Celebrate summer and thank our veterans with your first barbecue of the season this Memorial Day Weekend! Even if you’ve never grilled before, cooking with fire is a great way to impress your friends, family and neighbors. Today I’ll show you how to light the perfect fire, grill mouth-watering burgers, chicken and ribs, and finally prepare coleslaw and grilled peaches – staples at barbecues across the country.
Gas grills are great for convenience – it’s easy to light and adjust heat levels. If you’re looking to impress your friends and family go for charcoal – it burns hotter and more consistently and is the only way to get that perfect crust. Add some flavor by throwing in a handful of mesquite.
Whichever method you choose, the secret to great grilling is having a hot zone and a cool zone in your grill. Start off your meat in the hot zone to give it a delicious char and sear in the flavor – then transfer it to the cool zone to let the interior cook without burning the exterior. If you’re using a gas grill set one end on High/Medium-High and the other end on Medium/Medium-low. If you’re using charcoal wait until the flames die down and the coals burn a glowing, dusty orange, then arrange the coals so that one side is low and that on the other side the coals reach 3-6 inches below the grilling surface. This way you’ll have a spectrum of heat to work with, perfect if you’re going to be grilling different kinds of meat – burgers, chicken and ribs, for example.
Chicken is a perennial grilling staple, but many people simply slather on sweet barbecue sauce and call it done. Instead start by tossing your chicken in a dry rub (salt, pepper, cayenne, garlic powder, etc. – this recipe is a personal fave). Cook the chicken skin-side down over medium heat (in the middle of your grill) for about 6 minutes or until the skin is crisp, then flip and cook for another 6 minutes. Slide the chicken over to the cool zone, brush on your favorite sauce and close the cover so the inside cooks through. Flip and sauce once or twice. Let breasts cook for about 25 minutes – longer for dark meat.
Can you have a barbeque without burgers? I’m not sure. For best results, make your own patties. If you can find it, use freshly ground chuck – you want beef with 20% fat content to give you a juicy flavorful burger. Season the meat with salt and pepper and make thick patties – not bulbous ones. You want burgers that fall apart in your mouth, not hockey pucks, so pack the patties loosely and never press down with a spatula.
Impress the whole block with delicious grilled ribs. Although technically not barbecued unless you throw them in a barrel smoker, no one but barbecue purists will care where your fall-off-the-bone ribs came from. Coat both sides of the ribs with dry rub (see link above) and let them sit. Put them in a cookie tray, pour in some water and seal tightly with foil. Stick ‘em in a 300-degree oven: 2 hours for baby back ribs, 3-4 hours for spareribs. Place the ribs bone side down over medium heat. Flip ‘em after 5 minutes and brush with sweet BBQ sauce. Keep flipping and brushing till they’re crispy.
Peaches and coleslaw
Eat some veggies with your meat! Shred some cabbage and carrots in a food processor or on a mandolin. If you’re lazy, cheat and buy pre-shredded cabbage – the secret is in the dressing. Combine a cup of mayo, 2 tablespoons of vinegar, a tablespoon of Dijon, a tablespoon of celery seed, a teaspoon of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the cabbage and refrigerate.
Nothing says summer like a peach – and you’re going to be grilling them, too! Look for fresh peaches on the firmer side. Once you’ve heated some butter in a saucepan set it aside and throw in a dash of vanilla and a pinch of brown sugar. Brush this mixture on the flesh side of halved peaches. Stick ‘em flesh-side down in the cool zone and turn after about 5 minutes. You don’t want the skin to char or blister so remove ‘em after 2 or 3 minutes. They’re done when easily penetrated by a fork. Serve immediately with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
I just drooled on my computer.