Memorial Day BBQ, The Beginning of Summer

Memorial Day a holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May to honor Americas soldiers is the beginning of the summer season and a great day to throw a barbeque. Whether you use a charcoal grill or a gas grill there are some important basics to remember when making barbeque.

First lets go over some basics on the grill. Even if you are using a gas grill you should turn it on and allow it to preheat before throwing on your food. Doing this helps even out the cooking and keeps nervous BBQ'ers from constantly adjusting the flame. Give the grill some time to even out before you start cooking. Similarly with charcoal let the coals burn evenly before adding the meat.

Are you going to be cooking with direct or indirect heat? Cooking with indirect heat means that you have the hot coals or burners on the opposite side of the grill from what you are barbequing. This is very important when barbequing ribs or brisket. Generally speaking if it is going to be on the grill for more than 10 minutes you're going to want to use the indirect heat trapped inside the grill to cook you food.

I'm sure you're going to be making hamburgers and hotdogs. While there are lots of fancier things to make for a barbeque leaving these 2 items off your menu is just strange. When making hamburger patties use meat with a high fat content like ground chuck. A good hamburger needs to be about 85% lean protein. If for some reason you bought leaner meat don't worry too much. I am a HUGE fan of adding fat I've collected making bacon to my hamburgers. The moisture content of a grilled burger should be high since you're going to be cooking it over fire and not in a pan where it could just sit in its own fat.

Do not add salt to your hamburger mixtures until you start grilling. Salt will take away from the moisture of your hamburgers and give you dry burgers. Also do not over-season your burgers to the point where the herbs are going to be robbing the meat of its moisture. Good burgers are juicy burgers.

Forming the hamburger patty is also an easy task. Take a handful of your hamburger and form it into a ball about the size of a baseball. When you have a good sized ball press it flat, around 3/4 of an inch, and put a thumbprint into the center of the patty. As the hamburger patty cooks it will shrink up and without the indentation in the center of the burger may take on a more rounded appearance.

If you are going to try and cook up a brisket or some ribs, start early. Both beef brisket and pork ribs take a long time to cook properly and need to be rubbed or marinaded several hours or the night before you are going to start grilling. The two words you need to remember about brisket and ribs are: low and slow. Both should be cooked around 225 Fahrenheit for several hours. Its not uncommon though for experienced pit-masters to hurry their ribs at 350 for two hours though. A rack of pork ribs is enough for two and a brisket normally four though the size of briskets can vary.

What side dishes will you serve with your BBQ? Memorial day is too early to grill fresh corn though its the perfect time for fresh asparagus. I love coleslaw. Baked beans, potato salad, pasta salads and tuna salads are also popular where I live. Maybe you'd like a real salad and some kabobs to go with your meal as well. One of the joys of barbequing is that even though some of the essentials are the same any host can put their own spin on the traditions and make for a wonderful Memorial day BBQ.
Douglass Stanhope

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