When spring and summer roll around, many people envision themselves barbequing on their patios surrounded by their family and friends. Along with having some nostalgia, cooking with a barbeque can be quite efficient, especially during the hot summer months. Barbequing will not only save you money on your energy bills, but it can also keep you cool in the summer heat.
In addition to your backyard, outdoor cooking can be done:
- at a campsite
- in an outdoor pit
- on a barbeque grill, such as those built-in at some parks and beaches.
A pit is a level hole dug into the ground that is used to cook meat. Quite a bit of preparation goes into pit roasting. First, a hardwood fire has to burn down to provide coals, a process that can take from four to six hours. Next, cooking time for meats can vary from 10 to 12 hours. This is a variable way to cook and requires patience and practice to produce tasty food.
Practicing Food Safety
One of the most important rules for outdoor cooking involves keeping foods at the right temperature. This will inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria that can make someone ill. Nothing will spoil a backyard barbeque quicker than food poisoning. If you have foods on hand like coleslaw or mayonnaise, keep them in an ice-packed cooler or on ice to keep them at the appropriate temperature until you are ready to eat them.
Meat should also be refrigerated until it’s time to cook. It’s good practice to only cook what will be eaten right away because, once meat is grilled, it’s best to not leave it out too long. General guidelines for minimum safe cooking temperatures for meat are as follows:
- Beef: 160 °F
- Hamburgers: 160 °F
- Pork: 160 °F
- Poultry: 165 °F.
Having a meat thermometer to check these temperatures is better than trying to judge simply based on how the meat looks. Meat can often appear done on the outside when the inside hasn’t yet reached a safe temperature for eating.
At campsites, you probably won’t have a refrigeration option (unless you’re staying in an RV), so ice is important for keeping foods as cold as they need to be. Similarly, be careful to only cook what will be immediately eaten because, if you don’t have cold storage, food can quickly spoil. If warm foods are left out beyond two hours (or one hour if it’s over 90°F outside), throw them away.
What to Cook on the Grill
While many people automatically think of ribs, hamburgers and sausages as barbeque fare, you can also grill chicken, fish and vegetables.
Many different rubs and marinades are available to season meat before cooking. You’re also free to make up your own recipe if you’re looking for an original taste. Marinate meats for about 24 hours before cooking for the best flavor. If you use the same marinade for moistening the meat while cooking, be sure to boil it first to kill all potentially harmful bacteria it may contain. You can always take the safer route by mixing up a fresh batch of marinade if you like brushing the meat with it once it’s on the grill.
You can chop and store vegetables beforehand so that, once the grill is heated, your food is ready to go. Some good vegetable options are:
- corn on the cob
- green or red peppers
- portabella mushrooms
Fish can be stored in a plastic bag with olive oil and herbs before cooking. The oil will help prevent the fish from sticking to the grill. As with other meats, fish should be brought to room temperature before cooking.
Tips for a Successful Barbeque
Here are some tips to follow to ensure that you are properly prepared for any barbeque:
- Bring food toroom temperature before putting on the grill.
- Clean grill after each use,preferably while still warm.
- Have all utensils and outdoorcooking tools on handbefore you start.
- Preheat the grill for 15 to 20 minutes before placing food on it.
- Spray the grill with vegetable oil before heating.
- Use separate preparation tools and areas for raw meats and vegetables.