Unfolded Presents: Now Grill This!

Winter has finally let up, and we’re all looking for any excuse to be outside. Cooking outdoors doesn’t have to be limited to just grilling. Consider trying some new techniques with the old charcoal grill. By adding some items that may already be hanging out in the kitchen, a grill can do so much more than just add sexy grill marks to a steak. Consider using…

Cast iron pans for paella

Use the traditional grill to brown/ char your proteins. This can be chicken thighs, shrimp, octopus, chorizo, fish, whatever! Then get the coals roaring and place a paella pan (or any shallow cast iron) on the grate, add all ingredients, cover in stock, put a lid on it! In 25-30 minutes, you’ll have a coal smoked delicious entrée that’s supa impressive. My favorite part is the burnt rice layer at the bottom called socarrat—it’s super tasty and crunchy and a great indicator that you did it right!

While paella* is a fantastic way to use a cast iron on the grill, arroz con pollo is another fantastic meal. Consider other recipes that can be grilled on a cast iron: butter basted steak or scallops, fondu or mac and cheese, even cornbread or a skillet tart for dessert.

A drip pan to smoke some snacks

Light your coals, divide them evenly to each side of the grill. In the middle, place a disposable drip pan and fill it with 1-2 inches of hot water. You can straight coal smoke, or add in some wood chips of your liking to impart a certain flavor. Where hickory is more delicate and sweet, mesquite is more pungent and “sticks.”

While the world of smoking is endless, you’ll have to consider how long coals will last and how much effort it takes to re-up/ how much heat you’ll lose while re-upping. For simplicity’s sake, I only recommend smoking short-term food with this method. Short term does not equal less amazing tho! My favorite short term smoked bbs are: deviled eggs* that are on a whole other level, the juiciest smoked mushrooms*, party snacks like cashews.

Skewers for all the street food!

It may not be a solid suggestion for alt-grilling, but sometimes it’s nice to skip the typical burgers and sausages, and go for a mini-spit. Grab some lamb, marinate in your favorite flavors, and pair with flavorful sides. I absolutely love yang rou chuan*, a Chinese street food of spicy cumin lamb.

Arrange coals to one side of the grill, and cook skewers on the other side of the grill on indirect heat. Get a nice char on the skewered protein or veggie by finishing on direct heat.

I suggest not arranging vegetables and proteins on the same skewer. Unless you’re looking for the onions to impart flavor on the protein, most vegetables will be way too charred before a protein is cooked thoroughly.

If using bamboo skewers, soak them in water for a few hours to help from charring before the food is cooked.


Embers—get rid of the grill all together, and throw it right on the coals

This technique is as simple as lighting your coals in a chimney and spreading them out when they’re glowing red. Blow off any ash and lay down some dough for delicious flatbread* (to pair with some skewers!) or bury a potato.

Last yummy suggestion—take an onion and smother it in butter and seasoning, wrap in foil, and drop it in. After about 20 minutes, the onion will be ready to garnish on just about anything savory, but I strongly suggest chicken wings.


Words by Basia Piechoczek, a chef in Atlanta, Georgia

Illustration by Sam Baskin, a Digital Media Developer in Atlanta, Georgia


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Unfolded is about people who are passionate, who love to learn, who wonder about things, who see the world differently and have that special spark of something magical. I love finding the little freak thing that makes people special. This project gives them the space to put it on paper, to make it real, and to share it with the world.

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