grill.GIFOne sure sign that spring has arrived is the smell of the first cookout of the season. One of my neighbors started the grilling off right this year, with a nice, juicy steak. Too bad I wasn’t invited!

Barbecuing, grilling, and cooking out are all used interchangeably to mean preparing food on a grate over an open flame. In deference to the sacred, however, let’s leave barbecue to the cooking of pigs and call everything else grilling. (Remember: If it ever said moo, it ain’t ‘cue!)

Grills can range from the ridiculously cheap to the absurdly expensive. I have seen them range in price from less than $10 at Wal -mart to $4,500 for ones in a catalog that must have been delivered to me by mistake! Here’s a helpful hint: people who can afford to spend $4,500 on a grill probably have a chef on staff to use it!

Grilling is a singularly masculine sport — I have never seen the female of the species fire one up alone. It may well be because bands of roving cavemen would descend and take it over. Face it, a man who won’t even make a sandwich on his own in a kitchen suddenly turns into super chef when a grill is nearby.

Admit it, guys. We love the macho trip of being the one responsible for the fire. “When do we eat, Honey?” “As soon as the coals get ready — you can’t rush the preparation of the sacred flame! Anyone knows that, you mere mortal!” With that, the male goes in search of something to help the sacred flames along , happily enlisting the help of his spouse in the crime. “Honey, do we have any more charcoal?” “Baby, do we have any more lighter fluid?” As the flames rise higher, threatening passing birds, some men begin a strange personality shift “Honey, go to the handy mart and get me some more lighter fluid–no, wait, make that kerosene! By this time, rangers high atop Crowder’s Mountain have noticed the glow in the east and the Civil Defense is mobilizing.

Some men are satisfied at this point, while the fire is at the three alarm stage and they still have a few wisps where their eyebrows once were. For the few truly possessed, the outdoor drama continues… “Jimmy, go siphon some gas out of your brother’s go-kart! These coals are just about right!”

By now, the siding on the house is starting to bubble, and little Suzie’s Barbie Winebago parked 39 feet from the grill has burst into flames. Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkeries” is blaring on the boom box , and Daddy is beginning to look like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now as he finally pronounces the coals ready for cooking. Remind you of anyone you know? (If you know me, don’t answer that last question.)

Here are a few hints to make your next cookout better:

  • Unlike our hero, never add lighter fluid to a fire after it’s going.
  • If you use a platter to take raw meat out to the grill, wash it thoroughly before using it to take the cooked meat off the grill. The same goes for any utensils.
  • Coals are ready for cooking when they are glowing a dull red and are mostly covered with a dull gray ash.
  • Cleanup will be much easier if you spray the grill with a non-stick cooking spray before using it.
  • To prevent flare-ups, trim the fat from the meat. To control them after they occur, keep a spray bottle of water handy.
  • You can add more flavor to grilled meats by adding wood chips to the fire. Mesquite, hickory and apple are especially good, Soak them in water for an hour before using them.
  • Last but not least, hold off on adding the barbecue sauce until the last 15 minutes of cooking. Adding it sooner will burn the sugars contained in the sauce.

2 Comments so far »

  1. Vickie Smith said

    October 22 2008 @ 9:16 am

    Hey Chef Rick! You’re 99% right about the female grill factor. I’ve probably fired up “John’s” grill about…. once and he’s been happily grilling steadily for 7+ years. I was the one who bought him his first real grill and was just in on the purchase of a new Walmart replacement. Just stopping by to ck out the site and say hi 🙂
    Vickie Smith

  2. Jill Jackson said

    May 13 2009 @ 7:25 pm

    Hey Chef Rick,

    I don’t know what part of NC you are from, but I’m afraid you need to make an ammendment to the 99% of women having to be helped to light the grill! To MAYBE 50%….NOW!

    I was taught from the age of at least five how to start a grill safely! When I moved into my first house I purchased a small table top grill…and I NEVER let any of the guys that came into my house touch it!

    I even had to teach my husband how to grill, and a couple of male friends too for that matter! When I’m home in Hickory, though, I am the only woman allowed to touch my Dad’s grill! I’m not even a professional chef!

    I’ve even taught several of my female friends how to start a grill. When the power goes out where I live now the neighbors come knocking because I have cast iron and can cook everything on the grill…ok so maybe 75% of women need help!

    But it is kinda fun to go to a backyard s Cookout, and the guys go in to get beer and the wife in charge comes out to ask if her hubby’s started the grill, and I smile let her know NO, but would she like to learn how to do it! HEHE…It’s started before the beer run is over, and most of the time stuff is on the grill when they get back! So the women know to have me around because they KNOW they won’t go hungry!

    Doesn’t hurt either that I’m a Navy wife! 🙂

    Jill Jackson

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