It’s a stove! It’s a range! No, it’s a grill
July 19, 2006
Glazes, marinades, dry rubs, wet rubs, wood chips, brining, smoking, direct heat, indirect heat, gas, wood or charcoal it all depends on what you’re cooking, but it’s all barbecue.
No longer just for the Saturday slabman, tough tailgater or occasional bratwurst bunny, many say outdoor grills are becoming the stoves of tomorrow and the ovens of today.
Restaurants are even heeding the call of the open flame. With eateries like Famous Dave’s booming nationwide, anyone can get professionally cooked barbecue at anytime. Park City is no exception. Spencer’s Smoking Grill allows any Parkite in the mood for ‘cue to quench their craving.
But there’s still nothing like doing it yourself, and doing it yourself has never been easier.
"There’s guys out there who are spending $100,000 on just equipment for barbecue competitions," said Mark Spencer, owner of Spencer’s Smoking Grill. "But for grilling at home, gas grills are still the most popular because of ease, but you can’t beat wood and charcoal for flavor. They’ve tried to do it, but they haven’t done it yet."
Spencer is a self-proclaimed traditionalist. Gas is off-limits.
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"It’s safer, easier, quicker, but I don’t believe in those things," he said. "I use wood and charcoal at home, too. Unless I’m just using it for a heating element, I don’t use gas."
It’s the wood and charcoal that give the food it’s flavor, he said. Using gas, he added, only makes the food taste like propane. But even when using wood, only the best will do.
"It’s always a hardwood," he said. "You should never use anything with a pine needle to cook with because the bark has toxins and you don’t want those in your food or in you. Use oak, mesquite, hickory or fruit woods."
In his kitchen, Spencer uses white oak he gets shipped in because it can’t be found in Utah. He has to light his smoker once a week, and cooks his food for three to 15 hours. He even smokes his mustard and the Parmesan cheese for salads.
"Sometimes when we close we load the smoker with 300 pounds of meat and let it cook all night long," he said.
But most people don’t have a smoker at home that can store 300 pounds of meat. So what do they do to transform their hibachi into a grilling machine? Accessorize.
"Accessories have made it easier for those who aren’t experienced at grilling to be able to grill at a very high quality," said Jon Provost, store manager of Fireplaces, Etc. in Heber City. "But grills themselves have evolved substantially. We’re seeing people use them as an outdoor kitchen, and the manufacturers are moving toward that. Grills are becoming more convection minded, which means less turning, lower BTU’s, more professional."
Fireplaces, Etc. custom makes "grill islands" for customers who want specific items in a outdoor grill set. Generally, they come with the grill and lots of counter space, and can also be fitted with everything from mini-refrigerators and sinks to stereos and warming ovens.
"We’ve done them as high as $30,000 for a barbeque," he said.
But he also said there is reason for the increase in barbecue technology. For example, each time the meat is turned some of the natural juices are lost, so many barbecues come with sear plates to lock in the moisture.
Grills using infrared heat are also available. Instead of using a flame they use a porcelain panel to heat up and then works as indirect heat to cook the food.
"They’re very hot and it cuts the cooking time down considerably," he said. "It seals the juices into the meat or vegetables that you’re cooking."
In spite of the traditionalists like Spencer, Provost said he rarely sells a charcoal grill.
"It’s all about the ease now," Provost said. "You can’t achieve the exact same flavor, but you can still achieve a very well-cooked meat with a gas grill. With charcoal, people try to rush it and it all ends up tasting like lighter fluid anyway."
But Provost does not deny that charcoal and wood provide a special flavor.
"In a sense, he’s right — I would not dispute that at all," he said. "If you know what you’re doing then you’ll get a great flavor, which is why we add the smoke boxes so we can get that flavor."
Provost said smoke boxes, small metal containers used for smoking with wood chips, are must-have accessories for any would-be grill master.
For those with grills void of a built-in smoke box, stores like No Place Like Home have them and other necessary accessories.
No Place Like Home has tool sets, spatulas, scrapers, tenderizers, all-in-one’s, grill racks, corn holders, wood skewers, metal skewers, round skewers, grill trays, grill woks, vertical roasters and wood chips (in four distinct flavors).
With a hundred choices at the grill store, and millions more in accessories, grilling has become a delicious daily ritual for both amateurs and experts alike. But if grills are the next stoves, does that mean Dutch ovens are the next grills? The smell of cobbler is already in the air.