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We all embrace the grill as part of the week-end ritual of sharing good times in the company of fiends and family, with a premium cigar on the front or back end and a libation du jour.  Let’s be honest, every woman, man and even children in some cases think they have the penultimate secrets for grilling nirvana. 

Read on to get our short list of grill skills you need to know and a short dive into a few premium cigars that enhance your get together. 

More blood has been spilled over charcoal vs. gas than between the Hatfield and the McCoys back in the day. Which is better? Honestly we have no idea, it comes down to finite issues that touch on: flavor vs. cost and convenience and personal preferences. 

Gas does burn cleaner than charcoal, emitting less carbon monoxide than charcoal, minzing the amount of pollution you are releasing in the air via ground-level ozone. But, many prefer the richer taste, smokier flavor and all around goodness that only a charcoal grill can provide. 

You are going natural with charcoal; we recommend using an additive free lump charcoal which is a fancy term for describing wood that has been charred. Cheaper more traditional briquettes can contain sawdust and other impurities including coal dust, sodium nitrate borax and even nasty additives like paraffin or lighter fluid. Speaking of lighter fluid, avoid this stuff at all costs as it can and frequently does leave a rather bad tasting unhealthy residue on your food.

Spend $15 on a chimney starter; the best way to fire up a charcoal grill using newspaper in the bottom of the chimney, then filled with charcoal. Takes about 20-30 minutes and you may have to do it a couple of times to get the hang of it. But the best way to start charcoal hands down “grill masters.”

backyard smoker with ocean vista

Let’s talk about heat, the all important factor. Your grill should be fired up 15-30 minutes ahead of time (there’s probably an app setting for this….) in order to kill any lingering bacterial on the surface from a previous meal. 

For high heat go with 400-450 degrees Fahrenheit, 300-350 F for medium and 250-300 F for lower heat. Your grill functions best when searing food on contact, keeping the insides of the meat moist and helping to offset sticking. Contrary to what many tell you, searing does not seal in the juices, it’s a backyard urban myth; but, it does create improved flavoring by caramelization.

Always use a brush on the surface of your grill once it’s hot. This removes food particles and other stuff that is hanging on the surface of the grill. And when you are done cooking, always a good thing to brush the grill when it’s hot. 

Oil is always your friend when grilling. Even if your grill surface is spotless and clean a leaner type of food will probably stick. You offset sticking by oiling your hot grill surface (the rack) with a vegetable oil soaked paper towel. Hold the latter with a pair of tongs and never use cooking spry on a hot grill. It can blow back in your face.

Think about bacteria and “food safety” (not to sound too draconian) always avoid cross contamination by using either separate cutting boards or those that have been antiseptically cleaned and take the same care with your utensils and platters. We also recommend refrigerating foods while you are marinating the latter and don’t baste with the marinating liquid.

Get creative and always marinate your food; this is one of the reasons why you are doing the barbecue thing right? Marinade does a lot more for you than just infusing the food with a specific blend of flavors, it also inhibits the build up of potentially carciogenic HCAs which can form when you are grilling meats, poultry and even fish. It’s a much healthier way to cook. 

Now for the absolute terrifying moment for all barbecue chefs, understanding if the food is done to the Bae’s or next door neighbor’s satisfaction. Don’t stress get an instant read thermometer and yes there is an app out there that wil beep your phone, but that’s another blog post. Always let your food sit for about ten minutes so the juices will be distributed evenly. 

wonderful example of hand painted travel poster from the 1930's

Three Great Premium Cigars for the Post Barbecue Smoke 

For all of you chocolate lovers the  Swisher Sweets Chocolate Cigarillos (15 awesome cigarillos per box) are a great complement to any after barbecue gathering. They are economically priced, have a sweet taste that goes well with a desert wine or port and they are flavor packed; but not too sweet. 

If the “after the meal occasion” warrants a more premium cigar then we’d suggest thinking about the Oliva Serie G 5 X 52 Belicoso Cigar, a great Nicaragua brand of cigar tracing its origins back to Cuba in the late eighteen hundreds, moving to Nicaragua in the 1960’s. The family-owned company traces its roots to patriarch Melanio Oliva, who began growing tobacco in Pinar del Río, Cuba in 1886.

In 1964, in the aftermath of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Melanio’s grandson Gilberto Oliva immigrated to Spain before eventually moving to Nicaragua and reentering the tobacco business. In 1995 Gilberto and his son, Gilberto Jr., launched the “Gilberto Oliva” brand — a label which evolved into today’s premium cigar Oliva brand.

If your backyard or hanging out on the beach crowd is comprised of more sophisticated cigar smokers then pull out a box of Arture Fuente 8-5-8 Maduro Cigars, Fuente Cigars have been around for 100 years now. 

Arturo Fuente started the company in 1912 in Florida with modest beginnings, and it’s stil a family-owned business four generations later. The Maduro Cigar is know for its medium to full bodied complex taste, it’s truly a top shelf Maduro, rolled with a African Cameroon wrapper, utilizing Dominican tobacco leaf for the filler.

We hope your next barbecue will be a success, with rave reviews for your “Julia Childesque” barbecue skills, complemented with your passing out a premium cigar for friends and family that rounds out the meal.