If you dive into the world of Tuscan cuisine, you will quickly discover statements like “Tuscans love to grill” and a plethora of recipes which demonstrate what it is that they love to put on their grill menu, from Fiorentina steaks to Rosticciana pork ribs. So how does this sit with a Valoriani wood-fired pizza oven, born in the heart of Tuscany?
The simple answer is “very well”. The ‘Tuscan grill’ is a piece of equipment that the majority of Tuscan families will have sitting alongside their wood-fired pizza oven. There are a variety of types of Tuscan grill – typically made from cast iron or steel – but none like Valoriani’s, which comes with the Valoriani ‘V’ signature logo within its design.
Whilst grilling is often associated with charcoal, wood coals are an excellent and often preferable heat source for those loving a charred flavour to their food. By using these wood coals, plus your Tuscan grill, you can quickly turn your wood-fired pizza oven into a barbecue. Alternatively, you can do what the Italians do and transfer wood coals from your wood oven to your barbecue, making the most of them that way.
To accomplish the moving of the coals, you need to be able to master the art of using your steel peel – which comes free with every Valoriani wood-fired Fornino oven and which sits neatly in a grooved tool holder on the side of the oven. You also need to have had a fire lit in the oven for some time, so that the oven is up to temperature and your chosen wood has burned down to create wood coals.
At this point, you simply move some hot wood coals – a little ashy around the edges and with a deep red fiery heart – to between the front and centre of the oven. Being careful not to burn yourself and wearing strong heatproof gloves, you then place the Tuscan grill over the top of the coals. After allowing it to heat up for around 10 minutes, it is ready to accept whatever food you wish to cook, whether that is traditional barbecue favourites such as sausages, steaks and burgers, or kebabs, fish, chicken, lamb chops or steaks or even peppers that you can place on the grill for a very short period of time, until the skins will fall off and be able to be used as crostini or pizza toppings or garnishes. Preserving these in olive oil, with a garlic clove added, will keep these on hand for whenever you want them.
Remember that, unlike a traditional BBQ, you will be cooking with the grilled heat from the coals but also the upper heat from the oven, which will enable things to cook more evenly and much quicker. It will allow you to achieve the charred exterior on the food of a barbecue but the moist interior that is attainable through an oven cook.
Back to fish, however. You can either place your fish directly on the grill, or wrap it in aluminium foil, to seal in the flavours. If you do the latter and wrap it well, you can even put it on the oven floor to cook.
You may be tempted to just use the grill in the wood-fired oven, without bothering with the wood coals underneath. Do not contemplate this! Juices and fats from the food placed on the grill will taint the oven floor. By putting the wood coals underneath, you can prevent this and actually assist the cooking process, by creating steam filled with a flavour that will give your food a beautiful taste. The aromas you generate will also add to the experience.
The Tuscan grill will sear your meat beautifully and very quickly cook your vegetables and fish. Remember that your wood-fired oven is operating at an extremely high temperature so it will take far less time to cook your food than if you were using a conventional grill. Also beware that you will need to have some thick fireproof gloves on, so that you can flip the food being cooked. Steel tongs should do this task very well.
So, all that remains, once you have grilled your food, is for you to serve up and enjoy. If you’ve done some prep and have a variety of salad items as side dishes, you can quickly tuck in and marvel at how you managed to turn your wood-fired oven into a barbecue!