It’s no secret that I love cooking outdoors employing various types of fuel and equipment. Currently, in my garden I have an impressive selection of outdoor cooking devices. It’s a brigade of grills, smokers, kettles and barbecues that rely on natural gas, briquettes, charcoal and hardwood. Now to the layperson this may seem excessive, but to me it appears to be a good start to my collection, which I value and use at every opportunity, regardless of the time of year.
As a professional cook I am always looking to perfect my craft and cooking techniques. The main reason I love cooking outdoors is that I need to build and maintain a fire. The success of that fire ultimately determines how well my family and friends will eat. Eating well is important to me, and as such I value what type of fire I cook with.
If I’m smoking or cooking traditional American BBQ the fire needs to be low and slow, it needs to be built to burn for up to 18 hours at a time. How else can I turn tough pork butts and beef brisket into tender, juicy, smoked meats? When grilling a classic 1.5-2 kg beef porterhouse for a Bistecca Fiorentina the charcoal base needs to be established and burning like a furnace to sear and cook this small roast. Fish and shellfish require a moderate fire to ensure this delicate protein is not overcooked.
Just recently I was blessed with some good fortune and became the proud owner of one of these Konro grills, bringing my outdoor cooking collection to seven pieces. They come in a few different sizes. As this was not for restaurant production and would generally feed four to eight people I ended up securing a medium unit. The first thing you’ll notice about these grills is that they are narrow and long, this is to accommodate the cooking of skewers. Yakitori skewers literally rest on the top of the side walls of the unit so they don’t fall into the coals below. While the grill comes with a wire rack, it is not necessary to use as the walls of the grill are close enough together that skewers of food can be rested on the top of the walls, allowing the cook to rotate and twist the skewers as they cook over the coals below. The wire rack does fit well over the top to cook anything not on a skewer.
This unique grill is designed to burn a very special type of charcoal. While any charcoal can be used, to be true to this system it is preferable to use a Japanese charcoal called binchotan.
I had a bit of fun figuring out how to light this special charcoal. By principle I am vehemently opposed to any chemical based quick lighting products as they can affect the final flavour of foods. I have found that a blow torch applied to a stack of binchotan ignites it quickly. Once the coals are burning consistently I then evenly spread them out to create a consistent coal bed. I’ve also had good results with a regular charcoal chimney and simply place the lit coals into the grill once they are burning.
Why do I love using my latest grill? Easy, it produces delicious food and it’s a lot of fun to use. One of my favorite things is to grill chicken skewers, and luckily, this is exactly what Konro grills are made for. I always buy chicken thighs as they have the right fat content. When grilling, one needs a bit of natural richness in the food. I always carefully peel off the thigh skin, leaving it in one piece. This is then laid out flat on a plate for a later use. I then debone the thigh and cube the meat into 2cm (1”) pieces, these are then to be used for skewers. I prefer to marinate the cubed chicken in a teriyaki style sauce but love my peri peri sauce too. After the meat is marinated, I make up the skewers and I’m ready to grill.
I love systems when I cook, so I want to ensure the skewers are consistently loaded with chicken, too much chicken and they don’t fit into the grill and if not enough the bamboo skewers can burn. Now you can use metal skewers, but they get really hot and are harder to turn by hand. I have created a skewer caliper – simply put I have marked on a skewer with a black marker the distance of the two sides of the wall of the grill. I use this to measure exactly how much product I put onto each fresh skewer.
Let’s not forget the chicken skin! I love to start the experience by grilling the chicken skin. By carefully laying the skin onto the wire grill then then placing it on top of the Konro grill I grill the skin into a perfectly crispy appetizer. Just season with some sea salt and togarashi and your family and friends will be blown away. One product gives two applications, this full utilization appeals to me. Then you get to grill your skewers, it’s a fast cook. I like to turn the skewers every two minutes to keep them consistently cooking. Towards the end of the cook, brush them with a glaze of your favourite sauce to finish them perfectly. The binchotan does not flare up and gives such a consistent cook. Some other favourites I’ve cooked on my grill are spicy eggplant, marinated king oyster mushrooms and bacon wrapped scallops!
When I’ve done cooking, I place a sheet tray over the top of the grill and close the air vents. The binchotan is choked, never use water to put out the fire! The extinguished binchotan can be reused! I’ve used some up to three times, after all its so well-crafted and precious one shouldn’t waste it.
When I’m not using my Konro grill, I store it in the garage out of the rain. It’s not designed to be kept out in the elements. But, it’s useful size makes it easy to move around.
I’m so glad that this unique grill is now part of my many other pieces of equipment. I love the distinct personality and flavour that it creates. My friends and family love what comes off it. In my house there is always room for one more!
Micheal Allemeier / Cook and Educator
Chef Michael Allemeier has traveled the world and Canada learning his craft. Prior to joining SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) as a Culinary Instructor, Chef Allemeier ran some of Western Canada’s most recognised kitchens. While in Vancouver BC, Chef Allemeier was Executive Chef at Bishops Restaurant, then Teatro Restaurant in Calgary, AB. Allemeier’s passion for food and wine pairing was realised with the call to lead the stoves at Mission Hill Family Estate in the Okanagan Valley, BC.
During his career, Chef Allemeier has received many awards and accolades the most notable occurring while he was Executive Winery Chef at Mission Hill Family Estate, when Travel and Leisure Magazine awarded him the honour of leading one of the “Top Five Winery Restaurants in the World”.
Currently Chef Allemeier is a CMC Candidate and is working onachieving this designation. The CMC (Certified Master Chef) is the toughest, rarest and highest culinary designation in Canada and is internationally recognised in the industry as a Master of the Craft.
Check Michael Allemeier Instagram for images of his adventures with my new grill @allemeier
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