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Hard lessons of mastering a grill
Liberty Foodie
Coastal Courier 2nd place best online news project Division E Patty Leon
Patty Leon

Picking up right where I left off last time, we are still in National Barbecue month. Light up the grill and pop open a brewsky!

My whole family enjoys cooking on grills. My brother practically grills dinner every night. Not sure if he REALLY loves grilling or hasn’t figured out how to use an oven yet, tsk, tsk.

We used to have huge family get-togethers that centered on a barbecue grill or pit. Tall tales were passed along by our elders as they downed tall brews. Seemed the more beers they drank the bigger that one fish, crab or hog (fill in the blank) was that got away.

Back in the day, my dad and uncle were cigarette smokers. They would be busy prepping the pig, rib or beef. They took special care in mixing the rub and massaging it into the meat. All while a cigarette hung from their lips, ash dangling from the cigarette. I would stare at them, hoping the ash didn’t fall in the food, and wondered how long the ash would get before it fell.

Thankfully, the ash didn’t hit the food, and both men soon quit smoking. And the meat would always be cooked to perfection. The ribs would simply fall off the bone. The brisket would stay tender and juicy. The roasted pig, cooked in a pit in the ground, always had the crunchy, toasty skin while the meat was moist and delicious.

They were my ultimate grill masters. I wanted to be just like them. I never had a problem when it came to mixing the perfect rub or making an awesome marinade. Grilling, however, was a whole different monster.

When I was old enough to get my first apartment, I bought a small round grill that fit nicely on the balcony. I bought charcoal, lighter fluid and stuff to make burgers. I didn’t know a thing about grilling and dumped nearly the whole bag of charcoal briquettes into the tiny grill. I squeezed on far more lighter fluid than needed, and nearly burned off my eyebrows when I lit the grill. At first, I thought I lit the balcony above me on fire. I also tossed the burgers on too soon. The flame was too intense and those suckers ended up burnt, dry and tasting of lighter fluid.

I spent a week scrubbing soot off the balcony. If memory serves, dad helped me repaint the patio. Of course he got a kick out of it at my expense.

Based on that experience I learned the proper way to light the charcoal. I learned it needed to burn for a while before tossing on the meat. I was careful and experimented until I got things just right.

I’m now a charcoal grilling beast! 

So when I moved into my first house, I upgraded from charcoal to a gas grill. I didn’t know a thing about liquid propane.

Guess where this is going?

YEP! I turned on the gas and went inside to gather items, came back out and then pushed the ignitor button. The grill top had been closed the whole time.

KABOOM … POOF… HUGE BALL OF FIRE … hair singed on head and arms, and that grill could still be on the moon.

It didn’t take long for me to go back to the store to get a charcoal grill. Well after I nursed my wounds, that is.

Years later, I ended up working for a natural gas and propane company (go figure?) and learned about my error.

Of course my dad just laughed when I had told him what happened. He also reassured me the hair would grow back. However, he did confess that he prefers a charcoal grill because he had a similar experience with gas. Guess he didn’t know either and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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