Before beginning I offer a couple of things to ponder. First, technically speaking grilling is not barbequing, but barbequing can be considered a form of grilling. And secondly, anything can be cooked over a live fire. Anything.
/imgs/articles/grill.jpgHere's explanation. Barbequing and grilling both stem from the same primitive method of cooking over or next to an open fire, but true barbequing is different. When food is grilled it's usually done quickly over an open and sometimes hot fire, but when it's barbequed it's done slowly, sometimes over the course of an entire day, over a slow, smoldering, and often-smoky fire. This dissolves the connective tissues of tough meats the same as when they're braised (or cooked in a crock pot). More often than not barbequing is done in a "grill" with a lid, creating a sort of oven. The word barbeque is actually derived from barbacoa, a method of slowly cooking food in a fire pit that the indigenous Caribbeans were using when western Explorers stumbled on them back in the 15th century.
The main thing about grilling is not necessarily the food (that's the outcome). It's the fire, because without a good fire the food will suffer, literally and figuratively. A fire is a fire, right? Not always. There are two main fire sources the backyard cook encounters, and they are gas or charcoal. Both are excellent to cook over, but if done properly the heat from charcoal will yield more flavorful food, and besides it's more fun.
One of the most difficult things to contend with when cooking over charcoal is not the actual cooking but the waiting. By this I mean waiting for the fire to get to it's most optimum point. At least 40 minutes should be allowed for a fire to establish a thick bed of glowing embers. One of the quickest ways to ruin a grilled meal is to cook directly over a "young" fire with flames licking up and around the food. Most foods will burn and at the same time be undercooked in the center. Flare-ups should also be avoided. These occur when fat or sauce drips from the food onto the hot coals and causes flames. Flare-ups cause an undesirable carbon flavor on the food. They can also cause a fire to get out of control.
Here's some advice on cooking the food, and this is the easy part because it's mostly common sense. Unless you enjoy playing Russian roulette with your health, burgers of any kind should be cooked well. And if the burgers are thick they should be cooked over a moderate fire-not a hot one-or they will appear done before they are cooked through. Steaks, on the other hand, do not have to be cooked as thoroughly, so they can be cooked over hotter coals to form a crust before the interior cooks through. Fish and vegetables are probably the best foods to cook over a bed of scorching coals because searing the outside and leaving the inside a little undercooked preserves their integrity.
Chicken (with bone) is often parboiled to alleviate the chance of undercooking, but chicken breast (without bone) can most certainly be cooked relatively quickly over a hot fire. Whole fowl can also be cooked over a charcoal fire, but it should be done slowly and with a domed lid, so it roasts at the same time. The tenderness and smoky flavor of a whole chicken cooked on a grill is unparalleled.
I have at one time or another grilled many things over a live fire, but one of my favorites is bread in a can. It's an old gold miner's recipe I came across and entails putting raw bread dough in an empty can and placing it close to a fire. The can has to be turned somewhat frequently to insure even cooking. Today this recipe is more of a novelty than anything, but it can round out a complete meal cooked outdoors. Another (though I've never had the opportunity to try it) is an old fashioned Provencal recipe for cooking leg of lamb "on a string," which is not so much grilling as it is roasting before an open fire. It entails hanging a leg of lamb on a string next to a fire with glowing embers and gently giving it a spin. Because of it's weight it will spin and then un-spin and then repeat the process several times. The heavier the leg the longer it will do this. The notion of its primitiveness is inspiring. Anything I suppose could be cooked in this manner. So the next time you're at the mall and see the store that sells bread toasters for $200 remember that all you need is a fire and a piece of string.
Cook simply. It's good for you.
Chorizo Sausage Burgers
Yield: 4 Burgers
1 pound ground pork butt
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Divide the mixture into 4 portions and flatten to form patties. Place the burgers on a plate and refrigerate for 1 hour. Grill the burgers over a moderately hot fire until cooked thoroughly or until an internal temperature of 160F.