Nothing denotes the end of another school year like barbecue—even if it’s just the smell of burning charcoal drifting up from your neighbour’s backyard. Perhaps you’re still miffed by your stove top, sticking to microwavable ramen noodles for most meals instead. But it’s the summer, you’ve got time to experiment. In my household growing-up, barbecuing was a once a week occurrence at most or the meal of choice for summer holidays and birthdays. So, in this writer’s mind at least, don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t take to the grill like an up-and-coming Bobby Flay. Building the perfect beach bod is such a clichéd summer goal—light up your first barbecue instead.
Read up on recipes
We’re dealing with fire here, folks, so a little preparation is worthwhile. While most of us halfheartedly scan recipes moments before we run to a grocery store or dive into the preparation itself, make a trip to your local library and read, actually read, a selection of barbecue cookbooks. From there you’ll familiarize yourself with the dishes best suited to grilling. Check out Joy of Cooking’s entry on the subject (or something equally encyclopedic in style) to start, before moving on to such authors as Bobby Flay (I know, I know) and Steven Raichlen. Likely your trusted sites for recipes also offer features on grilling. The New York Times Cooking guides are my go-to for unfamiliar techniques. Here’s their introduction to grilling.
Choose your flame
Cats or dogs, Facebook or Twitter, in the barbecue world, it’s charcoal or gas. Unless you have connections to a fanatic barbecuer who has invested in a propane grill, your most affordable option is charcoal. Charcoal grills are readily available in high grill season at such large box stores as Walmart, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware. Start with whatever charcoal is likely on sale next to the grills. With time and experimentation, you may develop a personal taste for a certain brand and type. And if an investment in a grill seems too great, you can find outdoor barbecue grills available to use at some camping grounds and public parks. Just be sure to bring along your own charcoal, equipment and, perhaps, patience.
Host a BBQ dinner
After a few trials, set a date to show-off your new skill. With the fire and showmanship required of a grillmaster, it begs for an audience. Invite your guests to bring along their favourite beverage and barbecue item of choice such as ground beef patties, pineapple, corn on the cob or sausages. Prepare some simple sides to accompany the grilled goods as well as comfortable outdoor seating and bug repellent. What starts off as a one-off event could become an annual tradition. Once you’re comfortable with the barbecue, you’ll expand your repertoire and may find yourself grilling up until the first snowfall.