Outside Barbecues; a return to the Original

Outside barbecues remind us of simpler times; hot summer afternoons, family and friends, smoky backyards and Dads fussing over hot grills and roasting meat. Barbecue is a return to our ancient primal roots; fire and meat. Cooking outdoors is a perfect way to bring families together and create warm traditions and memories. Whether you’re grilling simple burgers or barbecuing a whole pork shoulder, there are a few basics Dads should keep in mind for a fun, stress free, outside barbecue.

Fire by Charcoal
The difference between using that old charcoal grill you keep in the garage or a fancy gas grill-master is convenience and flavor. The gas grill will give you an adjustable fire and is easier to clean but the charcoal grill is honest and true to authentic outside barbecue and much more fun. Charcoal comes in all varieties and flavors like hickory or mesquite. Stick with the standard charcoal and use lighter fluid but always follow the instructions on the bag. The hickory or mesquite are good for slow-cook smoky barbecue like pork shoulder but should be added to a standard charcoal fire in minimal quantity as the taste can be overpowering. For a good even fire you want to use a decent amount of charcoal. Your basic charcoal should be lit and ready in 30-45 minutes. Avoid fast lighting varieties that can add a faint fuel smell to your food.

Keep it simple
There is a whole industry devoted to convincing you otherwise with all types of superfluous gadgets, cooking implements and gourmet marinades. Avoid the unnecessary and use the money you save for the food. The same attitude works for almost anything you barbecue on the grill; steaks, chicken, pork, fish or vegetables. Avoid a lot of poking, moving, and especially pressing them into the grill, this will release all of the flavorful juices and often dry out your food. Let the meat cook. Covered, slow-cooked barbecue (like pulled pork shoulder) is all about the smoke. Marinades are terrific for lower quality supermarket meat and can help infuse flavor and tenderness. Go online, find a recipe and make your own (oil, vinegar and garlic are the base for most store bought varieties). Keep some unused marinade to brush over meat as it cooks. For finer cuts of meat or fresh fish from your local butcher or fishmonger, better to let the taste come through and use just a little oil or butter. Vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, peppers, summer squash and local sweet corn are delicious off the grill. Cut thick slices, add salt, pepper and brush with olive oil, they cook very fast so keep a close watch on those. Local sweet corn is a different matter. Keep the husk on but remove silk, soak the ears in salt water for ten minutes and put them directly on the grill, away from any flame ups. Roll them often to avoid burning, they don’t take more than 2 or 3 minutes depending on how hot your fire is.

Have Fun
Outside barbecues bring families and friends together and while they may or may not remember the food specifically, it’s the laughter, the closeness, the sharing and the fun of those barbecues. Cook what you cook best and have a game plan so you don’t end up with a lot of hungry folks salivating around the grill with anticipation. Be sure and have the the kids gather sticks before dusk to roast marshmallows over the simmering coals for s’mores when the fireflies come out. Outside barbecue isn’t just about food, it’s about the fond memories shared with the people you care most about.