It's Father's Day, so let's talk a little about barbecuing.
My wife has been hanging with a video crew from Australia. One of their more popular side projects was a whimsical series on how to barbecue. The producer said, “We just got weary of eating lousy barbecue, so . . . see a need, fill a need.” My wife watched a few of these instructional snippets and admitted they were clever.
“If you want the entire series I can load it onto your computer,” said Producer-Man.
“Is the series strictly about gas barbecues?” asked my wife.
“Yeah. Why? What do you use?”
“We use charcoal.”
“Charcoal? Whatever for?”
Said my wife, “Well, it's all about the flavor, isn't it?”
Yes, that is indeed what it's all about. And perhaps I should be reticent about enlarging my carbon footprint and endangering my family's health with carcinogen-infused meats and vegetables. But if it's all about the flavor, it must be said: nothing imparts flavor like charcoal.
I bought this Weber drum 11 years ago. I clean it every spring, and use it once or twice a week in the summer. It couldn't be simpler to use — pile the briquettes on an electric starter, plug in for 10 minutes, wait another 15 or so for the pile to reach a white heat, then spread 'em and start grilling. If I'm in an exotic mood I'll soak some mesquite or hickory chips and toss them on the charcoal, but that's hardly necessary for good barbecue.
On the downside, charcoal requires a little more forethought than a gas range does. If you're a dual-income family on the scramble between soccer and softball practices, you'll probably opt for frozen patties searing over propane flames. But even so, a little planning can go a very long distance, and a charcoal drum is a simple, inexpensive indulgence during a pleasurable weekend. If you doubt me, just ask my daughters who makes the best hamburgers in town. The patties are usually ground pork, with a little salt and pepper. But now you know my secret ingredient: charcoal flame.