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Where there's smoke there had better be something good to eat.

posted Apr 17, 2012, 9:09 AM by Peter Burke   [ updated Apr 17, 2012, 9:10 AM ]
  In pryoblogs I may have mentioned my love affair with food.  So it's as good a time as any to rant about one of my favorite food mediums - the backyard barbecue.  Save the angry e-mails defending your favorite pit bbq on the back road in that small town that only the locals know about - I love them too.  This post is meant to praise the casual, amateur operation (amateur in the sense it's not for profit, not in the sense like grill chefs don't know what they are doing).  Also, I know there are technical differences between barbecuing and grilling, but I reserve the right to use the terms interchangeably.  I'm talking about the entire social experience of this mainstay summer spectacular.  
  I've a long history with outdoor cooking.  Between having a summer birthday and camping with the scouts, I was fortunate to learn proper fire safety.  Fire safety is immensely helpful when you want to be fire unsafe - like burning the grass out a brick walkway by spraying lighter fluid on the vegetation and applying a lit match.  Fire safety was important because we never had a propane grill, my dad was a charcoal man.  (This post isn't meant to tout charcoal over gas or vice-versa either, but I will speak from personal experience).  Charcoal requires a more hands-on setup, and either the addition of an accelerant or newspaper chimney, whereas propane is a bit more user friendly and kid/dog safe because hot coals cant spill out of an inadvertently bumped propane grill.  
  Some highlight grilling days coincide with holidays, as more family and friends tend to have those days off, adding fun into the mix.  4th of July is rather close to my birthday, so those always stand out.  Memorial Day is a launching pad into the busy summer months here, so that's always fun too.  Due to an oven failure one Christmas Eve, I was forced to fire up the grill in a non-typical winter month.  It was awesome to be outside by a fire only standing in a 3x3 shoveled haven, in crisp cold air, with my eyes watering not tears of joy but tears of smokey deflection.  This of course spawned a Christmas Eve tradition, and now the winter bbq is a planned event.  
  Holidays are not necessary, however, to justify outdoor cooking.  I fired up the grill for the first time last week, and oh how glorious it was.  Two different kinds of sausages, some basting in beer for a bit before cooking.  A little bit of steak, on the rare side of course.  Round 2 a few days later included some chicken and salmon.  I can't wait for corn to come into season, husk-on grilled corn is just a thing of beauty.  On occasion the housemates and I will make up a bundle of veggies in tin foil and toss them onto the coals under the grill, let them rock and roll there for a while, then pull them off when everything else has finished cooking.  
  I encourage everybody to fire up their grills asap, invite friends and family and me over, and send me all of your homemade marinade recipes.