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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.