Before Nathan Myhrvold published his six-volume culinary bombshell Modernist Cuisine, he got a doctorate in physics. Which he applies to the details of heat transfer in the book at great length, including the suggestion that the classic Weber kettle grill is very inefficient, as both its black interior and its rounded shape are non-optimal for reflecting heat from the coals to the food.
As we head into a summery long weekend, here’s some additional advice on grilling (and a lovely iconic cutaway photo) from Modernist Cuisine.
- A layer of ash should coat the coals before food goes on the grill. The ash dims the coals’ glow, moderating the heat they radiate. The ash also reducesthe chimney effect by insulating the coals from the air.
- A variable air vent allows the griller to control the flow of air into the fire. Starve the coals of fresh air to cool them and slow the chimney effect; open the vents to turn up the heat.
- Drippings are the real secret to the unique flavor of grilled food. As these complex chemical solutions combust, they coat the food with a panoply of aromatic and delicious compounds.