Preparing your Barbeque

Preparation is nine-tenths of victory it’s often said. Readying your food, tools and the barbeque itself will bring you close to the goal line.

In the days when a charcoal grill was the only option, there were more or less standard methods for deciding when it was time to begin. You looked, and you felt. For those who still use a charcoal barbeque, those are still useful..

With only modest practice it’s possible to tell when charcoal briquettes are ready to use. Piled up in a pyramid they transfer heat among themselves and inwardly. Eventually they glow red and form a thin layer of white ash, both telling signs.

But there’s another way. Simply hold your hand six inches above the grill and time how long you can hold your hand there without excessive discomfort. Don’t be too macho. The goal is to judge the grill, not your endurance. You don’t want to ruin the test. If you can only hold for 3 seconds, the grill is about 500F (260C), 5 seconds signals about 400F (204C), and 7 seconds means it’s about 350F (177C).

Not the best method, because it’s so inexact. But it’s useful when you’re at the campsite and you don’t have a barbeque thermometer handy. In general, though, one of the ways of being prepared is to have just such a tool available. And that’s not the only one…

Once the grill is hot, you need to move fairly quickly. If you have a propane grill, you don’t want to waste gas. If you have a charcoal grill, you want to use the briquettes at their peak. In any case, you have hungry people waiting, so you’ll want to get moving.

That means having all rubs, sauces and more applied and the meat staged out. If you have a limited amount of space, as is often the case, decide which goes first. Let your meal plan determine the order.

All your tools should be clean and ready to go. Ever have a flareup and not have your spray bottle handy? Or a steak that’s ready to flip while the spatula is still in the kitchen? That’s not good planning. Any food which sits on the grill for two minutes longer than it’s supposed to isn’t getting cooked to perfection.

Any sauces that are supposed to be lathered on during the grilling should be within easy reach. Ditto for salt, pepper and other spices that get sprinkled on after the meat has been turned.

Have all the plates you need on a barbeque tray on the grill or on a small table nearby. And arrange for a helper to whisk the food to the dining area at an instant’s notice.

Barbecuing isn’t a military mission. But planning it like one will result in a lot less warfare from those around you.