Memorial Day weekend is almost here. That means it’s almost grilling season — a time to fire up the backyard barbecue, whether it’s fueled by charcoal briquets, hardwood, or propane.
The term “barbecue” sometimes causes some confusion. Barbecue as a genre of food is meat cooked — and smoked — long and slow over indirect heat. It’s a specialty of Texas and the Southeast, and is some of the most appealing food in America. It also takes patience (barbecue typically cooks for many hours) and is best done with a smoker or a grill adapted to the purpose.
No less appealing, though in a different way, is food cooked ON a barbecue — the term most of us use to describe the kettle grill or hibachi or outdoor gas appliance or suchlike on which we cook burgers and hot dogs, steaks and fish, and just about anything else we can. It may be primitive but it’s an immensely satisfying method of preparing food. Unlike barbecue, food grilled this way is usually cooked over direct heat and takes a matter of minutes.
Grilling is a very simple method of cooking, but as with so many simple things, it takes experience to get right. Culinary professionals who grill a lot — including, though hardly restricted to, those who run the best celebrity chef steakhouses in America — can help all of us learn, or remember, the basics. (If you prefer steak, here are 10 crucial mistakes not to make when cooking steak at home.)
24/7 Tempo solicited backyard barbecue advice from seven grilling experts from around the country: noted chefs James Wayman of Oyster Club, Grass & Bone, and The Engine Room in Mystic, Connecticut; Norman Van Aken of Norman’s in Orlando and Ad Lib in Coral Gables, Florida; and Robert Del Grande of Café Annie and The Grove in Houston; Myron Mixon of Unadilla, Georgia, author of “BBQ&A with Myron Mixon” and so-called “winningest man in barbecue” for his many competition victories; New York-based specialty food consultant Raymond Hook; and Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton of The Canal House, a cookbook publishing, photography, and design studio in Milford, New Jersey.
Not every tip given is applicable to every situation, but they add up to a valuable guide to summertime outdoor cooking.