My dad was not the grill master in my family. That honor went to my mother. When it came time to grill steak, she’d light Kingsford briquettes with gasoline (!) and char the meat black as charcoal on the outside and just long enough to take off the chill in the still raw center. “Pittsburgh rare” is what my mom called it — in her eyes you couldn’t serve beef too rare. When it comes to what I learned about grilling from my father, I draw a blank. So in honor of Father’s Day, I asked three barbecue masters what they plan to teach their kids about live fire cooking. Happy Fathers Day!
Recognizable by his bushy black beard, Aaron Franklin runs the insanely popular Franklin’s BBQ in Austin with his wife Stacy. He grew up in a barbecue family (his dad owned Ben’s Bar-Be-Cue in Bryan, Texas), but he didn’t really learn about smoking meat until he went out on his own. He did, however, learn a lot about the barbecue work ethic from his dad:
Lesson #1. Running a barbecue restaurant is hard work. Lesson #2. Running a barbecue restaurant is really hard work. Lesson #3. When you open a barbecue restaurant, plan to be there before the sun rises and after it sets. Like I said, it’s hard work.
Here’s how not to put out a grease fire. Use a water sprayer. That’s what my dad did and the results were always flamboyant and interesting. When you design your pit, install an offset firebox (so the flames are away from the cook chamber). That way you won’t get grease fires.
When you make barbecue sauce, start with whole fruits and vegetables. My first job was cutting the onions and lemons for my father’s sauce.
Pay attention. I started working at my dad’s restaurant when I was nine or ten. I would have learned something if I had paid attention. Instead, I had to figure it all out from scratch when I started Franklin’s.
Barbecue critic for Texas Monthly Magazine and author of the new Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue. “My dad didn’t barbecue, so I had to learn on my own when I moved to Texas,” Vaughn says. “I’m making it a point to teach my kids early.”
The right age to teach kids about live fire cooking? My 4-four year-old daughter, Madeline, has taken to it already. My son, James (age 2) is too young now, but he sure likes to watch.
The first lesson I teach is how to build a fire. (We’re talking real wood fire, not turning on a gas grill.) And how not to get burned by it. It makes my wife nervous, but kids need to learn this fast.
When kids are young, teach them how to grill a piece of meat. It’s fast and you get almost instantaneous results. A child’s attention span is too short for brisket and other forms of true barbecue.
Teach your kids to cook the whole meal on the grill: meat, vegetables, bread, tortillas, fruit, even desert. As long as you’re going to the trouble to build a fire, you might as well use it for everything.
Have trouble getting your kids to eat their vegetables? Cook them (the vegetables) on the grill. Mine wouldn’t touch steamed zucchini or mushrooms. They love them now that the veggies come smoky and sizzling off the grill.
Experiment. Smoking a tri-tip? Throw some portobello mushrooms or eggplant sticks in the smoker. You’ll be amazed how these porous vegetables are utterly transformed by wood smoke.
Grill master for the Weber-Stephen Products Company, Kolman (pictured above with his father) owns 24 grills and has personally grilled more than 10,000 hamburgers. “My father introduced me to grilling, but the funny thing is how much I’ve taught him,” Kolman says.
Patience. Patience. Patience. Wait until the coals ash over before you start grilling.
Grill with the lid on. This seals in flavor and moistness and is a prerequisite for smoking.
Take the food off early and cut into it to check for doneness. OK, this is one piece of fatherly advice I have learned not to follow. Today both Dad and I use timers and meat thermometers.
The most important decision you make when buying a new grill is the brand. My father and I have been Weber guys all our lives.
RECIPE! Kevin Kolman’s Tomahawk Rib Steak!
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