By Dave Lobeck CNHI News Service
I think we are far enough into April so I can't jinx us by saying spring is here. Wow! Didn't that seem like a long winter?
As we enter the outdoor grilling and BBQ season, I thought I would compile a “Top 10 List” of things to get done to optimize this year. Why 10? TV host David Letterman does it and he seems to do fine it, so here goes.
1. Do not think of the outdoor cooking season as Memorial Day through Labor Day. Start cooking outdoors this weekend and make a commitment to keep the momentum up right through the holidays, and when I say “holidays,” I am referring to Thanksgiving and Christmas.
2. Take an objective look at your grilling equipment. Do you use a kitchen fork and a plastic Teflon spatula when you are cooking outdoors? If so, that's simply disturbing. Commit to some quality grilling utensils made of steel. All you really need is a nice spatula and a good set of tongs.
3. Commit to trying some different dishes this year. When the average person thinks of grilling, they envision hot dogs, hamburgers, steak and chicken. While those are delicious, try grilling vegetables. Or how about slow smoking a pork butt? Ever tried beer can chicken? Make 2013 your year to stretch your skills.
4. Use charcoal. I know, I know. Tex (my neighbor) gets frustrated that most of my columns deal with real charcoal grilling. I also have a gas grill, and I certainly appreciate its convenience on certain nights. But please, I beg of thee. Break out a real charcoal grill occasionally on the weekends.
5. Involve family and friends in the outdoor cooking process. The social side of outdoor cooking is almost as important as the end result. I would ask that you commit to involving your kids or grandkids. Pass on the legacy and art of outdoor grilling and barbecue.
6. Cut it thick. If you are going to grill pork chops and steaks this year, make a commitment to talk to the butcher and order them properly. Don't buy the family pack that is so thin you can almost read a newspaper through the cuts of meat. Get the steaks and chops cut to at least one inch thick, and buy them “bone in.” Too thick? Hey, you don't have to eat the entire steak or chop. Split it with someone. This isn't rocket science.
7. Set aside one weekend each month to master the art of indirect grilling and smoking. This takes time, but the end result is absolutely delicious. Use this set up to make pulled pork or ribs. Also, this is very helpful when cooling those one-inch plus sized chops and steaks.
8. Experiment and make your own rubs and sauces. Google it. It's easy and you control the flavors.
9. Diversify your charcoal and woods. If you commit to occasionally using charcoal, experiment with different charcoals and different woods. Apple, hickory, mesquite and pecan are great woods to start with.
10. Simply put, read. Obviously you are reading this column, and by the way, thank you for that.
But in addition to this piece, there are great books out there on the topics of grilling, smoking and making fantastic barbecue. It's great reading material.
I wish you the very best grilling season. And again, it starts right now and continues till Christmas.
Yep, I'm serious!
Dave Lobeck is a barbecue chef from Sellersburg, Ind., who writes a column for CNHI News Service. Visit his website at www.BBQ-My-Way.com.