How To Barbecue Like A Man… Without Burning The Food
Let’s face it, if there’s one thing we men can do well, it’s turn a perfectly good cut of meat into something more akin to a chargrilled briquette. We blame the barbecue, the accessories, the sun… we even blame the women and children; but, in reality, it’s more likely due to the excess of alcohol, the meter-high flames caused by piles of charcoal interspersed with packets of firelighters. It could be the wandering attention span, the insistence that absolutely anything can be barbecued or, dare we say it, plain cooking inadequacy.
There may even be one or two of us that are just too concerned with ensuring that we don’t give guests food poisoning – if it’s black on the outside, there’s no way it can be harboring bacteria and germs inside, right?
Start With The Basics
Probably the biggest reason that some men struggle with grilling food on the barbecue is cooking inexperience. There’s something about a barbecue that encourages even the most kitchen-shy of men to don an apron, grab the tongues, and start throwing slabs of meat on the rack.
If you’ve never cooked a rack of ribs or spatchcocked a chicken in the confines of your own kitchen, then there’s a good chance you won’t master it first time on the barbecue. There are better tasting and more adventurous dishes than burgers and sausages, for sure, but if you want to get a better handle on the whole grilling experience then start from the basics and gradually work your way up.
Also, make sure you’ve got at least the basic tools and accessories that you need. Trying to use half a burned wooden skewer to turn your steaks over isn’t going to end well, and you will suffer the inevitable food loss that occurs when meat slips between the bars of the grill. Accessories are one area where you don’t have to live by convention – buy unusual spatulas, go crazy with your apron, but do make sure that you’ve got them.
When It Comes To Flames, Bigger Isn’t Necessarily Better
It’s all too easy to get dragged into the ethos that bigger is better, especially when it comes to the basal activity of building fire. Short of hunting buffalo and trapping rabbits to make your own meat feast, there are few things as manly as making fire. However, you don’t need to scare wild animals away with a fire that will burn bright throughout the evening. In fact, if flames are licking around the burgers then you’ve still got a lot of waiting before you’re ready to start cooking.
With a charcoal barbecue (because “real men” barbecue with coal, after all) you should wait for the coal to go grey before you even start to put the meat on.
Gas May Be A Better Option Than Charcoal
We all know that charcoal barbecues are more authentic. They conjure up mental images of smoked meat and chargrilled steaks. They give off a wonderful aroma that simply can’t be matched by a gas barbecue, right? While this might be true in some cases, an out-of-control charcoal barbecue is a completely different story. Plumes of black smoke, the smell of burning flesh, tears streaming down your face, children crying from the searing heat that is being generated on the other side of the
garden, and the neighbors complaining because you didn’t give them chance to bring in their now-blackened washing from the line, could be the harsh reality that you face when you stoke the embers.
There are alternatives, and while no erstwhile barbecue chef will use an electric grill, because you might as well just drag the hob from the kitchen into the yard, gas does provide a viable solution.
You have greater control over the size of the flames and the cooking temperature. You don’t need to endure pillars of smoke, but you can add smoking chips which burn off and give the authentic smoked charcoal barbecue taste, and gas is a more reliable fuel than firelighter and charcoal that offers more uniformity in the heat that it provides.
If you can’t get a handle on charcoal, then it’s time to bite the bullet and buy a good quality gas barbecue. They don’t have to a cost a fortune, unless you want them to, because you can choose from a varied selection of Weber barbecues and other well-known brands to get the grill you want.
More Than Meat
When most of us, and especially hunter gatherer men, think of a barbecue, they think of steaks, burgers, sausages, and even racks of rib. It’s worth remembering, though, that meat isn’t the only ingredient in a typical diet. Potatoes can be baked, grilled, or even roast, and if you learn to master the foil wrap parcel, you can cook pretty much any vegetable you want on a barbecue. In fact, you can even wrap a whole banana, still in its skin, and cook it in the embers or around the edge of the briquettes, to create a gooey banana dessert.
Not Everything Tastes Better With A Chili Glaze
We all have our own “secret” chili glaze recipe. Or so we like to think, but most basically consist of finding the hottest sauces, glazes, marinades, and raw chilies we can find, dumping them into a bowl and mixing them around a bit. If we’re really stuck, we can even use chili powder and call it a rub. It’s worth remembering that not everybody will feign amazement while eating food that is literally soaked in chili sauce, and it’s also worth remembering that salmon and monkfish (a great addition to skewers because it doesn’t flake and fall apart) tastes superb on its own merit, while peaches and bananas simply weren’t designed for that kind of abuse.
It’s true that barbecues require a source of heat, most include creating some form of fire, and the majority incorporate at least two forms of meat dish or, preferably a host of bacon themed foods. However, it’s also true that the best barbecues tend to be those that combine these key ingredients with the equally important touch of finesse. Try it, you might be surprised by the results.