It's Time to Up Your Grilling Game 7

Tips & Secrets from Grilling Guru Jeff Lunsford

Autumn will be here soon, with moderating temperatures, football and, above all, backyard grilling. Just step outside at any given time on a Saturday evening in Hendersonville and you’re sure to smell some kind of smoky charcoal or gas grilling going on. After taking in the tantalizing aroma of sizzling burgers or steaks, you may decide that it’s time to either purchase a new grill or maybe just brush up on your skills. If so, there’s no better place to turn than the Hearth & Grill Shop on Thompson Lane in Nashville

With 42 years of experience in the grill business, Jeff Lunsford knows what he’s talking about when it comes to anything related to grills. The Hearth & Grill Shop carries gas grills, charcoal grills, Weber grills, Big Green Eggs, top-of-the-line FireMagic grills and pretty much any part or accessory you might possibly need to keep your grill up and running.

“Whichever you choose, don’t just buy the cheapest grill,” says Lunsford. “Get one that you know parts and accessories will be available”.

The first thing you need to determine when purchasing a new grill is whether you want charcoal or gas. There are many notable differences that should be considered before taking the leap. Some people prefer the easy maintenance and reliability of a gas grill, while others swear by the smoky flavor you get from a charcoal grill.

“Gas is easier to light and maintain the temperature,” says Lunsford. “It’s also more versatile.”

With a gas grill, you can simply fire it up and be cooking in a matter of minutes. They’re easy to use and control and even help aid in self-cleaning.

“Charcoal provides a smokier flavor but usually you need to clean the old charcoal ash out, light and wait for the coals to ‘get right’ before cooking,” says Lunsford. “Maintaining temperature is harder because a charcoal grill will sometimes burn out before you are through cooking.”

He recommends that you use a good natural hardwood charcoal and steer clear of lighter fluid for starting up the grill. He notes that some people seem to think that the taste of the starter fluid is the actual charcoal flavor. Instead, he says to use an electric starter or starter blocks without added chemicals.

For maintenance, it’s recommended that you burn off the excess grease after use on a gas grill. You also need to occasionally give the cooking grids a good brushing (soap and water once in a while) and take out the burner once a year to clean the ports. For charcoal grills, you need to clean the grid the same as a gas grill. Make sure that you don’t leave charcoal ash in the bottom of the grill.

When it’s finally time to do some grilling, a good spatula and some tongs are really all the equipment that you need. Since cooking times and measurements vary, it’s sometimes hard to give an exact recipe.

“Trial and error with cooking is one of the fun things about grilling,” Lunsford says. “You can cook just about everything on a grill.”

He recommends grilling burgers and steaks at a high temperature. In order to produce good results, sear both sides on high heat, then gradually turn the heat down to medium. Chicken and seafood are generally cooked at a low to medium heat.

“The main thing is to be sure not to overcook,” he says. “Stay with it and test frequently for doneness.”

For bratwursts and other sausages, he finds that low to medium heat seems to work best. Since most sausages usually have a lot of grease, he says that you shouldn’t put the grill on high and then leave. Always keep an eye on them. He also recommends grilling vegetables directly on the cooking grid as the flavor of the smoke and grill will work its way into the veggies.

“The grilled flavor that everyone loves comes from the grease dripping down on the hot coals and making smoke,” he says. “This not only helps get rid of a lot of the grease, but it makes everything taste wonderful.”

With proper maintenance, there is no reason why a gas grill won’t last 10 to 20 years. A charcoal grill is generally not as ruggedly built as a gas grill, but should still last a decade or more. At the Hearth & Grill Shop, they are still selling replacement parts for gas grills that are well over 30 years old.

If you’re dreaming of serving up delicious steaks, pork chops and shrimp skewers on the grill, there’s no day like today to get rolling with your own tradition. Perhaps it’s time the mouthwatering smoke and smell of barbecuing meat in the air comes from your very own backyard.