Vacation season is almost upon us. With Memorial Day coming up, this weekend is a traditional cookout weekend.
Whether you are doing all your cooking outdoors on a campout or just one meal in your backyard, the food nearly always tastes better.
Perhaps it is because the occasion is something of a party, perhaps it is the open air, perhaps it is picnic food or the flavor of barbecued foods etc., or perhaps it is just the company you will keep that makes the food exceptional.
Whether or not you cook the food outside, make your picnic as enjoyable as possible.
This weekend cooking can be as easy or difficult as you choose, and you can take the food on the road if you wish. Cooking a meal in the backyard over a barbecue is an excellent way to enjoy the Memorial Day afternoon.
A chunk of food threaded on a stick and cooked over an outdoor fire was probably the forerunner of the rotisserie. Now we can get the campfire flavor with automatic rotisseries on grills. Just as simple, place the foods on racks over glowing coals on a grill.
Put your grill in an area sheltered from wind, trees and at least three feet from houses or other structures to avoid fires. Temperatures will be more even and the food will cook better, too.
Marinating foods is a great way to enhance flavors and tenderize meats. Marinating requires time.
Always keep foods refrigerated while marinating and always, always, always use a clean platter to serve meats. Although meat is sterilized when it is grilled, if it was contaminated before it was cooked, the plate it was on before cooking is still contaminated.
Cut fat off meats to about 1/4 inch before grilling. Not only is it healthy to reduce fat consumption, the fat that drips into the coals flares up, scorching the meat. You can avoid some flare ups by placing a metal drip pan under the meats with the coals arranged around it.
The purpose of charcoal lighter is just what the name implies — lighting charcoal. Do not sprinkle it onto burning coals. The fuel could ignite as it pours, follow up to the can and cause serious injury.
To add coals, start them in a can or on heavy aluminum foil and put them on one by one using long-handled tongs. This is a good way to hold an even temperature for a long enough time to cook large cuts of meat.
Put more coals in one area than another creating a hot and warm spot. The warm area is a great place to put food that requires a lower temperature to finish cooking after the initial browning. Get a thermometer to check temperatures of cooking food instead of guessing when it is done.
The long-handled utensils on the market for barbecuing are a good acquisition to protect your hands. Get long mitts to further protect your hands. Tongs are better for turning meat than a fork because piercing meat allows juices to escape into the fire.
If you want to enhance the barbecue flavor, go for the hickory or other flavor. Soak hardwood chips like hickory, apple or mesquite in water for 15 minutes then add a few to the fire for a smoky flavor.
Don’t limit outdoor cooking to meats. Corn on the cob, bell peppers, mushrooms and others also taste good cooked over the fire.
Consider trying new barbecue sauces to create new flavors.
There are many choices of foods to cook outdoors, but here is a doahead recipe. Simply bake to get it done and tender, then put it on the grill for the fresh grilled flavor just before you are ready to eat.
2 1/2 cups purchased barbecue sauce
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons vinegar
2-3 racks of ribs
Marinate ribs in sauce over night or for several hours Bake ribs in sauce at 400 for 15 minutes
Reduce heat to 200 and bake for 2-3 hours. Put on grill 15 minutes before serving. Brush with bottled sauce if desired.
Set the table, and bring out the salad and rolls and you can enjoy a delightful and relatively painless meal on Memorial afternoon.