This week's grilling tips come from Bobby Flay, Mr. Grill himself. Though Flay is a successful chef and restaurateur, and a Food Network star (he's one of the Iron Chefs and he is of course the host of Throwdown!) he is probably more identified with grilling than any other celebrity chef. He has written three books about grilling, Boy Gets Grill, Grilling for Life, and most recently Bobby Flay's Grill It, from which these tips are taken.
Flay on Gas vs. Charcoal: "I am on record many times as saying that I prefer the ease and consistency of gas grills. However, that doesn't mean that I don't use charcoal grills myself from time to time. Charcoal burns hotter than gas, allowing for a better sear and more flavor from the smoke; but I have never had a problem getting a really good sear on the gas grill and I also like to add flavor to my food when it's grilling (with spice rubs and glazes) and after it comes off the heat (with vinaigrettes or salsas)—so for me, it's a wash."
Testing for Doneness: "I prefer the touch test, which is really easy and makes total sense. As meat cooks, it becomes firmer and firmer to the touch. Rare meat feels spongy, medium meat feels springy, and well-done feels taut. This is true for pork, poultry, and steak-like fish such as tuna, salmon, and swordfish, too."
Bobby knows that the touch method doesn't work for everyone, so alternately he advocates the use of an instant-read thermometer. Many general cookbooks and meat primers have accurate guides to meat temperatures. Googling "meat temperatures" will also give you many options, including this one.
Finally, here's Flay on Lump (Hardwood) Charcoal versus Charcoal Briquettes: "I prefer lump charcoal over briquettes but I do use both for different reasons and different recipes, and sometimes I combine them. Lump charcoal gives a great woodsy aroma to food and briquettes provide long, even heat. Both burn equally hot but lump charcoal burns very hot and very quickly, which works well for for quick-cooking items such as burgers, fish, and chicken breasts. If you want to grill long-cooking items such as a pork shoulder or brisket, then the slow, steady heat of the briquettes is the way to go."