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Robb Report Vices

Blaze of Glory

Karen Cakebread

A backyard barbecue is as American as the Fourth of July and fried chicken, but it’s also as Argentinean as gauchos and the tango. To South Americans, the barbecue, or asado, is nearly a sacred rite, where no practitioner would ever perform the ultimate blasphemy—cooking with gas. For them, it’s all about the open flame, as it should be for you, too. And if you want to do it right (and you should), Grillworks, a Michigan-based manufacturer of specialty grills, can give you all the tools you’ll need.

Ben Eisendrath, the owner and CEO of Grillworks, was introduced to international methods of barbecuing as a youngster. His father, who worked as a foreign correspondent for Time magazine in the 1960s and ’70s, frequently brought the family along on assignments, and the grilling ritual in Argentina had a lasting impression on his son. Eventually the elder Eisendrath settled down in northern Michigan, where he tinkered with grill inventions that would allow him to cook with fire. He finally felt he got it right with a stainless-steel model that he dubbed the Grillery and subsequently patented. Now, more than 30 years later, Ben runs the family business, which produces his father’s invention in various forms (beginning at $2,750).

The company’s largest grill—and its flagship model—the Infierno, is a restaurant-grade monster that took two years to develop. The grills are available as either freestanding units or custom built-in projects, which are quoted individually. The grill features a fire cage in the center, where the grill master places whole pieces of wood, and a chimney-type draft helps the wood to burn hot and fast. Coals soon fall off into the hearth beneath, where the cook can then scoop them over to one or both of the grill stations at the side. “The fire cage acts as a blast furnace in the center,” Eisendrath explains.

Having two stations means different types of foods can be cooked simultaneously using different intensities of heat. The grills can be cranked up or down at least 16 inches with a wheel, which allows the chef to cook over either open fire or coals. Separate subshelves allow for smoking, lower-heat cooking, or warming; and a firebrick lining serves as a hearth for heating or baking. “The Argentineans believe adamantly in creating the coals elsewhere and scooping them over,” Eisendrath says. “But in the U.S. we think it’s OK to start cooking immediately over the flame.”

We couldn’t agree more.

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