Ever since the caveman stumbled upon fire, there’s been a strong link between men and outdoor barbecuing.
In the ’50s, when meal preparation was considered “women’s work,” men were somehow in charge of flipping burgers over the fire. Today, although more families than ever divide domestic chores along non-sexist lines, most men still defend their territory around the grill.
“It’s a guy thing,” they say, an explanation that is generally met with tacit understanding.
But why ask why? Instead, let’s toast the guys who enjoy the thrill of the grill, as we trod into the height of barbecue season.
Some of our neighborhood grill masters were kind enough to share their barbecue secrets with us. Here are their hot tips.
- Mark Steiner does not believe in lighter fluid. He uses a charcoal starter instead (sold at Brookstone and Target). “It’s the easiest way to start a fire,” Steiner says.
The gizmo operates like this: Place the starter on a piece of aluminum foil. Crumple no more than two sheets of newspaper and set into the bottom of the grill. Then pile charcoal on top of the paper. Light the paper from below, and leave it alone. In 25 minutes, the coals are hot and ready to be spread.
Steiner says with the fire-starter, you avoid the residual taste of lighter fluid, as well as the danger of storing it and the expense of buying it.
- “The key to cooking a good piece of steak is to turn it only once during the grilling period,” Greg McFarland says. “Frequent turning dries it out.”
McFarland considers the ribeye “the king of steaks” and cautions against cutting off all the fat – “That’s where all the flavor is,” he says.
A frequent dove hunter, McFarland enjoys his kill on the grill. He stuffs breast of dove with jalapeno slices, wraps it with bacon and secures it with a toothpick.
“The bacon and jalapeno can stand up to the strong flavor of game,” he says.
- Russell May’s favorite marinade for grilled fish steaks (such as tuna or swordfish) isn’t home-made. But who cares, as long as it tastes good?
He buys Crab Bay-brand bottled marinade (sold at Simon David) and marinates the fish in it for two or three hours in the refrigerator. He cooks a one-inch thick steak for six minutes per side over very hot coals, turning them once. When the fish flakes with a fork, it’s done.
May says every one of his grill recipes calls for a six-pack of beer “to keep by the grill, not to put in the food.” Maybe that’s why guys like to grill so much.
I would like to dedicate this column to Gregory Forbes, an avid griller and generous neighbor who passed away in May. Last summer, Forbes grilled tirelessly for our first annual block party, a bring-your-own-meat affair. He was 40 years old. He is survived by his wife, Advocate columnist Ashley Forbes, and their four children.