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The Thrill of the Grill

The Thrill of the Grill

It's no smoke and mirror trick; the regional and primal appeal of barbecue is very real.

He wrote the bible on barbecue, literally. The Barbecue Bible author Steven Raichlen, also a journalist, cooking teacher and TV host, is one of the best to ask when seeking barbecue menu trends and real-life tips from the pits of the world.

Sharing a large cut of meat — brisket, say — with ease is one of the elements that makes barbecue such a well-suited foodservice genre for feeding a crowd.

“It's more efficient, labor-wise, to cut off chunks from one brisket and serve 20 people, plus easily hold it at the right temperature for awhile, rather than cooking 20 steaks that all need to get to the right temperature and be turned,” says Raichlen, who has written several other books, including BBQ USA, How to Grill, and Raichlen on Ribs, and has starred in two shows on PBS, The Primal Grill and Barbecue University.

Whether a barbecue item is something you'd like to add to your line once in a while on your menu rotation or you're thinking of hosting a special outdoor event, Raichlen to share some advice and ideas.

Above all, you have got to be organized when grilling outdoors, whether you're cooking for four or 4,000. Know what you need so you're not running back and forth, or stuck without an essential ingredient.

Some classic sides are coleslaw, cornbread and baked beans. In Texas, you'll see unsweetened pinto beans.

The regionality of barbecue can make for many options for your menu. The great beauty of barbecue is that in our increasing homogenous world, barbecue is one of the last arenas of regionality. When you say “barbecue” to America at large, most people think of smoky ribs with a sweet, smoky sauce, and that's Kansas City barbecue. But if you ask someone from Memphis, they'd say ribs, too, but with a dry rub. In Texas, they'd say brisket, and in North Carolina, it's a pulled pork sandwich.

One great trend happening in America is the globalization of the grill. We have the gift today of partaking in many different cultures. For example, shish kebobs from Turkey.

Shish kebobs are easy to have on your menu. In Turkey, chefs divide and conquer in the preparation. Don't be hung up on having a mushroom next to a cherry tomato next to meat, and so on. Make sure everything gets cooked at the right rate by doing the ingredients on separate skewers.

The notion of what a barbecue sauce is has greatly expanded. Most people still think of a sweet and smoky sauce, but there's room on the menu for a sauce like chimichurri (a South American mélange of olive oil, vinegar, chopped parsley, oregano, onion, garlic, salt, cayenne and black pepper).

What we're grilling has moved from the center of the plate to the periphery of the meal. Now, you will see more side dishes, appetizers and desserts coming off the grill.

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