Thanks so much for your purchase of a Northfork Ironworks Parrilla! The following is some tips on using, cleaning and maintaining your wood fired grill
Hardwood firewood is best all-round for taste, temperature and clean-up. Kiln-dried is optimal but definitely well-seasoned is imperative. The smaller the pieces, the faster you will get to “coals” stage and quickest to actual cooking. Oak (red, white, etc..), Apple, Cherry are best. Hickory and Pecan can be great when added with other fruit woods or Oak. Peach is also a milder option. Mesquite is very strong but used a lot in the southwest.16” to 18” long is ideal. Pine and anything with sap is terrible, noxious and will ruin the grill. Whatever amount of wood I personally think will do it, it always takes double that amount! If you fill the brasero to the top, keep filling it as you get coals dropping. For a big dinner with multiple entrees, it is not uncommon to fill it 3 or 4 times. An inch or more of wood coals below the part of the grill you plan on using. Those coals can last a while if in a thick bed, with less oxygen getting to them. They can burn out quick otherwise, thus the part about keep adding more to the brasero! Charcoal briquettes are total fine in a pinch. Use a “chimney” or two to get them white. Lump charcoal or “cowboy” charcoal is a better option.
This is perfect size
Also, to line the bottom of the grill with 1 inch thick firebrick is a great idea. They are easy to work with, easy to get, very inexpensive and will keep the rest of the grill from getting too hot. It will prolong the life of the grill if you use it alot. It adds a ton of weight, thus, it is not something that I offer as a maker since it would add hundreds of dollars to the shipping weight.
They also come in red
The parilla is mostly made of mild steel except for the Grill itself and the pan that it sits in. (That is Stainless Steel) To clean the grill top, use a long wood-handled stainless-steel brush. (home depot-welding section) another kind of wire can contaminate the stainless and possibly rust. It is best to clean the grill while it is hot. The rest of the grill is susceptible to rust, so it is best not to let it get wet. Wiping is cool, puddles of water mixed with ash is trouble. It is difficult to keep it covered all the time, especially if is hot after cooking, but as much as possible, try to keep it covered. Morning dew is pretty much the same as leaving it out in the rain. The firebricks help in this regard as the grill will cool quicker thus allowing the cover to be put on sooner. If you live near the ocean, a highly corrosive environment for steel, it is not the worse thing to hit it with spray Pam. A thin coat will exponentially prolong the life of anything steel.
Tools: I prefer a flat, medium-sized (about 3 feet long) square shovel for working with the firewood and coals.(Ace has best selection) This works better than a pointy shovel when grabbing the coals from the back of the brasero. If it has a plastic handle, remember not to lean it against the grill when it is hot. (learned the hard way) that goes with any tools really. I prefer tongs for working with the food. I prefer short ones but keep in mind this whole rig gets very hot when under full steam and it is hard to stand close to it sometimes, let along short tongs. Many of the original Argentine Gauchos use a long bar with a bent nail at the end to flip meat or veggies.
Food: I confess I am not a seasoned chef, but my best pal is, and between the two of us, we have just scratched the surface of what is possible.
The great thing about a parrilla is that, if needed, you can drop the grill to as low as possible and leave it there until it is red hot, throw the veggies or steak on for a minute, and then raise it up for the rest of the cook time. Perfect, hardcore sear. Francis Mallmann, the king of Livefire cooking, says that this technique of searing will create a crust on the outside, locking in the moisture and prohibiting the juices from draining out.
In Argentina, they do not let the flames touch the food. It makes the food taste bitter and it isn’t super healthy. They also believe smoke will do the same. Use the drippings from the drip tray to baste the meat or make sauces.
Vegetables, especially, eggplant, is my favorite. Oiled and salted and cooked until black is my preference. Kabobs of all kinds as well as the obvious, steak, pork, chicken, etc. My buddy blackens a head of cabbage before chopping it up for a slaw mixed with Mexican crema and jalapeno. Awesome. I will often take the Grill itself off and use the pan (frame) to roast a whole chicken or pork shoulder. We also like to hang things from the bar above. Especially pineapples, as they will drip their juice onto your ribs or whatever. Whole chickens or ducks as well.
It is easy to add a rotisserie, just drill a hole on either side of the upright stanchions.
Cast iron pans work well for food with sauces or oils. I often will throw local carrots in a pan, use the drippings from the meat and shove it under the grill, in the coals.
A flat-top cast-iron griddle (plancha) is amazing. Burgers, pancakes, sausages, tortillas. Mmm! Half to a third the of the size of the grill is perfect. Just throw it up there
Assorted bowls are good for sauces and salting, big wood cutting boards, newspaper! (it comes in handy in a lot of ways)
Parrilla cooking is definitely not for the push-button type. It is time consuming, work-heavy and messy. Yay, Perfect!!
Please reach out if you have any question to me at Brendan@NorthforkIronworks.com and if you have our grill already, reach out to my cooking pal Sam Sifton at Sifton@nytimes.com He loves these grills, loves talking cooking and is the Senior Editor in charge of food at the NYTimes