by Luis Mario Vargas
For some reason, a genetic factor has prevailed inside our DNA since the cave age, that makes that, as men, we still love cooking outdoors. Who can say “no” to spenidng time with friends or family, breathing fresh air, with the smell of coal in the air as well, as you drink a beer or a glass of wine? The answer: NOBODY. We strongly believe that we all have a barbecue lover inside.
Whether the barbecue takes place in a summer house, or in an open space, like in the woods or a camping space, it is important to know a couple of basics when we make a barbecue. These rules will not only allow us to maximize our beef steak cut, or whatever is on the menu, but we will also be preventing an accident that involves fire and can harm someone, or the environment that surrounds us.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting in the barbecue world, or you’re already a veteran of the grill, being aware of this information is important. Remember: we never stop learning.
Tree roots and fire
This rule applies specially to barbecue lovers that work in wide forest areas, surrounded by lots of trees and vegetation. Many times, when we set the firewood too close to the ground (if we’re not using a stone oven, for example), and the firewood is traditionally on the bare grass, combustion of nearby tree roots takes place, without we even notice. That’s why, putting off the fire, and smoke is not coming out anymore, is not enough. A fire can still happen, as these roots can still turn themselves on fire, and start a forest fire.
Being a barbecue lover also means to feel a deep love and respect for nature, and being in touch with it. All those scapelands, the colors… Is like being invited over for dinner to a friend’s house. If we want to be invited over again, we must behave properly.
We have to talk about two aspects on this one. First, wind may affect negatively our barbecue, as this natural element does not necessarily go hand in hand with fire. It is vital when starting a fire, which we will need for our barbecue, but it can also change the meat’s consistency, or any food we will put on the grill. This happens because of the sudden temperature change that food suffer by being outdoors. On one side, they are at a high temperature because of the fire, and suddenly a string, cold wind blows and can make the meat go too hard and dry.
On the other side, there is the ecologist point of view that we all must take into account as barbecue lovers. The wind can spread the fire too much, and if it gets in touch with dry vegetation, it can result into a fatal ending for the environment, or even to us. That’s the importance to choose a place where we are relatively safe from the wind.
Now, let’s talk about a fascinating point that few people know. This is what marks the difference between a n expert and a beginner of the barbecue: the type of firewood that is used in the food’s preparation. The best woods for barbecues, are tough, hard woods, that produce embers.
Thin and dry branches are perfect for clay ovens.
Old and dry pieces of wood are ideal if you’re looking froward to cook on a griddle or in a cauldron.
Remember: knowing the kind of wood we’re gonna use, is as important as knowing the kind of meat we’re gonna grill.
This a delicate thing to write about, beacuse our barbecue’s temperature will depend on many factors that will be different on every case: the firewood, the kind of meat we will prepare, the weather, etc. Observation is what defines a grill master, as we must learn how to read all the signals that it sends to us. That’s how we will achieve the cooking point we are looking for.
I will parapharse Francis Mallman, well known Argentinian chef, whose specialty is outdoor cooking. He says that, when it comes to flame intensity (that means, the temperature), he prefers to use a relatively low temperature, that way, we will always be able to make it hotter, as we observe the result. However, if the temperature is too high, the damage on the meat will be irremediable.
The perfect place
This point will serve as a resume of the previous ones, adding a couple more. The best place to make our barbecue, will be the one that provides us with shelter from strong wind that may affect our food, as well as rain, or even snow. Another important thing is to cook in the shadow, as being fully surrounded by sunlight can prevent the visibility, which compromises the coal or firewood observation. This would make almost impossible to read their signs correctly.
It would also be helpful to locate a nerby water place, such s a river or lagoon, in case of needing some of it. Remember to mark a perimeter around the fire, using a rake, in order to avoid dry branches to set on fire by accident.
If you have followed these rules, there will be nothing that ruins your barbecue. Now, enjoy of a sunny day, along with the people you love, and, of course, a cold one and your meat.
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This post is also available in: Español