Since Americans in the South began roasting pigs publicly, Barbecues have been a staple of North American living. For many, grilling becomes a routine mealtime activity, while for the most devoted grillers, summer is ruled by massive barbecue parties. But grillers do not have to choose between boring repetition and outrageous get-togethers: every barbecue can and should be an exciting family event. Here are 5 ways to make your routine evening barbecue a more unique experience:
1) Who said you have to stick to meat? Much can be done with bread and fruits over an open flame. To make this into a fun activity with your kids, use cookie cutters to make the bread and fruit into shapes. You can decide on themes like “animals” and “letters” or ask that each shape be different from the others! Then, let your kids decide which toppings they would like to put on. Add cheese, onion and various spices to bread and cinnamon and honey to fruit.
2) Try foil-wrapped surprise meals. Place different combinations of chicken, fish and vegetables with sauces and spices in foil packets. These cook in less than 20 minutes and lead to no-mess, lip-smacking results. Children will love the surprise element and can easily switch packets. You can even ask your family for combo suggestions before the barbecue, or draw ingredient names out of a hat to create new meal ideas.
3) A little variety goes a long way. If you tend to stick to the same old beef burgers and pork wieners, why not try grilled pizza or salmon steaks? Similarly, try to mix it up with condiments and seasoning. Sick of ketchup? Try salsa instead. Look online where you’ll find hundreds of easy recipes for barbecue rubs. These give your food that extra pizzazz and prevent the mess and drip that comes with barbecue sauces.
4) Barbecues don’t have to be rushed. In fact, barbecue devotees will tell you that today’s quick broiling is an insult to the term, which should represent a process of slow cooking on low heat. You can find many slow cooker recipes online, and the wait is a great opportunity to pass some quality time with your family and friends. Entertaining backyard activities include creating an outdoor canvas to paint on or playing backyard bowling with household items.
5) Mom said not to play with your food, but there’s always an exception! Barbecue games are great fun and tasty at the same time. In the game Glutton, each player gets a certain amount of mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese or any other side dish. Various kitchen utensils are put in a box and the players blindly pick a few. On the go, they begin to eat their dish with the items that they took out. The first to finish his or her food wins the prize!
Finally, don’t fret! Far too many people get lost in the details of planning the perfect barbecue party and forget to enjoy the social atmosphere and delicious food. So kick back, bask in the relaxing sun and prepare for a summer of unforgettable barbecues!
There’s no doubt that having the right tools for the job makes any task easier, and there’s no better place to illustrate this than in the kitchen, where having the right cooking utensils can be the difference between creating good meals and great meals.
Many cooks think about major appliances such as the stove and refrigerator when planning to equip their kitchens, but to be a success in the kitchen, you need to have a good selection of cooking utensils in addition to the bigger items. And don’t forget, cooking utensils means more than just spoons; there’s a host of small cooking utensils ranging from cutting devices, juicers, graters and more.
Think about what you do in a kitchen and about how different cooking utensils come into play for each task:
• Washing and drying fresh produce – always easy to accomplish with a strainer and salad spinner. A vegetable peeler is also an important addition to your cooking utensils closet.
• Slicing, chopping and dicing all kinds of food and garnishes – a food processor makes short work of vegetables, but mandolins, knives and graters are also helpful cooking utensils to have on hand.
• Measuring – cooking and baking can be a form of art and recipes should be followed as precisely as possible so measuring dishes, cups (both wet and dry measures) and measuring spoons are invaluable cooking utensils.
• Weighing – depending on what you like to cook, you may want to add a food scale to your shopping list of cooking utensils. Such a tool can be excellent for portioning meat and other products that have cooking times affected by weight.
• Temperature – as important as measures are temperatures, which can affect the success of your kitchen endeavors. An oven or meat thermometer is key to having properly cooked meat that is safe to eat, and should be included in your pantry of cooking utensils.
• Mixing – no kitchen would be complete without a cadre of mixing bowls in its cooking utensils cupboard. Having a selection of bowls in assorted sizes is essential to fast, efficient cooking.
• Manipulating, poking, prodding, lifting and stirring – perhaps what most often comes to mind when you think of cooking utensils are implements used to move food: spoons, forks, knives, spatulas, wire whisks, pastry blenders, tongs, salad lifters, slotted spoons, wooden spoons, serving spoons and more.
By imagining the tasks you do every day in the kitchen, you will get a better idea of the cooking utensils you should consider purchasing. Think about every stage of the food preparation process, from storage and cleaning, to cooking and presenting.
Other useful cooking utensils: pastry brush, kitchen shears, rolling pin, salt shaker, pepper mill, cutting board, ramekins, flour sifter, rotary beater, ladles, juicer and a can opener. Cooking utensils come in a range of prices, quality and materials such as wood, metal, rubber and silicone. Regardless of how much you pay, always make sure any cooking utensils that have multiple pieces, fit together securely.
When it comes to barbecuing, there are two main schools of thought for the techniques that you can use.
The first of these techniques – and the most popular method for those who grill in their back yards – is the style where the food is cooked directly over the source of heat. This way, the food is rapidly cooked on a hot grill suspended directly over the charcoals, the wood, or the gas burners. Rarely is the lid ever closed. Any foods, including the most tender cuts, hamburgers, steaks, kabobs of all kinds, chicken, and even vegetables are quickly seared and cooked to perfection using this technique. If sauces are desired, they can be added before hand, during the cooking process, or even after the food comes off the grill. These choices will all create different and enjoyable tastes and flavors.
The second barbecue cooking technique uses heat indirectly. This is more appropriate when you’re cooking much larger or whole cuts of meat, such as especially thick steaks, roasts, a whole hog, or a pork shoulder. When you’re cooking using this method, the food is cooked away from the actual source of heat. This usually requires a water pan of some kind in order to maintain the moisture level of the food. The temperatures generally sit in around 250ºF. During this cooking method, the lid of the barbecue remains closed most of the time, and the length of the cooking is much longer than in the first method. When you’re using an indirect barbecue cooker, there is usually an additional fire box that allows you to combine charcoal and wooden logs for burning. This allows the heat and the smoke to rise through the cooking chamber where the meat is, so that it is heated perfectly. The rule of thumb of this technique is a low temperature for a long time.
No matter which method you use, it’s important not to cook your meat too quickly. If the internal temperature of your meat rises too quickly as you cook it, the water and the fat within it will be expelled before the collagen is able to melt. This means that your cut will be dry and tough. However, you cannot cook too slowly or you will risk a bacterial contamination. Though there is a fine line for barbecuing properly, it’s important to find that line and stick to it.
If you’re already dealing with a cut of meat that is tough, such as a brisket or a pork roast, consider cooking slowly as the collagen adds flavor to the meat. If you buy a less tough, more expensive cut, you can cook at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time. This is why ribs and steaks take such a short time to cook, while pork shoulders or beef brisket can run up to 20 hours.
As a final note, it’s important to have fun while you barbecue! Your pleasure will come through in your cooking as it will leave you motivated, and willing to try new and interesting things.
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