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Tuesday, March 04 2008

Winter weather in most of the south will usually not interfere with a good backyard barbecue. Most of us don't have to be concerned with sweeping snow off the grill in order to burn a steak. Our biggest challenge in the first cookout of the year is dusting the spiders and crickets out of the charcoal tray.

If you'll be using charcoal and a liquid lighter, know what kind of accelerant you're going to be pouring on those briquettes. It's not the volume of the whoooomp you hear when you light the fire that determines whether you coals will burn evenly or not.

Be wise and never use gasoline, lacquer thinner, lantern fuel and any of the highly combustible solutions you can buy at the paint store. Any of those can light up the night like a roman candle, and you with it. Pay the extra dollar and stick with charcoal lighter even though its fragrance may linger on the meat you're cooking.

Kerosene is another flammable liquid to avoid; not because of its ability to start a fire but because it will really stink up your food. It's a slow burner and no matter how long you let your briquettes flame, those barbecued ribs and T-Bones will taste like kerosene. It's best to stay with fuels that won't stink up the food.

The best method I've found for lighting charcoal is the chimney starter. They're basically metal cylinders with holes near the bottom for ventilation. There's a grate in the bottom of the chimney that holds charcoal. All you have to do is stuff newspaper under the grate, light it and watch the flames attack the briquettes. In just a minute the charcoal will be burning with no aroma of petrochemicals in the air.

I use my electric smoker if I'm cooking something larger than a steak or pork chops. Through experience I've learned to make sure the lava rocks in the heating pan are dry! Most folks will have stored their smoker in the garage or on the porch during winter, but if they have been left outside, they'll usually have water in the bottom of the tray.

Water and electricity don't mix. When you plug the cord into the socket, step back! The electric heating iron in the smoker will explode, leaving you with a piece of raw meat. If that happens, you'll have to go back to your charcoal grill and hope that the Boston Butts or turkey will fit inside. Check the smoker the day before and if there's water in the bottom of the heating tray, give it time to dry out before you start cooking.

Since its winter, there's the likelihood that you won't want to spend a lot of time outdoors cooking meat so it would make sense to grill steaks or pork chops because they cook faster than something large. Place a little more charcoal on the grill than you would use in the spring or summer.

The outside temperature does make a difference in the length of time it takes to cook your meat. Watch your rib eyes or center cut pork chops carefully so that they're cooked to your specifications when you take them off the grill. Cook the meat a little longer.

All the worry about constant temps in the winter is erased when you have a gas grill. Just preheat the grill to the required temperature and cook away. This is an easy way to grill just about anything, from grilled steaks to barbecued chicken. You won't get the smoky taste that comes from a charcoal grill, but it's more convenient.

The only drawback I see with winter time barbecuing is daylight. It gets darker earlier so make sure you have plenty of light to work with. Either that or have a strong flashlight.

Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:

Posted by: Send a Meal AT 01:02 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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