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BBQ with Style
by Christopher Minnick

The end of September is here and summer is just starting to heat up in San Francisco. The staff of Motel recently purchased a spiffy little BBQ and about three tons of charcoal. For the last two weeks, we have been neglecting our stove and focusing on perfecting the art of outdoor cooking so that we may enlighten and bring great happiness to our readers.

Lighting the Grill

The first thing you need to know about cooking over charcoals is the correct way to light the damn things. I was completely ignorant in this department only two weeks ago, due to the fact that my parents have a gas grill. But, after doing intensive research and after many nights of practicing, I am now a certified Barbeque lighting expert.

Lighting a charcoal grill is much easier than most people believe. Start out by dumping the charcoal into the grill-enough so that it covers the bottom part. Next, build a sort of pyramid/Indian burial mound thing in the middle of the grill. Squirt lighter fluid on and around the mound (about a bladder full...like when you really have to go), then light it. Most people recommend using a long wooden match, but if you know better, then go ahead and use your lighter.

If you used the correct amount of lighter fluid, you should have some pretty big flames at this point. Don't put your burgers on the grill just yet, though. You have to wait. Waiting is important when you're barbequing (more on that later).

After about ten minutes, it will look like you've failed. This can be the mysterious and humiliating part of the barbeque experience. This is when your friends gather around and say, "Looks like the fire went out...lemme squirt some more of that stuff on there." Grab the lighter fluid (aka "stuff") at this point and don't let them do anything. You know better, because you read this article. Tell your so-called friend, "Go to hell, Mr. Fire-Guy."

You will wait at this point. Have a beer and talk about sports. Whatever you do, don't cover the barbeque...that would be stupid.

After 20 minutes, you will see the fire and brimstone of HELL burning inside of your mound of coals. You will see the glow and you will feel the heat. When things are really heated up and just as you have a bunch of coals that are almost all grey - get a stick. Spread the coals around a bit and pat yourself on the back. You have lit the barbeque and you are ready to cook.

What to Cook

If you are a beginner, stick to the basics - beef and any vegetable except potatoes. You do not want to be a beginner, though. You want to be an expert. Just read on.

Beef

Cook hamburgers and steaks for 4-8 minutes on each side. You probably ought to pour beer on them as well, but that rule goes for anything that you barbeque. There's really not much else involved in barbequing beef.

Vegetables (except potatoes)

Wrap them veggies in foil (tin, not gold). For onions and squash, stick some butter and pepper in there too. Cook them until they're soft, maybe burnt, but you won't know if they're burnt because they're wrapped in tin foil. I also learned that bell peppers can be cooked without the foil. Put them right there on the grill and cook 'em till they're black. After they're extremely burnt, remove them and let them cool. When you're ready to eat, just peal the burnt part off.

Potatoes

Cut them about three-quarters of the way through and stick butter in there. Cover the potato with pepper and onions, then wrap it in foil. The potato should be placed under the grill and on top of the coals. Let it sit there and maybe turn it occasionally for about 45 minutes. If you think the potato might be done, it's probably not, and you should let it cook longer. Don't take potatoes off the coals until after everything else is cooked and on plates. You'll be sorry-and eating a crunchy potato-if you don't heed this warning.

Chicken

I've warned my readers numerous times about the dangers of chicken. The following rules are not to be disobeyed. Margaret and I tried to break the sacred chicken rules recently and it just ended up making Margaret have to miss a day of work and feel crummy for three days.

Rule #1: Always barbeque chicken flat on the grill. Don't try to stand the chicken on end with some skewer through it-this is what got Margaret into trouble. Chicken must be cooked thoroughly. It's bad enough that you're not man enough to just eat beef, but to undercook chicken is about the stupidest thing you can do, next to trying to turn those potatoes with your bare hand.

Rule #2: Cook chicken about three or four times as long as you cook beef. You can still pour the beer on it, but you might want to save the beer for drinking, because you'll be cooking a hell of a lot longer.

Remember, although live chickens may not be as dangerous looking as live cows, dead chickens can be just as dangerous or even more so.

Final Advice

While outdoor cooking can certainly be an effective tool for entertaining and impressing guests, it is not a game (duh). Don't play "Donner Party" (putting your friends' hands on the grill); never play "Indian" (tipping the grill over and trying to walk on the coals); and never play "Blacksmith" (putting your shoes in the coals until they glow then nailing them to your feet).

Remember, charcoal does not come from mines. It is made from wood chips. You are not depleting the earth's natural resources in any way by using charcoal. Don't be afraid.

Finally, eating food cooked over charcoal does cause cancer. However, Motel's scientists have shown that you can make up for the extra radiation by not watching TV that night.


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"Looks like the fire went out...lemme squirt some more of that stuff on there."
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