it can create the sought-after umami-bomb – when two umami compounds come together.

To achieve this sensation and get into the grill groove you could buy a chargriller, or get creative and make one. The DIY options can be very inventive and varied such as; a cake rack over an aluminium tray, a grill rack over a hole in the ground or ,fire pit, even an upcycled wok and oven shelf. If you look online and search ‘how to make a chargriller’ you’ll even see fantastic looking grillers made from terracotta pots as well as amazing welded masterpieces.

The grilling preparation is really easy: throw some charcoal under the rack, light it, put the rack back on and wait for the coals and rack to get hot. You can keep an even distribution of heat by keeping an even distribution of coals, or make hotter and cooler zones by moving the coals to one side. If you have the right sort of wood to make even coals, you don’t even need charcoal.

Chargrilling is not just for meat, it’s also great for vegetables; charring can caramelise the sugars in vegetables and that supercharges their taste. You can do individual vegetable elements, whole grilled veggie salads, dishes like smoky baba ganoush or flavourful antipasto arrangements. You can even do toasted sandwiches with the fancy grill marks, and of course that adds extra flavour.

Certain fruit also chargrill nicely; try grilling half a lemon, cut side down, and use it to squeeze tasty juice over the meal. Try lightly coating pineapple wedges in brown sugar and cinnamon, then grill and serve with ice-cream for a fantastic dessert.

Of course meat is well known to the chargrilling world: beef, lamb, chicken and seafood all come up wonderfully on the chargrill.

Perhaps the best part of grilling is being outside, smelling the smoke, listening to birds and feeling the wind in your hair. It’s an awesome opportunity to chew the fat, literally and figuratively.


Chargrilling ideas: 

Corn: grilled in husk or naked, eat whole or add to tortillas with your favourite Mexican ingredients.

Roasted garlic: cut the pointy end off a head of garlic, drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt, wrap in foil and grill on the cooler end of the rack.

Charred zucchini, eggplant and capsicum are great in Mediterranean dishes, just add combinations of herbs like basil, parsley, thyme and oregano with oil, salt and lemon for a complete vegetable dish.

Grilled carrots: grill whole and eat as they are or slice into rounds and serve on a bed of yoghurt and tahini sauce or hommus.

Charred pineapple, charred chilli and charred onion added to fresh mint, coriander and parsley with oil and lime juice for a flavourful salsa.

Set polenta slices, tortillas and naan bread are great to grill.

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