Good morning. There are probably two dozen ways to cook food on a grill, most of them good, but in the end the question is going to be whether the fuel is gas or charcoal. A propane grill is a marvelous thing, but I don’t like using one for anything I want a hard sear on — for me, a gas grill never gets hot enough. A charcoal grill, conversely, is terrific for that, but it requires lighting a fire and cooking over it at just the right time. This takes attention.
Either way, I like the grill to have “zones.” I want a side of the grill that’s ripping hot, a middle that’s about medium and a side that’s entirely free of coals or flames. This allows me to cook over direct heat or indirect heat, and it provides a place to rest ingredients that are maybe cooking too fast, or that I just want out of the fire scene for a while. My friend Steven Raichlen calls this last area a “safety zone.”
Steven has a fine primer on these subjects in The Times right now, an introduction to the five dishes everyone should know how to grill. These are: skirt steak (above), pork chops, inside-out cheeseburgers, chicken breasts and salmon. (I’ll add tofu, asparagus, clams and peaches.)
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Perhaps his best advice is to avoid overcrowding. “Leave at least one inch between each piece of food for better heat circulation,” Steven wrote in his article, “and leave at least 25 percent of your grill grate free of food so you have room to maneuver and dodge flare-ups.”
Let’s do that this weekend: on the grill on your deck, in your yard, on that tiny balcony in your rental above the expressway, on the one cemented into the hard pack of grass in the park. Food prepared outside, whether over glowing charcoal or the gurgling flame of burning propane, is a clear statement of summer purpose, a declaration that cooking is a joy worth taking beyond the kitchen, into the wild.
Other things to grill, once you’re comfortable with your skills: cauliflower steaks, huli huli chicken, shrimp burgers, pizza. I might set up the charcoal grill for smoking, and make pulled pork or smoke-roasted chicken thighs with paprika. And I’d absolutely like to get a griddle on the fire to make these burnt oranges with rosemary, so delicious with Greek yogurt or vanilla ice cream.
There are many thousands more recipes waiting for you on New York Times Cooking. You do, of course, need to have a subscription to read them, just as you need one to watch “SkyMed” on Paramount+. Subscriptions support our work and allow it to continue. I hope, if you don’t have one already, that you will take one out today. Thanks.
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Now, it’s some considerable distance from anything to do with groats or capons, but David Coggins reminded me recently of one of the great summer-reading books: “A Jerk on One End,” a 1999 fishing memoir by the late, great art critic Robert Hughes. Get on that if you haven’t already.
Tom Papa has a new book out this week, “We’re All in This Together … So Make Some Room.” It’s funny and comforting and, if you’re feeling down, it’ll probably make you feel better.
Here’s Ligaya Mishan in The New York Times Magazine, on a shortcut recipe for the chewy Filipino milk candies known as pastillas de leche.
Finally, here’s a gift link to one of my favorite newsletters, Lindsay Zoladz’s “The Amplifier,” which brings a lot of new and old music into my life, no algorithm required. Sign up! And I’ll see you on Sunday.