Barbecue novice? Classes are no substitute for experience. Take a few pointers and dive in.
I tend to not argue with folks with Arkansas toothpicks in their hands. So I keep my big mouth shut at barbecues.
It’s like anything else. It draws you in, captivates you and you cannot get enough cool gear. Then you go to barbecue school, read a dozen cookbooks and you have it, a natural-born barbecue expert.
Oh, and the food is toasted black, the burgers look like hockey pucks, the ribs are Chernobylized. People pick at their plates, wondering if it’s pork or chicken or perhaps leather.
Oh well. My wife gives me that look to keep my big mouth shut — whup puppy barbecue (defined below).
Well, remember that hawg died to please you. It deserves some respect. But mainly, barbecuing is an excuse to sit around a suburban campfire (your grill), consume beer and talk about all the freakin’ good barbecue you’ve eaten.
Pity the poor cook. This is his or her barbecue debut, first time before a live audience. The terror is magnified by the alcohol. The grill won’t light.
OK, Plan B: Pray that Kennedy Barbecue is open.
Let’s fast forward a decade. You’re now mature enough to realize experience beats education every time. You’re not going to any more barbecue lectures and cannot stand another bite of Bobby Flay.
You’re out there with confidence, juggling chicken breasts on the burner, keeping an eye out for the telltale signs of doneness or lack thereof.
You plate your hawg and bird, stand back and watch faces disappear behind the meat. If they lick their fingers, you’ve arrived, a cattywampus barbecue cook. Your rapture level soars. It’s a home run in the ninth inning with the bases juiced. You may be bad at everything else, but if you’re good at barbecue, you’re going to heaven.
The inexperienced nuss the meat, a combination of fussing and nursing it at the same time. The key to barbecue is not how often you flip it, it’s knowing when to flip it and only do it once.
I’ve had fruity barbecue, whiskey barbecue and citrus barbecue -- all lamentable. The inexperienced search for the magic sauce that solves all problems. It has to be the sauce, right? Well, not exactly. Sauce is good, but we’re cooking meat, not sauce. Smothering good meat with an aggressive sauce is a crime in some states.
Remember the extras. Sometimes we get so busy nussing the hawg that we forget the fixins.
Most important: Relax already. If the cook is not having a good time, nobody is.
Chillin' for a grillin': A barbecue glossary
Grilling: In the Americas, cooking above heat. In Europe, cooking below heat. In Australia, cooking down under heat.
Hawg: A porcine that gives his life for our pleasure, also a grill brush made from hawg bristles.
Drunken: Anything smothered with a beer-based barbecue sauce, including your cook.
Heap: A whole lot of something including charcoal, coleslaw and “We’re in a heap a hungry”
Burn it: To barbecue, “Burn me a rib.”
Burner: A barbecue grilling apparatus, the focal point of all suburban patios and decks; an unsure cook who overcooks everything.
Hush puppies: Fried globs of cornmeal tossed to dogs or riotous barbecue crowds to shush them.
Nussed: Barbecue that’s constantly fussed over or nursed.
Arkansas toothpick: A large grill fork.
Bowed up: A pack of hungry folks anticipating food salvation, “all bowed up to eat.”
Cattywampus: Excessively excellent, perfection. “That’s barbecue cattywumpus.”
Fixins: Any stuff that goes along with barbecue, hopefully edible.
That dog won’t hunt: A weak grill fire not hot enough to do anything.
Hunkey-dorey: The grill fire is perfect, finally.
Reckon: A thought process combined with a guess, “I reckon it’s done.”
Nearabout: Almost-ready grill, almost-done barbecue, but not quite.
Right: More definite than reckon or nearabout, “Everybody sit, it’s right near done.”
Skeedadling: Moving the grill out of the rain without burning down your garage.
Whup puppy: Barbecue that falls off the grill, captured by your dog, accidentally or on purpose.
Your druthers is my ruthers: Name your preference.
Groaner: A massive barbecue where everybody chows down big time.
Slap your pappy: Pat your stomach after a groaner, a supreme compliment to the chef.
SIMPLEST BARBECUE CHICKEN
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup beer
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
Simmer the above for 10 minutes. Cool and pour into a food plastic bag. Add four washed chicken breasts and marinade at least three hours in the refrigerator. Barbecue over gray coals about 20 minutes per side, depending on fire.
SIMPLEST SEAFOOD BARBECUE
1 pound sea scallops
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced in rings
1 onion, sliced
juice of 3 limes
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
freshly ground pepper
Slice pepper and onion and skewer. Wash scallops. Melt butter with garlic and sugar. Off heat and mix in lime juice and pepper.
Marinate scallops for an hour, remove and drain and place of skewers.
Grill the vegetables first, about 10 minutes to the side. Grill the scallop skewers about four minutes to the side. Note: Scallops are easily overcooked. They need to be cooked just through.
CHEESE STUFFED BAKERS
4 baking potatoes
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons chives or parsley
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
Dash of paprika
Pierce potatoes with a fork and bake for an hour at 350 degrees. Remove and cool slightly, then slice in half widthwise. Scoop out each shell and place potato in a bowl. Add butter, sour cream, , chives or parsley, milk and salt and pepper. Mix with a potato masher and mound up in each skin. Top with cheese and paprika. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until potatoes are rewarmed and the cheese is melted.