Que the 'Cue

I'm not doing an article on barbecuing just because it's nice and warm outside, I am doing it because I barbecue all year long.  You can find me out there all winter long.  My neighbors think I'm nuts and they avoid eye contact whilst walking there dogs past my patio.  But most people barbecue while the weather is nice, so I thought it a perfect time to share some thoughts.

I barbecue everything. I recently attended a class at The Cooking Room, here in Red Deer, devoted entirely to barbecuing, grilling and smoking.  I learned a few things that I would love to share and I have a few tricks up my sleeve that I would love to share with you as well.

I am often asked if charcoal is better than gas and the answer is: it depends what flavor you are going for.  I use gas almost exclusively, because that's what I have; however, those dome barbecues that use charcoal are great and have been rated by several high end cooking magazines as the best way to grill.  It is a debate that I do not want to get in the middle of.  I am, however, willing to give you some very basic info on both:

Flavor - if you want truly authentic flavor, than gas isn't right for you.  Charcoal produces a smoky flavor that, some say, can't be beat. However, there are many ways to enhance flavor with gas, I will delve into that a little later.

Space - to determine which is better for you, consider where you will be doing most of your barbecuing.  It is very difficult to adjust and moderate heat with a charcoal barbecue, so, if you have a small patio, perhaps gas would be best.  It is easier to control flare ups, and, as much as I love fire, I hate carnage. Charcoal barbecues are great if you have a lot of space and a little more time to wait for the briquettes to get white.

Cost - generally, gas barbecues are more expensive than charcoal, however, you need to consider the cost of charcoal, it can cost up to $4.50 per grilling, whereas gas can cost as little at $0.25 per grilling.

Whichever method you choose, here are a few things you can do to enhance flavor.

Chicken - try brining your chicken before you put it on the grill. For a whole chicken or chicken parts make a brine of 2 quarts water to 1/2 cup table salt, if you are grilling  boneless, skinless chicken breast, the brine should be 1/4 cup table salt mixed with 2 quarts water.  Let chicken soak in the brine for 30 minutes - 2 hours.  Make sure to pat chicken dry before placing it on the grill. Brush with a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper for a very simple delicious meal.  Make sure to let the chicken cook undisturbed flipping only once or twice.

Beef - if you want to get really fancy, purchase some wood chips (applewood, cedar or mesquite) and soak in red wine (if using chicken, soak in  a nice white wine), for about 1 hour.  Place wood chips in a foil packet, poke holes in the packet and place directly on the flames.  Season beef with a mixture of olive oil, crushed garlic, salt and pepper and place on grill.  Close the lid and let smoke on medium high heat.

For sliders (ground pork, ground chicken or ground beef), season your meat the way you like.  Spread on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut into desired size.  Invert tray right onto the grill and peel off the parchment paper.  Let sliders cook.  As they cook, they should pull apart to make it easier to flip.  If not, just use a knife to separate meat.

And last but not least, don't forget the veggies!  Very important and super healthy.  Try green onions drizzled with a little truffle oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan-reggiano cheese, or grilled avocado brushed with lime juice and olive oil.  Grill some bananas or cantaloupe and serve with a honey and vanilla bean drizzle and garnish with fresh mint.

Whichever type of barbecue you choose, don't be afraid to experiment and step out of your comfort zone!  If you are new to barbecuing, keep a fire extinguisher near by and don't be afraid to use it.