Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Barbecuing In Manhattan - Well, How About Grilling?

Barbecuing, or at least the definition of barbecue that I use, is cooking food with low heat and wood smoke for a long time - low and slow, as they say. As a matter of fact, the National Barbecue Association says the following:

Many people think good barbecue is from the sauce you put on the meat – wrong! Real barbecue is meat that is cooked with indirect heat and smoke (USDA Definition). Not boiled in water or cooked on your normal backyard grill that uses direct heat. They also say nothing about sauce...three essential elements of barbecue are: Good meat, the process of slow cooking at a low temperature, and the fuel used for heat and flavor.

Probably the reason you don't hear about home barbecuing in Manhattan is that it takes not only time, but the ability to produce wood smoke for hours and hours, which generally aggravates at least a few neighbors. There are all sorts of Fire Department rules about charcoal as well, making the whole subject of barbecue a little troubling - though I do have a friend or two who happen to have backyard spaces, where some ninja barbecuing takes place.

Enter the grill, and that cousin of barbecuing, grilling. Since it's a much shorter process, there's less time to aggravate the neighbors. Electric grills are actually legal in Manhattan - so even though cooking on an electric grill is akin to cooking on a grill pan on a stove, if you've got an outdoor space and a grill, well at least you can pretend. You can even get some smoke flavor going too, but that's for another conversation. So on Monday, when some friends invited us up to their terrace for a "barbecue," we of course jumped at the opportunity, since I miss grilling.

Since I'm the "chef," I get to do most of the cooking on the grill. And seriously, what's not to like about grilling when the view looks like this...this is looking uptown from high up on the lower east side...and even though it was a bit hazy, the view is still awesome...

Since it was Memorial Day, and since it was a last minute idea, we didn't make anything fancy. I wanted to go grab some steaks at my butcher Jeffrey, in the Essex St. Market, but the market was closed. So I was resigned to shopping at our local grocery, where I picked up hot dogs, ground turkey and chicken breasts, (all kosher, at least), and all which can be grilled quickly. While the dogs and the chicken were tasty, the turkey burgers were not - the Empire turkey is ground to such a paste that burgers made from it have the texture of, well, lousy ground turkey. Really, it's a must to avoid.

We grilled corn and asparagus, made macaroni salad and coleslaw, snacked on guacamole, salsa and chips, drank beer and rose wine, and finished with homemade sorbets and banana chocolate chip bread...all delicious and not bad for an impromptu "barbecue" high up on the 18th floor!


  1. I could use some tips for cooking asparagus on the grill. I either overcook them or undercook them and am having trouble estimating the cooking time.

  2. Nice to see a city boy doing some grilling. Yesterday I butterflied two chicken breasts off the bone and stuffed them with spinach, onion, pine nuts, panchetta, and a little bread crumbs. Rolled it like a jelly roll and grilled away. Yum, I'll hae more wine please.

  3. A New York City Jewish boy, born in Queens, raised on Long Island, and living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and you are gonna let some cracker tell you what barbequing is? We don't go down to North Carolina and tell them how to grill possum meat and cook up crystal meth, do we? When I put stuff on my grill, that's barbequing, redneck. The National BBQ Association can kiss my ass.

  4. Hey Charles,

    Taste 'em while they're cooking and you'll know when they're done. Toss the spears with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and keep rolling them around every minute or two. You'll see some spots start to darken - that's when you can start sampling.

  5. Miami Danny just made me snort coffee.

    Also, tell Jen and Mike I'd like to rent out their balcony for the summer. Anyone have a tent I can borrow?

  6. As I stand at the counter in McDonalds, I can often peek around the corner of the shake machine to see them grilling my burgers fresh. Always order them without pickels and onion so you know they haven't ben sitting around for an hour. Is that the kind of grilling your talking about?

  7. Ah, at last something we suburbanites can crow about. Not only do we not have to worry about local ordinances or the fire department, the smell of "real BBQ" (read: hickory or mesquite smoke)wafting through the neighborhood for a few hours often attracts folks offering beer for ribs, or pulled pork, or whatever. A dip in the pool or a game of HORSE is a nice way to keep a good appetite. I just love the Summer!

  8. rebecca - have you checked out Miami Danny's blog?

    garyress...dude, you don't go to in-n-out? And that's called griddlin'.

    Anonymous - now you're talking. One of the things I miss about living in California is the 3 bbq's I had in my backyard. Oh, and the 2 Meyer lemon trees as well. Don't forget about oak, either.