If you love the outdoors, you certainly know how sweet the smoky aroma of barbecued or smoked meat fills the fresh air. And it's not just meat, everything that’s cooked on the barbecue tastes better than the same food cooked indoors in the oven. The ingredients taste better and you’ll discover there’s more pleasure in cooking your dishes outdoors while reconnecting with nature. For most people, especially beginners, outdoor cooking can pose some various challenges, considering you’ll be using new equipment. So, whether you're in a campsite or in your backyard, you’ll learn that you don’t need state-of-the-art kitchen equipment to create great food. What’s more, cooking over an open fire helps us to escape urban life and get in touch with our primal side.
Choosing Your Equipment
Cooking outside has a special feeling and appeal. It's different from cooking indoors and requires more of your attention, especially when it comes to controlling the temperature. That’s why you need to know your equipment well. Outdoor cooking, just like cooking indoors, comes with an extensive list of cooking equipment and utensils that make for tasty and mouthwatering meals. The most common cooking tools for the outdoors include:
- Ovens and smokers •
- Charcoal briquettes
- Camping stoves
- Pots and pans
Smoking, Grilling, and Barbecuing. What's the Difference?
You must have come across these three terms and wondering if they are different. Well, they are. Grilling involves cooking your meat or other dishes over direct fire. The cooking is done with the lid of your barbecue open. Grilling is a fast method of cooking and you can choose from a variety of grills. Smoking is a long and much slower cooking process but gives your dishes a rich flavor with the smoke of burning wood. You choose from a variety of woods like apple, hickory, pecan, cherry or other fruit and nut trees. Barbecuing, like smoking, is also a long process where food is prepared with the lid closed. The airflow is controlled so that the hot air surrounds the meat, cooking it slowly.
Types of Grills
When it comes to choosing between a grill or a smoker, experts advise going for both. That is, buying a grill with an offset box for more flexibility and versatility.
A gas grill like the Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill is easy to use and ideal for small spaces. Whether it's your backyard, patio, or in your RV, this grill is highly portable, and the side tables are sturdy. Users say that it performs pretty well and heats up to 500 degrees pretty fast. The grates are non-stick making it easy to clean. Gas grills allow you to regulate the heat, which can be handy for delicate foods like fish, poultry, or veggies. On the flip side, gas grills are quite expensive compared to charcoal grills. But if money isn’t an issue, then they are a great choice for your outdoor cooking.
If you love the flavor of smoke on your meat or dishes, then a charcoal grill is your best friend. They are ideal for smoked and slow-cooked meats, plus they tend to be cheaper than gas grills. The Lodge L410 Outdoor Grill for instance, is a great BBQ grill designed to be used on a tabletop. Due to its small size, it suits your backyard perfectly. It’s also easy to move around making it a good option for a campsite. Additionally, it’s made of heavy cast iron, making it highly durable. If you're looking for something much bigger, the Royal Gourmet CC1830S BBQ Charcoal Grill and Offset Smoker is a good choice. The offset smoker doubles as a small grill, allowing to cool a small meal. It's a very economical and well-made smoker and grill and it's capable of holding even temperatures even in windy weather. And, if you're looking for a nice charcoal grill for flavorful meats and dishes in your backyard when you have family or friends over, the Weber Original Kettle Premium Charcoal Grill comes highly recommended. Not only is the grill easy to clean, but it's also affordable and comes with a high-capacity ash catcher with a one-touch cleaning system. It's light, making it easily portable, and has a massive grill space.
If you live in an apartment where space is limited and you are concerned about safety, then electric grills are the safest. You can choose a tabletop electric grill that resembles a propane grill.
Choosing Your Backyard Furniture
Now, if you host guests, you will need a nice seating place while they enjoy the scrumptious meals. Depending on the size of your patio or deck in the backyard, your choice of furniture may vary. If you have guests over frequently, you might want to consider furniture that offers more sitting space. On the other hand, if you just have small gatherings of family and friends for a barbecue, then a picnic set can be a good idea. You may want to consider buying all-weather outdoor patio furniture so that you don’t have to purchase covers.
Tips to Cook Outdoors
While cooking outdoors is not rocket science, it's not anything like cooking indoors. You have to know how to fuel the flames and control the temperatures. Here are some basic tips to consider when cooking outdoors:
- • Don’t cook meat directly from the fridge. Take it out at least half an hour or one hour beforehand to allow it to relax. Plus, cooking frozen meat will consume more fuel.
- Tenderize meat before cooking. You can marinate or gently pound the meat to break it down.
- Don’t turn foods too soon or too often. For instance, if cooking meat, wait until it gets to the ‘release’ point before turning it. This ensures that it doesn’t stick to the grill, and tear apart as a result.
- If you’re grilling vegetables, know the cooking time. Some veggies like carrots or potatoes may take longer to cook than say, eggplant or squash. For better results and faster cooking, cut your vegetables into smaller pieces.
Cleaning Your Grill
It's important to clean your grill after every use. This ensures that they are safer and more efficient. Grills can easily be cleaned using a grill scraper, which scrapes all the residue from the grilling grate and inside the hood. A wire brush is also a must-have to clean in between grates and all the corners of the unit. Be sure to get a high-quality product that’s safe to use. You don’t want to leave thin wires behind. To clean the grill, simply soak the grilling grate in hot soapy water for around 15 minutes and scrub it thoroughly. Don’t forget towels or rags for wiping the surfaces clean.
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