Sunday, June 21, 2009

Grillier Than Thou

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.


dan horwedel said...

Right on. We got rid of our gas grill several years ago and returned to charcoal too.

Cowtown Pattie said...

...mesquite or hickory chips and toss them on the charcoal, but that's hardly necessary for good barbecue.

Au contrare, mon pere!

Those important little chips are the secret to the BEST flavor.

And if you really want to impress, fill a ceramic or pottery dish/bowl (one that can withstand the heat and you don't mind getting smoked up) with a bottle of room temperature beer - preferably Shiner Boch or a dark stout, and set it on the grill next to your meat. No need to pore it over anything, the heat causes the beer to create a moist bath inside the grill.


Whisky Prajer said...

You're preaching to the choir, CP: I don't think you've lived until you've had a link of Mennonite farmer sausage that's been charcoal-steamed over a pan of German beer!

Cowtown Pattie said...