Contains mild propanity.
I can George-Foreman GUARAN-TEE you will not learn anything about cooking by reading my grilling article. But since my stories of ineptitude and injury tend to be fan favorites, it may tickle your barbecued ribs if you read on.
Grilling and masculinity go hand-in-hand in American culture. By masculinity, I mean “tendency to allow carelessness and bravado to ruin dinner and/or the stability of nearby structures.”
A man’s grill area is like his DJ booth. We simultaneously work both sides of the table with various equipment, flipping and turning and trying to pump the crowd up with the occasional announcement. Corn cobs are up! If the audience has a request – Got any rare stuff? – we might stop masterbasting long enough to hear it. But we expect those who approach the platform to shuffle quickly away and hope their platter eventually spins.
DJs that ignore crowd requests usually suck, and that’s a fairly accurate way to describe my grilling. For years, my specialty was the McD.L.T.: hot on one side, cold on the other. Unfortunately it was the inside of the burger that was cold because I routinely set the grill temperature too high.
I was too manly with the lighter fluid, but my problem was mostly a lack of patience. My first grill was a charcoal bowl, which my father personally forged in the depths of Mordor and helmed for decades. When he handed it down to me, I quickly proved I wasn’t worthy. My hot-dogsicles might as well have been barbecued over brimstone. The grill was fire engine red, and I eventually had to retire it before a matching truck showed up.
My next grillfriend was a beast. I went for the best of both worlds: a half-gas, half-charcoal monstrosity so big I called it the Propane Tank. I could barely get the box in the truck, and when I put it on the back porch the house tipped over like Fred Flintstone’s car during a brontosaurus delivery.
So I put it 10 feet away from any structure, like the manual says. Kidding! I’m a man! We don’t read manuals! Plus, even the responsible fireman living next door kept his on the porch.
Actually, I do read manuals, and I definitely had to read this one because the assembly lasted longer than the actual grill. I took a chance with size over brand reputation and it didn’t (drip) pan out. I’m not saying it was low quality, but in retrospect the page that instructed me to attach the “knoobs” was a dead giveaway. Long story short, the grill is dead, and I gave it away.
I was off to Home Depot again, and this time I was going to get the smaller, infrared model that was highly rated by Consumer Reports. On my way out, I mumbled something to my wife about meat and how smaller is better. She gave me a concerned look. I probably should have told her I was going grill shopping.
I was bummed to learn that “infrared” doesn’t mean you can aim a remote and press the ROTISSERIE CHICKEN button, but I got it anyway. The manual for the Char-Broil model I bought notes that “TRU-InfraredTM frequencies strike the food and cause the molecules to vibrate … for more juicy and flavorful results.” Man translation: “You can drink beer and neglect to check on the meat for twice as long as the previous model.”
For a chef who sometimes gets distracted by six or seven innings of baseball between steak flips, this grill is the perfect solution. The technology does seem to work and my meals are now fit for human consumption. All I have to do is scrub out the “TRU-Infrared emitter” pan, as recommended in the manual, “before each use.” Man translation: every two to three equinoxes.
Which brings me to my new hairstyle.
Instead of scraping out the pan every time, I let the grill’s CLEAN setting do its work. It was doing a fantastic job burning off a whole cow I left stuck to the grates a day earlier. I stood there, hypnotized, as the grease magically disintegrated and the smoke came out from under the lid. I was appreciating the nearly maintenance-free aspect of this new and wonderful HOLY COW FLANK THAT SMOKE IS STARTING TO GET THICK.
Where is a responsible next-door fireman when you need him? But I’m a man! Did I panic? No! I stopped, dropped and rolled, down the porch steps and onto the lawn. Then I remembered you’re only supposed to do that after you’re on fire. So I got back up and ran in and out of the house a few times.
I didn’t call the fire department, but I’m not stupid – I did get my fire extinguisher out when I saw the flames coming out the side. [Editor’s Note: He’s stupid.]
After first trying The Force, I managed to turn off the propane tank by hand and stop the flow of impending death. I opened the lid and was suddenly puzzled to find that only one of my arms was covered in hair. Hmm … I was certain they both had hair when I came outside. Hey, gang, do you like your forearm well done? The flames safely subsided, and I must admit that my Char-Broiled forearm was as tender and juicy as advertised!
As you may have read, I’m a man, so I didn’t tell my wife about the accident when we sat down to dinner. I would keep my mouth shut forever. I would take this latest act of Stoogeness to the grave. I would—
Hey, Dad, what’s that in your hair?
I brushed my hair back and showered my face with what I first thought was spider webs, but was, in fact, singed hair. I not only had to confess to my wife, but I was also reminded of a past edition of my newsletter in which I teased a female friend of mine for doing a girlie thing like burning her hair in a backyard barbecue accident. ¿Quien es mas macho now, Zam? Your order of Grilled Crow is up!
Hair usually grows back, and with a little more time, so do egos. But why didn’t I just keep this little incinerator incident to myself? Because I wanted to remind you of two very important things: 1) Be safe this grilling season; and 2) It takes a very brave man to admit he’s made a mistake. [Editor’s Note: Or a very stupid man.]