Cueing Up The Taste
Celebrating National Barbecue Month
May 27, 2015 by Mark Dye
In some places of the country, barbecue season is now underway. (Of course, in places like Memphis, Kansas City, either Carolina, and most of Texas, it never ends!) Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a first-time grill master, there are several things to consider before you get started—and we even have some unique recipes to consider.
Is it even allowed?
If you rent, make sure you can even have a grill and, if so, what type. Some places might not allow charcoal grills, while others won’t allow any, so always check first before buying one so you don’t wind up with something you can’t use (or, worse yet, evicted for using it).
What type of grill?
There are several key types.
It’s also a good to go ahead and buy a cover no matter the type, as it’ll add years to the life to your grill.
- The kettle grill, popularized by Weber, is ubiquitous and easily the most common, as it’s a good all-around option. They are reasonably affordable and are a good choice for both rookie cooks and those with years of experience.
- Vertical smokers take up little room but can provide big flavor. They come in a wide-variety of styles, from water to straight charcoal to electric.
- Offset smokers are for more serious cooks, as they can take up quite a bit of space and require real wood to work properly (and that can get expensive).
- Pellet grills are the newest trend, and have some key advantages, such as quick heating time and minimal flare ups. The drawbacks: they require electricity to operate and are incredibly expensive (upwards of $4,000!).
- Liquid propane grills come in all shapes, sizes and price ranges, from smaller ones perfect for tailgating, to higher-end models costing a few thousand dollars. You will want to consider things like cooking area and warranty, along with other options that can add costs (e.g., some have metal “flavor bars” while others utilize ceramic tiles; either way, they will need to be replaced over time). Gas is also better if you tend to grill things like chicken or hamburgers, rather than barbecue food such as ribs or pulled pork.
The key to good grilling is to cook at a steady temperature throughout the process. Too hot and your food dries out; too cold and it might never get to the correct temperature. Controlling the temperature with a gas grill is easy (just turn the knob), but doing so with a charcoal grill can take some trial and error, as you’ll need to adjust the how open the vents are (more closed = cooler). Most gas grills also come with a built-in thermometer, while charcoal grills will require you to use Steven Raichlen's "Mississippi test."
You also want to have a meat thermometer to ensure your food is cooked correctly—a handy-dandy chart of what temperatures those should be can be found here.
What to cook?
There’s always the usual stuff for the grill, such as burgers, steak, ribs. But how about something different? You’ve got a twist to the standard PB&J, a barbecue chicken mac-n-cheese pizza, bacon with bacon and more bacon, and even fruit like watermelon. And for dessert, take it to a whole other level with Plankies—Twinkies covered with Nutella, crushed Oreos, some chocolate toffee, and marshmallows, then grilled on a wooden plank to sugar-high-inducing perfection. Basically, when it comes to grilling, never be afraid to try something new!
No matter what you cook, or what you cook it on, get out there and make the most of National Barbecue Month!