4 tips for springtime grilling

Spring has officially sprung, the birds are chirping, the moles have returned to form their own underground condo (don’t ask) and my thoughts are preoccupied with baseball, golf and barbecue. Ever since the caveman took a look outside and decided this was the day to slap some brontosaurus ribs on the fire, char them until they are burnt beyond recognition, and not invite the slobs in the next cave, barbecue has evolved into a delicious way to celebrate nice weather, fatty meat and mystery sausages.

I love to grill. It’s been passed down from my father to me, the love of taking some decent steaks, juicy chicken and burgers to new heights of taste. Dad could cook anything, from barbecue chicken on 30-foot-long spits, to manning the grill at home for four ravenous boys. (Please don’t write in telling me the difference between grilling and barbecue. Or that only in Texas do they know barbecue. It’s snobbish and untrue.) Anyway, Dad could cook and he passed that love of cooking over an open flame to me.

When the traditional tongs were passed to me, I still had to learn on my own how to properly cook food so it would not only be tasty, but not kill people who just ate it. Steaks and burgers seemed simple enough. Medium heat, and when the juices run clear it’s probably done. Hot dogs and sausages had their own timer. When the outside casing started to split, it was ready to scarf.

Chicken, on the other hand, took me some time to master. I burned more than I served, and was damn lucky nobody died from some bird I thought was done. I got smart and started using a digital thermometer, kept turning the chicken so it wouldn’t burn, and finally made it a rule that as long as Mr. Cluck was on my grill, I would never leave it unattended. I found out that chicken is a fickle food, and left alone it will burn faster than you can say “who wants more potato salad?”

So here now for the first time are some tips to make your next barbecue a tasty treat. And hopefully no food poisoning.

1. See that BBQ fork that comes with the set you got for Christmas? Throw it out. Why do they include one of these in every set? Don’t poke, prod, or pierce your food unless you want all its’ natural juices to drain away leaving that $15.00 rib eye you just bought tasting like a Duralog. Juice equals flavor.

2. Season both sides of the food. I hate a burger that tastes great on one side and the other side is, well, just the other side.

3. Don’t overcook your food. Make sure it’s done yes, but lately there has been a trend in the fast-food industry to cook the food till no possible organism could survive, then cook it some more. Cook it till it’s done, then use a thermometer to check it. Don’t rush the cooking; low and slow is always the best method. Remember, your food shouldn’t taste like the Clowns, it should be better.

4. Finally, whether using charcoal or gas, keep a fire extinguisher close by. It’s good sense. A trip to the emergency room might make your barbecue more memorable, but it will take away some of the fun. Trust me on this one - my eyebrows eventually did grow back.

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