I have a wood-burning grill here in Italy that’s not exactly what you could call a looker, but it’s a fine piece of cooking equipment and last night I finally realized how to use it properly. It only took six years.
The idea of the grill is that it has a continuous feed of coals, so that you can grill all night and never have to worry about moving the cooking surface or suffering a loss of the proper intensity of heat. Here’s a photo to get you oriented: Yeah, I know; it’s all rusty and crappy-looking but don’t let its looks fool you.
There’s a large grilling area above the coal bed and behind it there’s a metal basket that holds the wood fire that’s continually dropping coals below. You just use a long metal rake to move them forward whenever you want livelier heat.
Mine is a smaller model of the classic sagra grill, which you see at every local food festival throughout the summer. At a sagra, there could be four or five cooks lined up in front of the grill, flipping sausages and pork ribs on into the night.
But I had never figured out the right way to get my grill going properly. I built my fire in the basket and waited forever for enough coals to drop through before I could get started. But last night – for what reason I don’t know – it hit me. Instead of loading up the wood basket I started with a big roaring wood fire in the bed — right under where the grill would be. When the wood turned to coals I moved the fire back under the basket, which was loaded up with fresh wood. The fire was so intense the new wood was raging in minutes. I was in business. I moved enough coals forward under the grill surface and started cooking.
My brother, Ed and his wife, Barb were visiting and our menu was our typical Tucker Family Bi-Polar Diet – grilled tofu, zucchini and eggplant for Jill; lamb chops and pork ribs for the rest of us. The grill did me proud.