As we say goodbye to the chill of winter, the memory of summer starts to awaken; the sights, sounds and oh yes the aroma. Nothing says summer like family, a few friends and the smoky flavor from charcoal grills.
Although I have no proof, I’m sure this American tradition dates back to our early ancestors as they gathered around this new thing called fire with meat and stories about the hunt from winters past.
Well we’ve come a long way from hunting, gathering and rubbing sticks together to make fire. Grilling is an easy and enjoyable alternative to your stove top. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association estimates that 82% of North American households own a grill or a smoker, with charcoal grills being used 76% specifically for tailgating, which is the closest thing to hunting most of us do.
Now it is not as simple as lighting charcoal and throwing a slab of meat on that hot grill. “Grill masters” across the country all have their methods which include the use of rubs, marinates, foil, no foil, you name it there is a method for it and with the crop of cooking shows popping up on cable, there is no shortage of advice.
Whatever method you choose to enhance the flavor of your meal, from pre-cooking to using raspberry soda in your marinate, most agree on a few basic grilling tips:
1. Avoid using too much lighter fluid. Just because we don’t have to rub sticks together is no reason to show off and risk a serious burn.
2. Grill like your ancestors, outside. Use of charcoal grills in an enclosed area can expose you to harmful carbon monoxide.
3. Trim excess fat off meat and remove the skin from chicken before grilling. Yeah I know many find it tasty but it’s just not good for you.
4. Reduce the time on the fire. You can do this with smaller cuts of meat, pre-cooking and grilling fish, all of which take less time on the grill while still getting that great grill flavor.
5. Avoid the char. The overly well done meat of a char burger may taste great but isn’t so great for you. This also includes the charred material on your grill, so clean it regularly and oil it before use to avoid charred material from sticking to your food. Oiling is good because it also allows the meat to slide right off the grill without sticking.
Despite the risks of not following the tips above, grilling is still more beneficial than frying or cooking in a pan where the fat does not drip away. Plus as part of our outdoor tradition it’s usually associated with some activity beyond “Couch Potatoing.”
So clean up your charcoal grills and get your recipes and friends together for the start of the great American grilling season and enjoy.