Monthly Archives: January 2013

Food for Thought: A bite size History of Barbecue in the South

Barbeque_block_party_Kansas_city_290_294_c1_center_centerThe history of barbeque in America is a rich mixture of flavor, fun, rivalries and regional histories.  It goes without saying but Americans love barbeque and its history centers on time and place. Americans eat BBQ from coast to coast, but head south of the Mason-Dixon line and that’s where you’ll find distinct flavors and cooking styles. Barbeque began in the South and Southerners cook up their local varieties with zest and zeal. Here is a bite size history of Southern style BBQ and tradition.

The term barbeque came stateside from Spanish explorers. According to Time magazine, in an article titled A Brief History of Barbecue, experts believe the term Barbecue hails from the Spanish and, “upon landing in the Caribbean, used the word barbacoa to refer to the natives’ method of slow-cooking meat over a wooden platform.”

During the Civil War era, barbeque cuisine was born at big events like picnics, plantation parties, church meetings and family gatherings.  A wild boar would see his demise at these southern festivities that brought people of all social and economic classes together for food and flavor.

The South is littered with local varieties of barbecue sauce and rivalries on the best barbecue flavors. Memphis barbecue is known for tomato and vinegar sauces; barbecue in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee is served with sweat tomato sauces on pork; and, in Lexington, NC the locals brag that they live in the “Barbecue Capital of the World” – to some dispute, obviously.

Interesting fact according to BBQMyWay.com, the term pulled pork is derived from term, ‘pull the pork.’ Plantation owners would give the cheap cuts of pork to the slaves and they learned to slow cook the cuts over coals. The slaves were would “pull the pork” off of the coals when the meat was done and could easily be pulled off the roast.

In Kansas City, they boast of having more restaurants serving barbecue than any other city in our country. Their menus showcase slow smoked meats (pork, beef, chicken, turkey, and mutton) paired with regional sauces that are sweet, spicy and tangy.

In central Texas, barbeque is sold by the pound and includes beef rib, brisket, chicken, pork ribs and sausage; sauce is served up as a side dip. Utensils are an afterthought as central Texans use their hands to eat the meat.

For every local variety of barbeque there is a grill that perfectly pairs with regional recipes. The BBQ Depot has the equipment and grills to prepare your next regionally inspired feast, we stock Gas Grills, Charcoal Grills, Electric Grills and Smokers and offer free shipping on order over $100 and usually no sales tax on any item.

We also stock Grill Parts, Accessories, full-blown Outdoor Kitchens and Fireplaces.

Grill Masters know that grilled vegetables are simply scrumptious. Here’s a few of our favorites

Vegetable_grilling_290_294_c1_center_centerHOLLYWOOD, FL – When most people think of barbeque and grilling they immediately turn to hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, chicken, brats, pork chops and like – in other words, meat. But those with perfectly pitched palates, and a taste for outdoor cooking, know well that vegetables come to light and life on the grill, and can be preposterously prepared to perfection over gas or charcoal.

Most often, the closest people get to grilled vegetables is when they make succulent shish kebabs, mixing meat with tomatoes, potatoes, onions, bell peppers, corn cobs  and the like on skewers and grilling away. If you really know what you’re doing, those kebabs are prepared well ahead of dinner time and marinated for a few hours in a secret sauce with spices. While meat lovers love their meat, of course, the vegetable presentation on a kebab is what really makes the meal so appealing and appetizing, so why not just grill vegetables alone and serve with, what else, hamburgers, steak, chicken, et al.

Yummmmm….

Grilling vegetables is quite easy, really, and limited only by one’s imagination. What works the best is asparagus, corn, eggplant, potatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, hot peppers (jalapenos grilled are spectacular!), onions, leeks, squash, and cabbage believe it or not. Some things, like celery, spinach, lettuce (leafy greens) don’t do well because of high water content, although sometimes there are ways around the hassles.

There are tons of vegetable grilling recipes on the Internet, so search them out and try something new each time out, but here are a few simple ideas just to get you going in the grill-those-vegetables direction.

One of our favorite vegetables to grill is corn, as in corn on the cob. There are two ways of doing this successfully.

The first one is to get corn with the husk still on, soak them in water for about half an hour before grilling, and then placing them on the edges of the grill while you’re cook other things, like meat. The water keeps the husks from burning, and it also steam heats the corn – you’ll be amazed how much more flavorful corn is when it isn’t boiled.  You can even peel back a portion of the hush and place a little butter and salt in there, and replace the husk. Make sure to keep an eye on the corn, and roll the cobs for even cooking. Then enjoy.

You can also take the husks off the corn, butter, salt and pepper the corn, wrap them in aluminum foil and pretty much follow the same cooking directions as above. Pre-buttered, and pre-salted and peppered, corn on the grill is amazing.

Another simple favorite of ours is grilled potatoes. The thing to do is to get a wire mesh grilling pan that will keep smaller pieces from falling through the grate. We slice the cleaned potatoes, with skins attached, into potato-chip-like slices, coat them with olive oil, salt and pepper and whatever other spices you like (try garlic, either powder or minced fresh), and grill them, turning often with a spatula.

There are, of course, many types of squash, and many of them make a great grilled vegetable. You can’t really do a pumpkin, and an acorn squash, we supposed, could be baked on a grill. But what we’re really thinking of is the various types of squash that look like zucchini – dark green, light green, yellow and Italian varieties that are thinner and longer and easily sliced into quarter or half-dollar-size slices about ¼ inch thick. (Some people like to slice them length-wise). A little olive oil, some spices (we favor Old Bay), and follow the same general rules listed above for potatoes. They are heavenly.

Same thing goes for peppers. With bell peppers – red, green, yellow, orange – you can grill them whole for about 15 minutes until the skins are charred in spots. Remove from the grill, let them cool a little, remove the charred outer skin, halve them and remove the seeds and stems, and enjoy. We also like to slice bell peppers and prepare in the wire mesh cooking pan with some olive oil and seasoning.

For hot peppers, use the whole pepper method above, but cut back the time to accommodate the smaller size of, say, a jalapeno. Grilling, or roasting, really brings out the flavor and mitigates the native heat in jalapenos and Hatch chilies and you can either eat them as is, or slice them up for garnish on a hamburger. Out of this world.

Perhaps the most delicious grilled vegetable is asparagus. You can use the wire mesh grill pan or skewer the spears together just below the crow and just above the bottom. Brush with olive oil, season with salt, pepper or whatever, and grill for about 8 minutes over medium heat, turning once. They will be tender, smoky, and absolutely scrumptious.

Onions and leeks, very similar, make great grillers. With leeks – which look like huge green onions, slice vertically in half, drench with olive oil, season, and grill away, turning often to avoid burning. Once tender, they make for wonderful side dishes. Regular onions, skewer two or three slices together, cover with olive oil, season, and grill away. The grilling takes out some of the pungent onion quality, so you can munch away, or you can use them as garnish on hamburgers and steak.

So there you go – some of our favorite grilled vegetables here at The BBQ Depot. Of course, you can’t grill vegetables without a grill, but you’re in luck The BBQ Depot has thousands of them, in every size and budget category, so if you need a grill visit our BBQ Grills page and order just the right one.

Gas Grill Cleaning Tips to keep that unit cooking smoothly for years to come

Giant_Grill_Brush_290_294_c1_center_centerHOLLYWOOD, FL – Cleaning is a funny thing. In most homes, when you’re over for a visit, the stove or cooktop is spotless because the cooks know that spills can get baked on and become not just a complete, unsightly mess, but a royal pain in the you-know-what to scour clean. Best to wipe down and clean the burner and surrounding area as soon as it is cool enough to do so.

But if you visit that same home’s back yard, the gas grill will often feature caked-on grease and cooking residue not only on the grate, but on the burners, the lava rock, and on the sides of the unit and under the hood. Why? Because most grillers simply do a cursory scrub of the grate right after cooking, close the lid and call it good.

It’s not good. A thorough cleaning – a relatively easy and quick chore – after each and every use will not only be more healthful, it will also make grilling easier by eliminating the built-up grease that can cause flare-ups and uneven cooking, and it will extend the life of the gas grill and keep it in fine working order and with a great appearance for years to come. Also, while it is not necessary after every grilling session, a periodic cleaning of the gas lines, housings and burners will keep the gas flowing smoothly and safely, and periodic cleaning or replacing the lava rocks or stone will ensure that the unit heats and cooks up to its specifications.

Here are a few Gas Grill Cleaning Tips that every outdoor chef should follow to maintain the status of Master Griller.

After each use:

• Owner’s Manual. First and foremost, gas grills aren’t cheap, and maintaining them properly is a paramount concern. And each and every gas grill – there are hundreds of brands – is different, with unique types of systems and burners. In this regard, the first best source for cleaning advice – whether spot cleaning after each use or periodic cleaning at the beginning of each new grilling season – is the unit’s owner’s manual which comes with every grill. These manuals include great cleaning tips and advice, customized for that particular grill’s system and parts. They will break down how to disassemble and re-assemble the gas lines and cooking units for the thorough cleaning job.
• Brush the grate. Get a nice, stiff, brass wire brush – and replace it when it starts to wear – and after each use of the grills, completely brush the grates. People have a tendency to do this before grilling, and not after, but after grilling is the way to go. Let the grate cool a little bit, but while still warm completely brush the grate and remove all the residual food and grease – before it bakes on. After brushing, and when it is cool to the touch, you can also use a cloth to remove as much of the grease as possible, aided by soapy water or a cleanser (make sure to warm up the unit next time before grilling to be sure any soap or cleanser residue is burned away before cooking).
• Cool and Oil. Once you have completely cleaned the grate, make sure the flame is out, let the grill cool down completely, and spray the grate with cooking spray or rub cooking oil on it with a paper towel – this will keep stuff from sticking the next time around.
• Cast iron grates. If you have a cast iron grate always remember to clean it and then completely oil it down to prevent rusting. Also, inspect it from time to time to make sure there is no rust.
• Clean Inside Surfaces. Once again, getting to the surfaces after each use, and while they are still relatively hot, will make it easier to remove any residual food, grease and grime.  Wipe down the sides, and underneath the top or dome, with a soft cloth and soapy water. A little elbow grease, ironically, will help remove the grease down to the shiny surface the unit came with. Make sure to completely dry what you just cleaned with a clean cloth.
• Clean the outside of the grill. After everything has cooled down, after each use clean the outside of the grill with a nice household cleanser, like Antibacterial fantastik® All Purpose Cleaner Heavy Duty, which will clean and disinfect and keep the grill looking great for years to come. Once again, check the owner’s manual as some units – particularly stainless steel units – will have particular tips and suggestions as to cleaning methods and cleansers.

Periodic cleaning of gas grills:
• Don’t be misled by the “Cleaning” setting. Some gas grills, like home ovens, have a “clean” setting, but it doesn’t really clean anything. This extra hot setting will burn up things that have fallen into the grill, but you still need to clean as described above.
• Clean the burner barrier. Depending on how often you use the grill and what you cook, every now and then remove the cooking grate and clean off the barrier above the burners. Sometimes this is a steel or metal plate that gets caked with grease and the like, but it could also be the lava rock or the stone briquettes, which can be cleaned with soap and wate4r and a stiff brush. (Lava rocks or briquettes sometime just get inundated with grease and should be replaced; no big deal).
• Annual maintenance. Once a year – or twice if you are a grill fanatic and live in a year-round warm climate – you need to perform complete maintenance. This involves taking the working parts apart and cleaning the. Begin by disconnecting the gas line and then, following the guidelines in the owner’s manual, taking apart the burner and heat exchanger mechanisms piece by piece, layer by layer. Clean each piece, inspect the burners and make sure nothing is blocking the gas flow, and clean thoroughly or replace.

Gas Grill Cleaning Note: There is something of an old wives’ tale about taking the cooking grates out and wrapping them with aluminum foil, shiny side out, and then turning the unit on high for 15 to 20 minutes. Supposedly this creates intense heat that reduces residue to ash for easy removal.  Don’t do it. No manufacturer of gas grills recommends this method, as the extra heat can warp the grates and create other hazards.

The BBQ Depot is the top source anywhere for anything grill – so check out the site for thousands of choices of gas grills, charcoal grills, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, and accessories. To help with gas grill cleaning, visit our Grill Parts page for a complete selection of replacement parts to keep that grill running smoothly, and our Accessories page for such things as replacement lava rock and briquettes.

It’s the Super Bowl: no matter what the weather Just Grill, Baby!

iStock_000017935274SmallTailgate_290_294_c1_center_centerHOLLYWOOD, FL – The big game is coming – Super Bowl XLVII (that’s 47 for you non-Romans) on February 3 down in The Big Easy, New Orleans. Unless you’re a corporate titan on an expense account, you probably won’t score any tickets,so it is unlikely that you’ll be out in the parking lot of the Louisiana Super Dome grilling burgers and brats and enjoying a few beverages before the epic contest.

But that doesn’t mean you can have your own “tailgate” party when all of your friends come over to watch the game. After all, it’s the Super Bowl, and Super Bowl Sunday has become pretty much a national holiday over the last nearly 50 years, and it ranks right up there with The 4th of July, Memorial Day and Labor day for its connection to barbeque.

And don’t worry those of you in the colder states that the weather might hold you back from back-yard grilling. If 75,000 rabid Denver Broncos’ fans can weather sub-zero temperatures for 4 ½ hours just to see their team blow the AFC divisional game, then no matter what the conditions you can stoke up the grill and get the genuine steaks, burgers, brats, turkey legs and hot dogs for a “tailgating” feast at your house. Hey, it’s the Big Game. What’ya gonna do? Eat salad?

As two-time Super Bowl Champs Oakland Raiders owner (the late, great) Al Davis would say: “Just grill, baby.”

The BBQ Depot has you covered. We carry more brands of grills – gas, charcoal, electric – than any other store or site on the web, and we have all the grates, grill cleaning supplies, parts and accessories you’ll ever need to get that old grill in prime working order in time for the game. We’ve got grills that can cook up a storm for 200 of your closest friends if you’re having a gala, or we can hook you up with a small grill that will work well on your condo balcony for a smaller party.

We checked with one of our favorite resources – Beef. It’s What For Dinner – and found a handy PDF called Grilling Guidelines that will help any seasoned backyard chef or newbie knock the rust off of their BBQ skills lying dormant since the summer just to get you back in the mood and ready to, once again, be The Grill Master, even if it is the middle of winter.

The Grilling Guidelines will show you the most popular cuts of beef – e.g. chuck, rib, loin, sirloin, round, flank, kabobs, and ground beef – and give you a guide for expert grilling. For instance, in the section for the cuts Plank & Flank, they list Skirt Steak and Flank Steak, both marinated, show the sizes typically available, and then offer the cooking time on either a gas grill or a charcoal grill. For a 1-1/2 to 2 lbs. Flank Steak, for example, the guidelines call for 11 to 16 minutes for charcoal, and 16 to 21 minutes for gas grilling, and there are temperature guides to get just the level of doneness you want – Medium Rare 145 degrees F, and 160 degrees F for medium.  There are also some notes on cooking and preparing the various types of grills.

If you need a new grill, just visit the BBQ Grills page on our website – we have literary thousands of options from hundreds of the most noted names in the BBQ business. And if it’s just some parts – new grates, gas jets, burners and accessories, etc. – we’ll have just the right fit on our Grill Parts page. Of course, we can help with a number of other wonderful home accessories, like outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and accessories, even patio tables and chairs, so be sure to check out the entire site.

It’s not like you’re new to this. This is the 47th time the Super Bowl has been played, and whether you saw the first one – Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10, January 15, 1967 at the Memorial Coliseum in LA – or you just love football and were raised Super Bowl Sunday holiday era and embraced it with devotion like the estimate 90 million other Americans who will tune in, you know what to do:

Just Grill, Baby!

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