How to . . . BBQ
Barbecuing is a male endeavor. Yeah, women do it as well and they are quite good at it, but when you envision a BBQ, you see a guy, a BBQ grill and a beer. Perhaps it is cultural bias, but that's what we see.
And why do men like bbq-ing? Let's see. There's raw meat, sharp tools, flammable liquids, flames, smoke, beer - what's not to like? And what could possibly go wrong? Well, more on that a little later,
Anyway, BBQ-ing is genetic. Men can't help themselves. Obviously it's a carry over from our hunting and gathering days. Yet it is specific to the outdoors. Men who don't know a broiler pan from a soufflé dish think they're experts at BBQ. And as fast as you can twist the cap off a beer bottle, males are outside ready to do battle with the elements - fire, smoke, and bugs in search of that perfect steak. It's the DNA thing again.
Have you noticed men don't clean grills? They know the flame from the charcoal generously saturated with lighter fluid will 'sterilize' last year's crud. The key is massive amount of lighter fluid. Big flame. Good. Besides, those little bits of carbon are tasty and crunchy. Who cares if it's from three seasons ago? It's the remembrance of food past.
And did you know that BBQ-ing is male participatory sport? Men gather around the flame, beer bottle in hand and watch the meat. Occasionally one will tell the 'chef' it's time to flip or claim the steaks are burning. Men do this at a BBQ. Women don't. In fact, have you ever seen a woman direct another woman in the kitchen? This is the definition of biological differences between the sexes on the most primal of levels - eating.
Anyway the Frugal Yankee has some factoids and tips to share with on barbecuing. We hope you enjoy them, and as we like to say, "Play safe!"
Most etymologists believe that the word barbecue ultimately derives from the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean. "Barabicu" translates as "sacred fire pit".
In our introduction, we asked what could go wrong. Plenty. Here's what we mean.
According to the Barbecue Industry Association, there were over 2.4 billion BBQ fires lit last year.
24% of BBQ users surveyed said they have had some sort of accident. That means there were more than a half billion accidents. Now most were probably small, but if only a small number of these were big, well, you do the math.....
In a July 2006 report, USA Today said 15,974 people were injured during a BBQ.
56% of Americans now use gas over charcoal.
If your burger or hot dog seems gritty, check this out. 38% admitted (and we stress admitted) to putting food back on the grill after it has fallen. We imagine the number is quite higher, but all men know, you just don't admit to it.
The June 2007 issue of Consumer Reports rated gas BBQs. So if you're looking for a new gadget to burn a hole in your credit card, check them out. And of course, after you've perfected your technique invite us over for some well cooked goodies. We're always up for a good meal.
Now how often has this happened? You begin grilling at a camp or vacation spot and the gas tank dies on you in mid-cook? Here's a tip. A gas tank weighs 18 pounds. Lift and see how heavy it is. Now we've heard this one, but haven't tried it out yet. Take a cup of hot water and pour over tank. If the tank condenses the water, there is gas still in it. (The FY doubter will test this out this weekend. We'll get back to you.)
Have you seen expensive BBQ smokers in stores? Well here’s a frugal alternative. Soak some wood chips in water or beer, wrap them in aluminum foil, poke a few holes in it and toss it on the barbie. Presto, a poor man’s smoker!
Wood chips come in small (shavings), medium (chips) and large (chunks of wood). Soak small and medium chips for at least two hours prior to use. Use the large chunks as they are. Most stores sell medium chips.
There are lots of chips you can use. Mesquite has become popular, but here in New England we prefer oak, maple, apple, and black birch.
If you use wood, be sure it's seasoned and stay away from soft woods.
COOKING WITH COALS (BRIQUETTES)
- Stack them to ignite.
- Use a chimney for a faster light.
- If you use 'easy light' briquettes, be sure they are 'white hot' before putting food over them. Usually 45 minutes will do the trick.
- Same is true for lighter fluid started coals. And don't overdo the fluid. It can really muck up the taste.
- Think about using an electric charcoal starter, there'll be no after taste.
- Spread coals evenly through out the grill, but leave one corner free. This will give a cool spot.
- If you're cooking a large piece of meat (lamb, pork, etc) spread your coals to opposite sides and have a cool spot in the middle. Place your meat there and it will cook from the sides, nice and gently.
Remember the most important tip in barbecuing is go slow and low. Slow cooking over a low heat is far better than flash firing. And take the time to prepare. It makes the entire process safer and more fun.
THE 'FOOD IS ON THE GRILL' TIPS
- Trim fat unless you like towering flames and charred on the outside, frozen on the inside.
- Don't stab the meat. It ruins and dries it out.
- If you're grilling, burgers, dogs, boneless chicken it's much less.
- Let the meat stand for 5 minutes or more after taking off the grill. It'll be better.
- THE JUICE RULE. Great for burgers and steaks. Wait for the juices to percolate. Juices flow to the top. First time = rare, 2x medium, 3x well done.
- Use a 'spice brush'. Take some big sprigs of a spice, like parsley, and use that instead of a brush. It'll add a distinctive touch and flavor. And you'll look cool doing it. People will be impressed. You can tell them you learned from an old Yankee friend.
- Remember to be a master at BBQ, go low (heat) and slow.
SMOKERS & OTHER TIPS.
You know you can take the same poor man's smoker idea (above) and use garlic, or onions in the aluminum foil to add a great smell to the cooking. It'll permeate the meat as well.
Tossing some thyme on your grill will create smoke that those pesky mosquitoes hate.
Don't be a dink. Stop looking at the meat. Let the cooker do its job. Be patient. Stop lifting up the lid. Don't keep flipping it. Use the juice rule.(above)
One final word of advice. If you're a beginner, be sure you run some trials before you invite the in-laws or the preacher over. You don't want to serve a mistake and sully your reputation.
My BBQ experiment this year will be bananas. Slice down the middle, leave skin on, cook flesh down for cool grill marks, and flip onto skin side. When flesh pulls away from peel it's done. Pour some bourbon, Grand Marnier or other liqueur over and serve with ice cream.
If you have a recipe idea, share it. Send it to info@FrugalYankee.com
And finally some safety tips.
1) PLACEMENT: Where you cook is vital. Never do it indoors, or within five feet of a structure. Don't cook on porches, verandas, etc.
2) PREPARATION: Check your grill carefully, especially a gas one. Be sure fittings are snug and there is no gas leakage. To check for leakage, slather dish washing liquid over the connections. If there are bubbles, you've got a leak. Tighten them if you can, but if the bubbles persist, don't take a chance, use something else.
Clean yourself, clean you meat. Wash your hands frequently. Keep your meat and food cool as long as you can. E. coli can double every 20 minutes. You don't want to known as the cook who gets his guests quite sick. And let's not even talk about botulism.
- Teach kids, and adults, that if someone catches fire: stop, drop and roll.
- Have an extinguisher (or sand) near by. Know where it is. Tell everyone else where it is.
- Shut everything done properly.
- Store tanks properly - don't leave it in the sun.
So have fun. Enjoy your barbecue. If you have any tips you'd like to share with us, send'em along. Email us at info@FrugalYankee.com