BBQ Tips for Memorial Day

BBQ Tips for Memorial Day

BBQ season is officially here! Kick off summer this Memorial Day weekend with some awesome BBQ to share with family and friends. Master griller Chef J is back to share some important BBQ tips to make sure your weekend is as delicious as possible! Take it away, Chef J.

In my town, summer can fill people with dread. Temperatures will soon be in the mid-200s, leading to cranky, sweaty, dehydrated Phoenicians. On the other hand — there is a pool party every weekend, you can wear flip-flops anywhere, and BBQ. Sweet, smoky BBQ! This time of year is great for both those who have been eating salad all spring in anticipation of wearing a bathing suit, and those who just want an excuse to drink beer and eat meat.

We have already covered ribs and brisket in previous blogs. There are plenty of recipes floating around the internet and many more that have yet to be created, but let’s start with the basics.

Here are a few tips that can help novices confidently host their own backyard BBQ, and maybe even give the most hickory-seasoned pro an idea or two.

Meat

The best advice for any cook, especially a budding backyard gourmand, is “don’t mess it up!” That might sound a little too simplistic, but the truth is that most ingredients are pretty good on their own. The best thing you can do to a quality piece of meat is sprinkle a little salt and pepper on it and not burn it. Fancy spice rubs and secret family recipes are fantastic, but the star is the meat. If you have a good butcher shop in your town (and you probably do) talk to the experts about what they have. Fortunately there is a growing trend toward local, natural ingredients — this is good if you like to tell your friends about how socially-conscious you are, but it’s even better if you enjoy eating really delicious food. You might be surprised by what you find in a real butcher shop. At my local shop I can get locally raised, all natural meat for the same price or less than the junk available at the supermarket.

Fire

There is really no debate BBQ between gas or charcoal. Gas is efficient, cleaner burning, and faster. But charcoal is at least a million times better. If you want a clean, efficient, fast hamburger then you probably should eat a turkey sandwich. Smoke tastes good! Take the time to start a real fire. Hopefully you have access to a BBQ supply store that can help you pick out a charcoal or wood that add some authentic flavor to your food, otherwise there’s always the internet. Again, just like with all other ingredients, go for a more natural option. It’s not that hard to start a fire; you don’t have to buy briquets that are pre-soaked with lighter fluid. Take an old #10 can (like a giant coffee can), cut the top and bottom off with a can opener, place it on your grill, wad up an old grocery bag or some paper, put it in and light it on fire. Pile your charcoal or wood on top of that and in about 10-15 minutes you’ll have white-hot coals. There are a number of gadgets and products available to help you start your fire but try to avoid lighter fluid — it leaves behind a bad taste. If you are going to be BBQing something for a long time, like ribs or brisket, go with a milder wood like apple or pecan. If you want to add some smokey flavor to something that will only be cooking for a little while, like steak or burgers, try something bolder like mesquite or hickory.

Tools

Other than meat, fire, and something to contain it all, you will need a few other gadgets. Two good thermometers are important, especially if you are cooking things that require a slower and lower method — you want one to test the temp of the grill and one to test the meat. You will also want a pair of long-handled tongs; that giant fork that comes with all BBQ sets is not recommended since it will puncture the meat and cause it to lose juices. Get a heavy duty grill brush to keep things clean. Oh, and that coffee can method I told you about; there are fire starter cans that come with handles that are pretty handy to have around.

Patience

Grilling can be done relatively quickly, but real BBQ takes time. Beer and company help pass the time. If you are making ribs then be prepared for your day being spent at or around the pit. But patience is also required for even the smallest cut of meat. Letting your steak or burger rest for a few minutes after cooking and before eating or cutting will allow the meat to reabsorb the juices that are flowing around inside of it. If you cut a steak open right off of the grill it will lose all of it’s moisture — leaving you with a tough, dry dinner. Let your steaks rest for at least 5 minutes and let your brisket hang out for 20-30 before carving; keep them in a warm place, but not so hot that they over-cook.

The best part of any BBQ is the whole gang getting together, so don’t stress too much. Wanting to get everything right is one thing, but remember that a backyard cookout is about having fun with the people you care about! Ask mom to make her famous potato salad, put the beer on ice, skim the pool, and have a wonderful Memorial Day!

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