There is no summer activity more beloved than cooking meat outside on the grill. It's something men do more than do women; it’s a guy activity. Heck, I'll grill all year round, even when there is a blizzard swirling around me and I can get to the garage.
Did you know that there is a difference between grilling and barbequing? Grilling generally uses propane gas to fuel that generates high heat and cooks quickly. I generally get my grill up to 400 degrees, throw on the meat and lower the heat a little bit so nothing will burn. I'll turn the meat or chicken at least once to get those grill lines on both sides.
BBQ uses wood as fuel; it uses low heat and slow cooking. The temperature hovers between 225 and 250 degrees; cooking time can range from two to fifteen hours depending on what's cooking. Home cooks can use a small smoker, whereas BBQ restaurants will use a very large one with a rotating spit that cooks everything evenly. If you've ever watched The Cooking Channel, Food Network or Travel Channel, you've seen mountains of meat at many restaurants.
When we first moved in to our house seventeen years ago, we got an inexpensive gas grill, which lasted about five years. The gas elements started to rust and it wasn't worth the investment to replace them. Then I did what any BBQ sauce blooded male would do: I treated myself on Father’s Day to a brand new Weber Genesis Gold grill.
It worked great for many years. A couple of weeks ago, I raised the temperature to maximum. I wanted to burn everything off and clean itself. The only problem was, I left it on too long. It ended up burning the igniter.
The grates and warming rack were porcelain-coated steel; they were disgusting, even after the burn off. Then I did the best thing; I went to our local grill retailer and bought brand new stainless steel grates. These are so much easier to clean, and will last for many years.
Then I decided to replace the rusted "flavourizer bars" that sit under the grates. I tried to clean these, but they were beyond anything I could do. I made another trip to the store, and got a brand new, shiny set of stainless steel bars. I also got a new warming rack while I was at it. The other one was so black, dirty and disgusting that I didn't want to put anything on it.
The upside to all this was the grill now gets hotter faster and cooks quicker. A new grill like this would probably cost $500 to $600; these replacement parts were about $150. A few more parts may need replacing; let’s not talk about those, now.
Every Tuesday night is burger night, as my wife works late and it's only me and my daughters that are home for dinner. Even then, Michelle isn't always home. I usually buy the BJs brand of sirloin and beef frozen burgers; lately my wife has been buying chopped meat at the supermarket, forming her own burgers and freezing them.
Freezing the burgers is not only cheaper, but they do taste better. I'll cook them for 5 minutes on each side, and make a cheeseburger in paradise. Add some lettuce, tomato and ketchup, and I'm in burger heaven with Jimmy Buffett. Let's have some sort of French fry or potato side, maybe some onion rings, and then we're ready to eat.
My favorite thing on the grill is a nice strip steak. They're nice and thin, so they cook fast. Once they have that nice char on one side, it's time to flip. Ten minutes will usually do it to perfection.
Marcy just bought some center cut pork chops, and they are great on the grill. I'll slather them will some BBQ sauce, let them cook for around six to seven minutes on one side, flip them and then slather them again. The sauce caramelizes on both sides, and we're in pig heaven.
Then, of course, my wife will have me cook an entire package of chicken breasts, which will take up the entire grill. She'll freeze those, and dinner is ready on those hectic days when she doesn't feel like cooking.
Remember, the most important thing is grill maintenance. Always clean the grates and raise the temperature up, every once in a while, for a few minutes, to burn off the gunk, but keep an eye on it. Then scrape everything down; use a shop vac to get the gunk out of it.
A clean grill is a happy grill.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.