Summer wouldn’t be summer without a fiery barbecue. The heat of the grill is what connects us to our cavemen ancestors, lovingly cooking a brontosaurus over open flames. As an experienced yet amateur barbecuer, I would like to share with you some of the pearls of wisdom that I have acquired.
Before getting started, I like to get some inspiration by watching other chefs on YouTube. Not caring that these chefs have superior equipment, better products, and carefully edited videos I psych myself into thinking that I will be the next Bobby Flay. To further get myself in the mood, I stare at the autographed photo of the “Boy” who once met “Grill” that hangs on my man cave wall and give it a confident thumbs up.
Let’s do this!
I gather my gear and head outside to get things started. When I open the BBQ cover I loudly curse myself for not previously cleaning the grill. Not to be persuaded, I decide to let fire take care of everything and light the grill. For a brief moment, I feel phantom pain as my eyebrows scream out in agony in memory of being burnt off when I was 10 and my dad decided it was a good idea for me to learn how to start up a propane BBQ for the first time. As the barbecue heats up, I gather any random piece of paper I can find and throw it on the grill to see if it will indeed burn at Fahrenheit 451 (Spoiler Alert: it does!)
With the BBQ heated up to a reasonable 500 degrees, I head inside to get the food and cooking instructions from my beautiful sous chef (aka my wife Vanessa). Vanessa hands me a plate of well-seasoned steaks and pork and veggie kabobs. I’m told that the steaks need a high temp to get a good sear and to drop the temp to low while the kebobs and pork should be at medium. I grab the plates of food while managing to pocket a couple of beers in order to stay hydrated.
I cook the food to the letter of the instructions I have been given. The steaks look beautiful and now need 3 minutes a side. The veggies are looking okay and the pork kebobs have lost all of the marinade but still look okay. I’ve cooked the steak but they still doesn’t appear to be done. To be sure, I flip them about 10 more times. The kebob sticks have caught fire so I try to keep the carefully cut yet dried out pieces together. The veggies have mostly burnt or fallen through the grill slats.
In the unrelenting heat, I am no longer Bobby Flay. I am a Beastie Boy lamenting that “The sun is beating down on my baseball hat. The air is getting’ hot, the beer is getting flat.”
As I am nearly complete cooking, I’m given a new challenge – another family is coming by in 20 minutes and they don’t care for our “fancy food”. I have been asked to cook chicken, hot dogs and corn. I manage to switch the first batch of food off the grill while getting the new stuff on. I get everything inside and grab another beer (hydration is very important).
When grilling chicken, the secret is to not kill people. I opt to cook the hell out of it as I cannot afford a lawsuit. With hot dogs you have to resign yourself to the fact that they will never taste as good as street dogs and you will most likely dry them out. Luckily, they aren’t made of real meat. With corn, I like to slather a lot of butter on them on the grill. The butter will melt and create a fiery hellscape in your barbecue.
At this point, the other family arrives which means that I will have a backseat barbecuer to question my grilling skills. Luckily, he has brought more beer. Thanks to the intensity of the sun and the heat of the barbecue plus the alcohol, I have now completely lost track of what I am doing. I have also lost some of my hand eye coordination which leads to a couple of wieners to fall off the plate. I am not discouraged. As Julia Child once said “If you ever drop your wiener and no one is looking, grasp it firmly in your hand and brush it off.” (It sounds much more proper when Meryl Streep says it).
Sighing in resignation, I decide that this is as good as it is going to get. The food is cooked and somewhat edible. I realize I will never have my own show on the Food Network (or even Food Network Canada). I shut off the gas and make a mental note to clean the grill later that night (Spoiler Alert: I won’t). I stumble inside and deliver the rest of the food.
At this point, the kids and adults have eaten the steak and corn and have praised me on how good of a job I have done.
Swallowing a last gulp of warm beer, I excuse myself for a moment so that I can freshen up in the basement. Entering dark and cold of my man cave, I sit down, give the autographed photograph of the Bobby Flay the finger, put my head in my hands and sob silently.
Happy barbecuing season everybody!
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