It’s 2021, and currently there are lots of disruptions in the supply chain that moves raw materials and finished goods where they’re needed. One of the early casualties was the “Tuscan grill,” a cast-iron insert that stands on legs and allows our ovens to be used as, well, grills by raking forward white-hot coals and enjoying the searing heat they produce. Eventually, I’m sure this essential item will be available again, as it is favored by celebrity chefs from Steve Raichlen to Alice Waters.
Meantime, what’s to be done? I purchased a “Texsport” camp grill in the spring. It’s made of mild steel, and it has already corroded beyond belief. It’s not pretty to watch when I put in the oven and it starts to warp from the high heat. I don’t recommend it unless it’s all you have.
So, following a tip elsewhere on these boards, I was walking through my local Home Depot and found this cast-iron cooking grid.
It is heavy cast iron with a porcelain coating, the width is infinitely adjustable from 14 to 20 inches, and most intriguing: it is 8 inches wide. Does that number sound familiar? That’s the length of a standard firebrick.
Best of all, it is about the half the price of a non-available Tuscan grill, and surprise! I have spare firebrick.
So, here is what it looks like out of the box:
You tilt one end up and slide to adjust the width, and when the two pieces are flat, they retain their adjustment. Couldn’t be simpler.
I used two firebrick on each side to support the grid. That put the bottom exactly 5 inches above the coals, which is about what a Tuscan grill would do. The photo shows a bit of sag in the middle, which was not really noticeable from above.
As seen in this photo, these bone-in chicken thighs are getting both an amazing char and full benefit from the hardwood smoke. And yes, they tasted at least as good as they looked.
The other major benefit was that the stacked firebrick did their refractory thing. The Barile oven design doesn’t heat up in the very front as quickly as it does further back, so what I’ve done has the effect of bringing the walls in closer at the oven mouth. It is very easy to slip the coal tool under the grill and rake more live coals forward when needed.
This last photo shows that we probably had a couple too many logs in for this particular session, but also that you could start out with pizza or flatbreads as an appetizer, then a grilled meat as il secondo. The oven is still going to be blazing hot following grilling, which suggests a baked dessert.
If you need more grilling space, the vendor suggests that you add a second grid, butted up to the first. That becomes a full 16-inch by 20-inch cooking surface, and I have four more firebrick lying around!
I’ll go so far as to say that, after purchasing this simple grid, I’ve put my search for a “genuine” Tuscan grill on the shelf, because this setup is genuine.