Summer is officially here and the outdoor cooking season is in full swing. I can smell it now. The flame-cooked burgers, hot dogs, sausages, chicken, steaks and whatever else you can think of to cook over an open fire! Can you? Inhale deeply. That smell you smell. That’s charred flesh my friend!! There isn’t anything like it! Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin. How embarrassing!
Being a country boy, I learned early the fine flavor of charred meat. I was a member of the Boy Scouts and we camped often. With camping, comes campfires and campfires do more than provide light and warmth. They cook meat!! There is nothing like a steak thrown on hot, maple coals. Ohhhh the flava!! Excuse me, the drool is back.
Where was I now? Oh yes, charred animal flesh. Like I said, being a country boy I loved cooking outdoors and for most of my life I did. Because my family did not have much money, we cooked over charcoal. There were times when the charcoal ran out and I’d cut up some of the firewood for winter and cook over it in the grill. Imagine cherry, maple and apple all flavoring your meat. All is well there’s no drool this time, I have a few cotton balls stuck in my mouth.
Then one day I go to my neighbor’s house for a visit (we do that sort of thing in the country) and lo and behold there’s a new-fangled gas grill. Suffice to say I was in awe!!! The cave man came out and I immediately thought – ‘Cook charred flesh faster!’ Oh the joy! So, somehow we managed to get a gas grill, a cheap one, and I began to grill on it. I was in wonder at the speed at which you could cook the flesh! We all know half the cooking time for charcoal is getting the charcoal lit and to temp. But then I tasted it.
WHERE’S THE FLAVOR?! All I tasted was propane and it wasn’t very tasty. Yes, I know, you say, “Well with charcoal all you taste is the lighter fluid.” I never did because I never used it. Boy Scout here, remember? I know how to start fires! 😀 So the next time I grilled I used some flavored wood chips. Still wasn’t working. What does a country boy do?
Fast forward to the day the propane ran out and I went back to using charcoal and wood. Major celebration!!
You see gas grilling or “Grillin” as it’s called leaves out one of the most important parts of cooking outside, the smoke! I know you can buy wood chips to release a smoky flavor into the meat but it’s just not the same. It still has a funny propane flavor to it no matter what anyone says. Now BBQin’, well that’s just better. Low and slow is the way to go! Charcoal burns slower and more evenly than gas and releases a much better flavor, especially if you use real wood charcoal and no lighter fluid.
So where does North vs. South come in? Well, when I came to South Carolina I was suddenly inundated with BBQ joint after BBQ joint. Literally, there seems to be one on every corner! They are not all equal and definitely don’t all taste the same but the best of them do have one thing in common. They use real wood and low temperatures for a long time to cook the flesh! Whereas in the North, you will see very few BBQ joints and mainly gas grills. They want the food quick and in a hurry.
For this country boy from the North, (is that an oxymoron?) it’s BBQ all the way! Low and slow is the way to go! Nothing beats the flavor and the tenderness!
Remember, time makes all things better.
This week’s recipe:
BBQed Meatloaf: Yes, you heard me right!
- First off make your favorite Meatloaf recipe and form it into a loaf in a well-greased cast iron frying pan. If you really want to add some serious flavor, cover it in bacon or baste it with BBQ sauce as it cooks or do both!!
- Next place it on a charcoal grill slightly to the side of the direct heat and cover.
- Let cook for about 4 hours checking and turning it periodically to make sure it’s not sticking or burning.
- You may have to adjust the airflow in order to adjust the temp.
- After 4 hours make sure it’s done and remove from the grill and let stand 5 minutes.
- Slice, serve and enjoy!! But please don’t slap your momma!
- Summer Barbecue Savings: Eating Outdoors Shouldn’t Eat at Your Wallet (socialcouture.typepad.com)
- 7 Common Grilled Chicken Mistakes (optimumnutrition.wordpress.com)
- What BBQ Charcoal Should You Use? (esquire.com)