Grilling has always struck me as the most elemental of food preparations. Raw meat on a metal grate above an angry fire is about as primal as it gets, right? Well, things just got a little more primordial here in the Test Kitchen.
We’ve been testing out a batch of recipes from Adam Perry Lang, Author of Charred and Scruffed, which feature a number of techniques designed to impart maximum flavor to grilled foods. One of which, “clinching”, involves dispensing with the grill grate (such a modern luxury) altogether and cooking directly on the coals themselves. And the results are revelatory. What you don’t get is a charred lump of former meat, but rather the direct contact of meat on coal (you have to use hardwood charcoal not briquets) actually eliminates the carbonizing flare ups and produces a crackling-on-the-outside and juicy-on-the-inside outcome. Pictured here are double-cut lamb loin chops that are basically fire-forged umami delivery systems. Believe me, if there were any more smoky flavor, the Surgeon General would put a warning label on the side of these.
The principle is simple: You start with a large cut of meat (e.g. thick steaks, chicken legs, etc.) and get a fire burning hot which you then let mature to the glowing ember level. Fan off the ashes and place your meat down in the belly of the beast. Turn it occasionally until it’s done to your liking, being watchful for flare ups. You want caramelization, not char. You may have to knock off a few bits of charcoal that hang on, but don’t worry: that’s just more flavor and fun. Let the meat rest and dress it with a bit of olive oil and some herbs if you wish.
In addition, it’s fantastic for social gatherings not only for the tantalizing food, but you look like a complete bad-ass as you tame the fire to get it. Let the faint-of-heart man the daiquiri station…there’s “real” cooking to be done over here!!