The Yankees’ Guide to Grilling

30 08 2018

Recently, I asked a Yankee friend of mine if he had plans for the Labor Day weekend. He said after he finished “mowing the lon and washing the cah,” he was planning to have family over for a “bahbecue.” If one couldn’t already tell by his Bostonian brogue, then a strong clue he was from the North was when he referred to this coming backyard bash as a barbecue. Still reeling from the barbecue misnomer, the telltale was when he said he would be putting his barbecue away for the season.  I asked him what season. “Bahbecue season,” he replied. I cringed. This was wrong in so many ways; I felt sorry for this culturally-challenged transplant and decided he needed help. If you plan to live in the South then you need to learn the lingo. As they say, “When in Rome…” So, for those above the Mason-Dixon Line and west of El Paso, who want to blend in, here is the guide to help you understand the art of the grill.

 

The Grill: First of all, let’s get the terminology correct. In the South, it’s called a grill, not a barbecue. And, it’s called grilling, not barbecuing. Barbecue is not a device on which you cook meat; it IS the meat after having been properly treated with your favorite sauce. The grill was invented for the purpose of cooking meat- meat which one coats with a dry rub of top-secret spices or slathers with sauce. It was not created for cooking Brussels sprouts, cream of wheat, or potato gnocchi. Meat!

 

The Gathering: Similarly, a barbecue is not a gathering of your closest friends for backyard drinks and ribs. Call it a party. Call it a get-together. Call it a congregation of your social network, but don’t call it a barbecue. Nothing screams Yankee louder than asking Bubba and Bubbette to come over for a barbecue Saturday night.

 

The Season: There is no barbecue season. There is a football season. There is hunting season. There is even grass cutting season and the farther north you live, the shorter the season. But the grill is like a calendar…it’s to be used year round regardless of where you live.

 

Yankees will hover for hours over a hole in the ice to catch a fish. They’ll sit all Sunday afternoon in a blowing snow with their favorite team’s logo painted on their bare chest. And yet, they can’t stand in the backyard for 20 minutes to cook a steak? I have shoveled six inches of snow out of my grill so I could cook chickens. I have stood on the deck cooking steaks when the temperature was 11 below. I have stood under an umbrella in the middle of a thunderstorm (not my brightest moment) to cook burgers, so this thing about cold and snow means nothing. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Man-up and light the coals.

 

The Fuel: Fuel of choice in the South is charcoal. It is permissible to use gas when short on time or if you run out of charcoal. But charcoal, newspaper and a chimney (or lighter fluid) make up your charcoal starting A-team. That means, you need two grills or a grill that allows you to use either gas or charcoal.

 

The Foil: Rookie mistake number one is to cover the grill top with aluminum foil. Sure, it makes clean-up a breeze, but, you’re blocking the smoke from getting to the meat. The meat gets its flavor when fat drips onto the hot

That’s not grilling. That’s frying!

glowing coals and the smoke that wafts through the neighborhood rises to envelop the meat. Don’t cover that grill top with aluminum foil. And don’t buy one of those grill mats, copper or otherwise. Those things are intended for suckers who don’t want to have to clean the gratings on the grill. You may as well throw those steaks in a frying pan. If you’re too lazy to clean the grill top once in a while then you should probably just sell your grill and make friends with someone who owns a grill or plan to spend a lot of time at Smokey Bones.

 

The Sauce: Sauce is personal. It is the one variable in grilling, other than the meat selection. You might want your ribs naked or you might prefer them to be drenched in a heavy layer of smoke-flavored sauce. Your sauce of choice might be a ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based sauce. But the thing to understand about sauce-in fact, the cardinal rule of sauce is, it cannot come from a bottle. You need to create your own signature sauce. Until you do, you can fake it by discretely pouring bottled sauce into a bowl or Mason jar so your guests will at least think it’s your own creation. Don’t forget to hide the empty bottle! Don’t have a Mason jar? No worries, any jar will do. You can use an empty mayonnaise jar (preferably Duke’s), salsa jar or peanut butter jar. For low-viscosity sauces such as a vinegar-based, a wine or liquor bottle works best. That way, you can control the amount of sauce you are dispensing by holding your thumb over the opening as you pour or sprinkle over the meat. An empty Makers Mark might be a bit pretentious but still not a bad choice. Warning: If using a wine bottle, avoid Sangria or anything from Little Black Dress or Moscato and other chick wines. Stick with something such as Gnarley Dude or Mad Dog.

 

You should also understand that a good steak can stand on its own; it doesn’t need to be bathed in sauce. Now, I like the flavor of A-1 as much as the next guy but save the A-1 for when you get cornered into eating something totally unpalatable such as when your host serves you scrapple with roasted Brussels sprouts. See: https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/internet-recipes-yech/. To mask the flavor of a good rib eye with a sauce is a sacrilege.

 

Following these tips will not make you a grilling expert, but at least you won’t stick out like a giraffe at a possum convention. Happy grill’n, ya’ll!

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One response

30 08 2018
Jerry Taylor

Amen. When do we eat?

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