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BBQ Season – Another New Thing

June 9, 2013

May 19 2013: Date of our eagerly anticipated first barbecue of the year. Every home owner wants to barbecue, right? We’d failed rather miserably last year and gave up. This year, I was determined to succeed – because aren’t I an experienced camper? Haven’t I set, I mean built, a gazillion campfires and cooked over them? No measly kettle barbecue should defeat me! (oi, I hear the testosterone levels rising, and really mine aren’t supposed to be that high)

Steak DinnerAnyhow, fresh charcoal, fresh barbecue matches and some paper later… I did get it to start and it smoked like crazy, but eventually we did have roast potatoes and steak. But it took a looooong time. I think I was doing something wrong. Again, how different is a charcoal fire than a wood fire? Apparently, a whole lot different.

For some reason, I can prep and start a campfire in pretty quick fashion. And that’s with whatever wood happens to be handy.  I cannot (as yet) manage the same with charcoal.   It may just be that I don’t understand how a charcoal fire ‘works.’

Part of the problem may be that I didn’t want to use chemical starters. I don’t like the idea of using lighter fluid or even those starter bricks my dad used.  We’ve been trying hard to be more natural about everything we eat, including the way we cook. To this end, and to make my bbq-ing life easier, I investigated using natural wood.

I discussed the topic at length with a friend who is a bit of a grill king and determined that if I could, I would try natural wood chips that are sold for home-smoking purposes.  My friend had recommended mesquite, but I was even more fortunate when I went to purchase said wood chips and found a bag of hickory CHUNKS!

May 26, 2013: Armed with some fatwood sticks (just normal high pitch content pine) and my hickory chunks, I soon had a roaring fire… and lots of smoke. But best of all, it was wood. Now that is a fuel that I can comprehend.

I could tell when it was ready for my potatoes. I could blow up the flames (literally) and get a good sear on my steaks and the smoke did wonders for the flavour of both the meat and the packet of veggies I popped on the grill.  Total success.

The fire I produced with natural products burned better, although I admit I used up the leftover charcoal briquettes that were still in the kettle because I hate to waste anything.  It also started faster and burned hotter.  All big pluses.  But, like any good engineer, or totally impatient, hungry person – I continue to strive for faster prep.

As I said, I hate to waste anything and I have pretty much a whole bag of charcoal briquettes.  Another friend recommended something called a charcoal starter, something like this.  I did my research and decided not only was it do-able, but it was also do-it-yourself-able.  So that is my next project – a coffee can charcoal chimney.

I’ll let you know how that goes. After all, there’s a whole lot of summer left for bbq-ing, even here in Ontario.

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