Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A comedy of BBQ errors

As planned, I cooked a roast on the BBQ last night, and used the side burner. It wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, but it did work.

First of all, here’s how I cooked the roast: It’s called the “indirect method” of cooking on a BBQ. You turn on one side of the BBQ, but not the other, and you put the meat on the side that’s not on. In other words, it’s not the heat from the flames that is cooking the meat, it is the indirect heat inside the BBQ. So you do the following:

  1. Season the grill. (It’s a good idea to do this every time you cook—although I don’t always do it. I didn’t last night.)
  2. Get a drip tray, and put it under the BBQ racks, on the side that will not be on.
  3. Turn on the other side of the BBQ, on medium heat.
  4. For best results, you should be using a meat thermometre, which will tell you when the meat is done. I have a nice one, from President’s Choice, that I just tell I’m cooking beef, and I want it cooked “medium” (vs. well done, or whatever), and it knows what internal temperature the meat has to reach. It’s got an end that you stick into the meat, and an electronic part that sits outside the BBQ (connected by a wire which must be burn-resistant). If you’re using one too, you should stick it in the meat.
  5. When it’s up to temperature, put the meat in the BBQ, on the side that isn’t on (above the drip tray).
  6. Wait for the meat thermometre to tell you that the meat is done.
If you follow these steps, you’ll end up with a great roast. Also, you should resist the temptation to keep opening the BBQ, to look at the meat, because every time you do, heat escapes. Just let the thermometre do its job.

But here’s what happened to me:

First of all, I turned on the BBQ, and then, just for fun, I decided to try the side burner. I wasn’t ready to cook the potatoes, yet, but I figured I’d give it a shot. And to my great chagrin, it didn’t work. (Didn’t I just write that yesterday? Every time I want to test it, it will work, but every time I want to use it, it won’t.) Luckily, though, I grabbed a lighter, and was pleased to find out that I can start it manually; it’s just the lighter button on the BBQ that doesn’t work. (Even though I can clearly see the spark, whenever I press the button.)

So I put in the meat, and went inside to… I don’t remember what I did. Watch TV or check my email or something. Maybe I was peeling the potatoes. And a little while later, I went out to check the meat, and saw that it was lightly raining. I figured I’d better cover the electronic thermometre, so I went inside and got a little plastic bag, which was the perfect size to put on top of the thermometre like a little tent.

Now, my back door doesn’t open directly onto the back yard, it’s too high. So there is a set of wooden stairs that goes down to the lawn. On my way back into the house, the bottom stair—which has been getting ready to give way for a long time—finally broke. So now, any time I use the stairs, I have to bypass that step.

A little while later, I went out to check on the food again, to find that the little plastic bag tent had blown off the thermometre. So I went back in the house and got something to rest on top of the bag, to hold it down in the wind. (There wasn’t a lot of wind, but a bit.)

A little while later, I went out to find out that the bag had blown off again—but this time, it blew onto the BBQ, and melted against the side! I pulled off what I could, and then ran inside to find something to try and scrape off the rest. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get it off. (Plus, since it was raining out, I tracked water and mud all over the kitchen.) The bag was red, so I now have a big red rectangle on the BBQ. I hope it’s not going to smell every time I turn it on.

I went in and got another plastic bag—although I wasn’t able to find one small enough, like the last one had been—and got more (and heavier) weights to hold it down.

By the time I was ready to put on the potatoes, there was no more drama to be had for the night. I started the side burner (with the lighter), and put them on to boil. They actually boiled and cooked quicker than they would have on the stove, even with the rain. (I put the cover on the pot, so that the rain wouldn’t get into the potatoes too much.) And I did a pretty good job of timing it, too, because I got the potatoes to finish just as the meat was finishing. When I took the pot off and brought it inside I realized that it was covered with black soot, but that came off easily in the sink.

And as for the roast? It came out beautifully.